PHOENIX — A Wall Street Journal journalist said his rights were violated when Phoenix police detained him while reporting on a story.
Cellphone video shows Dion Rabouin, a markets reporter with WSJ, being handcuffed and placed in the back of a Phoenix police cruiser in November of 2022.
Officers said Rabouin was trespassing on public property after being asked to leave, but he said that's not what happened.
Rabouin tells 12News he was visiting family in Phoenix for Thanksgiving when he decided to report on a story he's been covering, seeking comments from bank customers.
He went to the Chase Bank Branch near State Route 51 and Cactus Road and had been there for about 40 minutes talking with people when two employees came out.
"I identified myself, I said, 'I'm a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, working on this story about savings accounts,'" Rabouin said. He claimed they told him that he could not solicit, and he said he wasn't, so they walked back inside the building.
"No one asked me to leave," Rabouin said. "That was the last I heard from them."
Then a Phoenix police officer arrived. The incident report from that day said the officer walked into the building and spoke with one of the workers. She told the officer she asked Rabouin to leave, and he refused. The report also claimed she said Chase Bank would press charges if Rabouin stayed.
12News reached out to Chase Bank for comment on this story, but they declined.
The officer then approached Rabouin.
“He asked who I was; I had told him I was a reporter and told him what I was doing,” Rabouin said. "He said, 'well, the folks in the bank want you trespassed.'"
Rabouin surprised by this, said he thought he was on public property and offered to leave the area. Rabouin said. "If they don't want me here, I don't need to be here; I can go." But the officer doesn't let him.
This is where the cell phone video taken by Katelyn Parady comes in. She started recording when she noticed what was happening.
In the video, you can hear Rabouin tell the officer multiple times that no one asked him to leave the property and that he would leave as he is getting placed in handcuffs and put in the back of the police cruiser.
"I was just confused," Rabouin said. "I didn't understand what was happening or why it was happening."
Back-up officers arrive at the bank and are also seen speaking with Rabouin. The video goes on for about 15 minutes until they let Rabouin go. Telling him he needs to leave the property now or get arrested.
Rabouin said, "I was under the very clear impression that my rights had been violated, and I wanted to file a complaint." He also said during the interaction with police, "There was a very real feeling that my life could be in danger for doing nothing more than standing outside of bank trying to do my job."
The Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Matt Murray sent a letter to Police Chief Michael Sullivan saying, "I am appalled and concerned that officers at your department would attempt to interfere with Mr. Rabouin’s constitutional right to engage in journalism." Additionally, they are determining what further action will be taken in response to the detainment.
WSJ also sent 12News the following statement:
"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. We have 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 await their response. No journalist should ever be detained simply for exercising their First Amendment rights."
A spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department told 12News they received the letter from WSJ and have shared it with their Professional Standard Bureau, which will conduct an Administrative investigation into the situation.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego is also concerned about this situation. In an email obtained by 12News, Mayor Gallego wrote to Rabouin that she is "deeply sorry" for how he was treated. The email also says in part:
"Please know Chief Sullivan is aware of my displeasure and that I will continue to push hard for the reform needed within the department."
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