The Phoenix Police Department is facing backlash after handcuffing and detaining a Black Wall Street Journal reporter while he was conducting an interview with passersby outside a Chase Bank. The Journal reporter, Dion Rabouin, was conducting the interview for an ongoing story about savings accounts when he was detained, CNN reports.
Speaking to ABC 15, Rabouin said representatives from the bank approached him as he was standing on a sidewalk outside the building and asked what he was doing.
The reporter added that the employees walked back inside, but never told him to leave. Shortly after the employees went inside, Rabouin said he saw a police car pull up.
“The officer came out, walked into the branch, after about five minutes came out, and talked to me,” Raboin told ABC 15. “He asked me what I was doing. I identified myself. I said, ‘I’m Dion Rabouin. I’m a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. I’m working on a story. I told the people in the branch what was going on.’ And he said, ‘Well you can’t do that.’”
Rabouin, who lives in New York, was visiting family in Phoenix during the Thanksgiving holiday when the incident happened.
The reporter said he was wearing street clothes while doing interviews in Phoenix because he didn’t want people to think he was selling them something.
Katelyn Parady, a bystander, recorded the conversation between officer Caleb Zimmerman and Rabouin. The video begins as the officer was placing Rabouin in handcuffs.
“I heard him say he was going to leave. This is ridiculous. He’s a reporter,” Parady can be heard saying as the footage begins.
Speaking to the newsstation, Rabouin said the officer didn’t want to look at his credentials. He also said he asked Zimmerman to clarify whether the sidewalk is private property.
“’If this isn’t public property and I don’t have a legal right to be here, if you’re telling me that’s not what this is, fine, I’ll move.’ And he literally, kind of, shifted his body to keep me from moving or going anywhere,” Rabouin said. “And after we talked a little more, he said, ‘I’m done with this.’ And he started grabbing me. Grabbing at my arms. And I was kind of flustered and drew back. And he was like, ‘This could get bad for you if you don’t comply and don’t do what I say.’ So he grabs my arms and really wrenches them behind my back and proceeds to put me in handcuffs.”
While Zimmerman tried to take him to the car, Rabouin said he told the officer that doesn’t want to get in.
“I didn’t trust what was going to happen, Rabouin said. “While the woman was recording, I thought the odds of him not doing anything to me whether physically or anything else are a lot higher. Once he closes that door, he could take off, He could take me somewhere. I could be placed under arrest.”
The cellphone video shows that backup officers later arrived and had a brief conversation with Zimmerman, who then released Rabouin.
According to Zimmerman’s police report, bank employees said Rabouin refused to leave and he initially refused to identify himself. Zimmerman said he had probable cause to arrest Rabouin for trespassing.
In a statement to ABC 15, a Wall Street Journal spokesperson said the media outlet has asked the “Phoenix Police Department to pursue a thorough investigation into the incident and explain why their officers needlessly escalated the situation and took these aggressive steps.”
“We’re deeply concerned that Wall Street Journal reporter Dion Rabouin was detained, handcuffed and placed in the back of a police vehicle while reporting,” the spokesperson said. “No journalist should ever be detained simply for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Rabouin said he received a call from a police official saying they had reviewed what happened and found nothing wrong. In a statement to ABC 15, the police department said “they are conducting an administrative investigation.”
“Once the administrative investigation is complete, it will be made available as part of a public records request,” the department stated. “Bank personnel contacted police after they received customer complaints that a man was approaching people as they entered the bank asking them personal questions. The interaction between the officer and the man who was the subject of the complaint took place on private property.”