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Photojournalist detained while covering escape of angry cows on OSU campus

April 28, 2010

OHIO -- A student photojournalist was briefly detained by university police last week while covering the escape of two cows on Ohio State University's campus.

On April 21, two cows from the agriculture school got loose and university police were working with people from the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine to try and manage the "agitated, angry, nervous and certainly dangerous" animals, said Chief of Ohio State University Police Paul Denton. Alex Kotran was covering the bovine blunder for OSU's The Lantern when a university employee approached him and asked him to leave the scene.

"I was being pretty adamant about the fact that 'I'm press and I really don't have to explain anything to you beyond the fact that I'm press. So get a police officer,' " Kotran said.

Kotran was then approached by an Ohio State University police officer, who asked him to leave because the situation was dangerous, he said. After relocating, Kotran said he was then approached a second time by police and asked to leave his second location. He said that although he "complied immediately," he was then handcuffed and told he was under arrest.

Lantern faculty adviser Tom O'Hara said university police insist that Kotran was not arrested.

"They're very adamant that he wasn't arrested. But they put handcuffs on him and detained him and dug in his pockets and took out his wallet and wrote up a report and ... the incident report says 'charge: criminal trespass.' Just to be clear, they're still investigating and he was not arrested," O'Hara said.

Kotran was detained, Denton said, but whether or not it was considered an arrest is just "semantics." He said no criminal charges had been filed yet against Kotran, who he said presented no press credentials during the incident.

Lantern Editor-in-Chief Collin Binkley said the paper will continue to support Kotran as the situation unfolds, and maintained that he was not in the wrong.

"Basically, the police are saying that Alex was endangering himself. And if they're going to say that, whether that's true or not, that's up to them to decide. We can't argue that, but from what we can tell he was standing at a safe distance from the cows. Obviously, once an officer gives a direct order you have to follow it," Binkley said.

Both Binkley and Denton said there has been a good working relationship between the Lantern and the OSU police department this year.

Denton said other journalists were on the scene and that Kotran's actions had set him apart from the rest, which led to his detention. He could not specifically comment on what the behaviors were, as they are under investigation to determine potential charges.

Kotran said he has received no notice of charges filed since the incident, and was given no indication of when he may find out if he is being charged and if so, with what. He said he would be trying to secure legal counsel. Denton said the investigation could take several weeks.

By Katie Maloney, SPLC staff writer

© 2010 Student Press Law Center

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