Top Ohio Guard General Faces No Charges After Shoving Reporter at Public Press Conference

The two-star commander of the Ohio National Guard is not facing charges despite the outcry generated by police body camera video that appeared to show the general shoving a journalist during a news conference last month.

Captain Jenna Walton, State Public Affairs officer for the Ohio National Guard told The Ohio Star that “there have been no charges, either civilian or military, filed against MG John Harris, Jr.”

The Ohio National Guard did not respond to a request from The Star for comment on whether Harris is facing disciplinary action.

Body camera video shows Harris, an aviation officer, in an altercation with NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert during Ohio Governor Mike DeWine‘s public press conference regarding the derailing of a train transporting hazardous materials in East Palestine, Ohio.

Harris, who was in uniform at the time serving in his capacity as head of the state Guard, appeared to interrupt Lambert’s live news report. The video shows Harris grab the reporter, push him, and shove his finger in Lambert’s face.

An Ohio state trooper pushed the general away from Lambert. Along with receiving charges of criminal trespassing and resisting arrest, officers grabbed and tackled Lambert to the ground as he left the building.

Lambert was quickly released from custody, and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost dropped the charges for insufficient evidence saying that “the reporter was lawfully present at a press conference called by the Governor of the state. His conduct was consistent with the purpose of the event and his role as a reporter.”

Yost noted that tensions were high in the days following the derailment and that it seemed as though local officials who arrested Lambert were following the National Guard’s example.

“Regardless of the intent, arresting a journalist reporting at a press conference is a serious matter. Ohio protects a free press under its constitution, and state officials should remember to exercise a heightened level of restraint in using arrest powers,” Yost said.

Harris accused Lambert of being too loud during his newscast; however, reporters frequently have to speak in front of cameras while public leaders speak in the background when reporting live news broadcasts.

According to DeWine, Lambert “should not have been stopped, period.”

“The initial confrontation never should have occurred. I think the general regrets that. I explained to him how press conferences work, and sometimes someone will be reporting. They have the right to deliver the news. He regrets the whole situation,” DeWine said.

Harris commands the Ohio Guard and its 17,000 troops, one of the largest National Guards in the country. When DeWine became governor in 2019, he appointed Harris to the position. Harris has been in the Army since 1981 and deployed to Kosovo in 2004.

Neither Lambert nor NewsNation responded to The Star before press time if they would, at some point, be pressing charges.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “John Harris” by The Ohio Adjutant General’s Department. Photo “Evan Lambert” by NewsNationComms.


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