State Police Investigating Photographer-Trooper Encounter

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A state police spokesman says the reported arrest of a weekly newspaper photographer by a state trooper at the scene of a house fire in Maumelle is under investigation by the agency.

Stephens Media says Bill Lawson had parked his car and was heading for the scene where firefighters were battling a chimney fire in the Little Rock suburb when he was stopped by Trooper Thomas Weindruch and arrested Monday night.  Stephens Media is owner of the Maumelle Monitor for which Lawson was taking pictures.

Lawson said Weindruch kept him there handcuffed for about 30 minutes, with his back to the fire.  Lawson said that was the worst part, not being able to see what was going on.

Weindruch issued the 59-year-old Lawson a citation ordering him to appear in Sherwood District Court on February 26 on a charge of obstructing governmental operations.  A conviction on the misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine up to $100.

Bill Sadler, spokesman for the state police, said last night that officials of the agency were gathering information about what occured.  He said they would review what occured to see if there was any policy violation.

Sadler said state police strive to be open and to work with the media on a day-to-day basis.  But he said that, until agency officials talk with the trooper and hear his side of the story, and review the recordings that are available from equipment mounted in Weindruch's patrol car, there would be no official comment.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)