Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
A reporter for the Alaska Dispatch, an online news site, was handcuffed and arrested by private security guards at a middle school in Anchorage Sunday after trying to question Republican Senate hopeful Joe Miller following a town hall meeting. The guards who arrested the reporter worked for Miller through Drop Zone Security, a private security firm in Anchorage.
According to accounts in the Anchorage Daily News and the Dispatch, the problems started when the reporter, Tony Hopfinger, followed Miller down a hallway in an effort to ask questions about Miller's time as a government lawyer for the Fairbanks North Star Borough in 2009. Miller did not respond to the questions, having announced last week that he will no longer speak about his past work experience or personal life.
Hopfinger told the Dispatch
that as he followed Miller, he was wrapped up in a crowd of Miller supporters and security guards and pushed someone away from him. That's when a Drop Zone guard grabbed him. "He throws me up against the wall," Hopfinger said. "He handcuffs me." Hopfinger also said the guards took his video camera, the contents of which had been erased when it was later returned to him.
The guards then called the Anchorage Police to report Hopfinger for trespassing and assault. Anchorage police responded to the scene, took statements for nearly an hour and released Hopfinger.
William Fulton, the owner of Drop Zone Security, would not identify the guards who handcuffed the reporter, but said that Hopfinger was "getting really pushy with Joe. Joe was trying to get away from him." He said the reporter then "shoulder-checked a guy into a locker." Fulton also said that Hopfinger was technically trespassing at the school because the Miller campaign had rented out a room there for the town hall meeting, which the Miller campaign considered a private event.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that the meeting was open to the public and that reporters had not been asked to apply for credentials to cover it.
After the incident, the Miller campaign released a statement from Fulton, detailing his version of events, as well as a press release titled "Liberal Blogger Loses it at Town Hall Meeting."
Lt. Dave Parker of Anchorage Police said the department is investigating the incident and will turn over their findings to the local prosecutor, the New York Times reported.
Parker said private security guards in Alaska can make "private person arrests," much like a citizen's arrest.
Miller, a Tea Party favorite endorsed by Sarah Palin, defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary in August. He faces Democrat Scott McAdams in the general election, along with Murkowski, who is mounting a write-in campaign.