CLEVELAND — A WKYC-TV photojournalist on assignment was confronted by an off-duty Cleveland police officer.
Craig Roberson was working with WKYC reporter Lydia Esparra, checking on the activities of Cleveland Public School students, who had a third straight day off because of the weather.
Because idle youngsters had previously caused trouble in and around Public Square, the news crew began their assignment there.
They found the area generally calm and quiet, and were invited inside Tower City by employees of a store in The Avenue, the shopping mall inside.
The employees told Esparra and Roberson there was an unusually large number of youngsters inside, but that mall security was doing a good job.
Two off-duty Cleveland police officers working for Tower City noticed the WKYC-TV crew inside the store and confirmed with mall security that they did have permission to be there.
Suddenly, a third off-duty Cleveland police officer, also working mall security, appeared at the entrance to the store.
“Hey, turn that off. What are you filming a policeman for?” the officer demanded. “I didn’t give you permission to do that.”
“I don’t need permission,” correctly replied photojournalist Roberson, who had been given clearance by the store to be there and to work on the story.
The off-duty officer walked toward Roberson, and pushed the camera to ground, damaging the camera and injuring Roberson’s arm in the process.
A few minutes later when Roberson re-started the camera, he was confronted by a representative of Tower City, who put her hand over the lens and demanded the camera be turned off.
“I just got assaulted by one of your officers here,” Roberson explained.
“No you didn’t,” the Tower City employee told him.
“How can you tell me I didn’t?” asked Roberson, as the Tower City rep continued to keep her hand over the lens.
Roberson was treated at an emergency room for an arm injury. Cleveland Police Lt. Thomas Stacho, who viewed the tape, said the matter would be investigated.
“Now that we have had an opportunity to review it, we will turn it over to our investigators, let them review it, interview all the parties, and get to the bottom of this.”
Tower City had promised a faxed statement to WKYC about the incident, but by mid-evening it still had not arrived to the newsroom.