Lantern photographer cuffed, detained
Published: Monday, April 26, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
When two cows got loose last Wednesday, Lantern photographer Alex Kotran hustled to his room in Lincoln Tower. He had heard about the commotion, grabbed his professional camera gear and ran to the athletic fields next to Lincoln Tower.
Within two hours, Ohio State Police had caught the cows – and Kotran. He was detained, handcuffed and is facing a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass.
As Kotran reached the athletic fields where the cows were being chased by police and OSU workers, a woman wearing a School of Agriculture shirt confronted him, he said. It was 2 p.m.
She told him that he was not allowed to take photos of attempts to corral the cattle. She tried to block him from taking photographs, he said.
Kotran explained that he was a photographer for The Lantern, that where he was standing was public property, and that if she wanted him to stop taking photos, she should summon police.
That's exactly what she did.
Shortly, OSU Officer William Linton approached Kotran and told him that he could not take photos from where he was standing because it was dangerous. Kotran explained that he was a member of the media and that it was public property.
At the time, several officers and OSU workers were on the field chasing the cows. Kotran was nearly 100 yards away from the action.
Nonetheless, Linton ordered him to leave that location, and Kotran complied.
He moved to the other side of the field behind a chain-link fence and continued to shoot photos. It was 2:10 p.m.
At that location, a female RPAC employee and two male workers with grounds keeping also confronted Kotran and told him to stop taking photos.
One of the men grabbed his arm. He gave them the same explanation he gave Linton and continued to shoot photos.
Two of his shots from that location were on the front page of Thursday's The Lantern.
At some point, one of the cows fled and ended up cornered by police near Vivian Hall. Kotran ran from the athletic field toward Vivian to get more photos.
Near the driveway to Vivian Hall, he saw an OSU police officer blocking the parking lot entrance. He entered Vivian Hall through the Fyffe Road front door, and then left through a back door, stopping about 50 yards from the cornered cow.
Kotran, a first-year in business and political science from Copley, Ohio, started shooting again when a police officer drove up and told him to leave the scene.
As Kotran turned to leave, Linton ran up, stopped him and cuffed him. It was about 2:40 p.m.
"He told me I was under arrest," Kotran said. "I advised him that I was on public property, and he started talking about Supreme Court cases and stuff."
Kotran said he was detained "for about 10 minutes." Linton went through his pockets to get his wallet. The officer needed identification to write a report.
During that time, other OSU Police fired several shots at the cow, according to news reports.
In a phone interview, Deputy Chief Richard Morman said that "the animal was agitated. The tranquilizer was needed, but if that didn't work, we determined that deadly force was an option."
The animal was finally tranquilized after 15 minutes.
An OSU incident report released Monday does not include a
description of the events. It lists eight witnesses and the charge against Kotran.
In an e-mail to The Lantern on Sunday, OSU Campus Police Chief Paul Denton said the department is still investigating the incident.
"I consider the case as an open and active investigation, and we are not going to hurry the process," Denton said. "Also, as I stated, while there may have been a detention, no arrest was made, so use of the term to describe police and public safety intervention is not correct."
Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington Virginia, commented on the case.
"Unless the police can prove that [Kotran] was contributing to the hazard," Lomonte said, "the student has every right to take photographs."
Last May, an Ohio University student photographer, Eric Jones, was handcuffed and arrested by Athens Police while photographing a disturbance at a city festival.
Jones pled no contest to the charges, which are both second-degree misdemeanors. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, a fine of $750, two years probation and court costs, according to a September report in The Athens News.
You can see Kotran's photography of the cow event by clicking on the article link under related articles.