Teen-agers break car windows, harass reporter covering search in river for drowned youth
MONTANA — A group of teen-agers harassed a Billings television journalist in late June when she attempted to cover the search for a drowned boy at the Yellowstone River.
Friends of the drowned boy grew angry at Laura Hendrickson, co-anchor for station KTVQ, for shooting the scene at the river. “A mob mentality took over,” News Director John Stepanek said.
The youths spat at her, pushed her once, and “called her every derogatory female name you could imagine,” he said.
They also slashed two tires on her news car and threw rocks at the car. Two of the rocks broke the car’s rear window, Stepanek said.
Hendrickson locked herself in the car and radioed the TV station for help. The station called the sheriff’s dispatcher. It took about half an hour for the police to arrive, Stepanek said. The youths were gone when the police arrived, the Associated Press reported.
Stepanek said the station will “prosecute this to the fullest extent possible” and that Hendrickson’s videotape of the incident has been given to the sheriff’s office to have the teen-agers identified, AP reported.
No arrests had been made in early July, but police were trying to find the 15 to 20 youths who appeared on the videotape so they can interview them.
Not everyone at the scene harassed Hendrickson. “Some people understood she was just doing her job,” Stepanek said.
“All newspeople get threatened,” he said, “but this is the first time anybody has stepped over that line.”
The drowned boy was Eric Joseph Pepin, 17, AP reported.