WSFA reporter Eileen Jones, 66, allegedly drove over an officer's foot and drove away after being told she was under arrest. Jones reportedly was driving to the scene of a tanker-truck accident, where she was planning to do a live report.
In January, Jones produced a report about Alabama's electronic-bingo controversy where she quoted Governor Bob Riley as warning those who might "get too close to the families."
Is it coincidence that Jones now finds herself charged with misdemeanor assault and felony escape in an incident where police officers appear to have behaved in a questionable manner?
Given Riley's apparent control over the state's law-enforcement apparatus, and his thirst for revenge against those who displease him, we would not be surprised if Jones was targeted for special attention.
Officers claimed that Jones never identified herself as a news reporter. But Jones' version of events is quite different. Reports the Montgomery Advertiser:
. . . Jones said she identified herself as a reporter as soon as the officer approached her vehicle. She said she rolled down her window and told the officer she was there to do a live broadcast. He asked her who she was and she told him she was Eileen Jones with WSFA, she said.
She said she then walked away and called someone. She waited a long time for him to return and began to worry that she would not make it to the truck in time for the broadcast.
Jones said she honked her horn and beckoned the officer to her car. When he approached the car again, he was yelling at her, she said.
"I said, 'Why are you yelling at me? I just want to talk to you,'" Jones said, adding that she does not remember what the officer was saying to her.
The scene quickly turned even uglier:
The officer then walked away again, she said.
Jones said she decided then to drive over to where the officer was standing.
That is when the officer yelled that she had run over his foot and that she was under arrest, she said.
Jones said it did not seem likely that she could have run over his foot without even noticing.
"I think I would have felt it in the car if I had run over his foot," she said.
Jones, who is black, said the officer's behavior made her concerned for her safety:
Jones said the officer began to frighten her after that. He reached into her vehicle and tried to pull her out, she said.
"I was scared of that officer. I didn't know what he was going to do. I really thought it was going to be another Rodney King," Jones said.
Jones said he was jerking and pulling her and that her arm was still red and swollen Friday.
The seat belt was the only thing that kept him from pulling her out of the car, she said.
"I am sure he sprained his ankle when he was trying to pull me out of the car," she said.
Jones has been with WSFA for 18 years, and State Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) says he plans to look into the situation:
Alabama Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, said the black community in Montgomery was disturbed by the situation and that he plans to hold a mass meeting next week. Holmes said he plans to get national black leaders involved.Is it a stretch to think that the governor's office might have targeted Jones? Well, we have seen firsthand evidence that those close to the Rileys don't mind interfering with individuals and their livelihoods. The Alabama Supreme Court, in a ruling that overruled clear precedent, essentially made Bob Riley the "supreme ruler" over the state's law-enforcement function. (Interestingly, Eileen Jones reported that story for WSFA.) And the Jones run-in with law enforcement came almost immediately after Alvin Holmes announced last week that the U.S. Justice Department had told him it would review a complaint he had filed about Riley's refusal to pay a Montgomery law firm that was hired by the Legislature. Holmes said the matter had been turned over to the DOJ's criminal division.
Holmes said that to not do something would be a "betrayal to the dream of Dr. King."
"Eileen Jones is on TV almost every day. Even if she did not identify herself as a news reporter, he knew she was a news reporter. But she was a black news
"We are not going to sit idly by and let this happen to her."
Here is a reminder about why Bob Riley might be unhappy with Eileen Jones. This is a YouTube clip that was generated from Jones' January report about the governor. At least one other Montgomery station broadcast a clip from the same interview, so Jones was not the only reporter on the story. In this segment, she does appear to be the reporter asking questions of Riley, prompting his comment about "the families":
UPDATE: The Montgomery Advertiser reports on June 22 that the felony escape charge against Eileen Jones has been dropped. A misdemeanor assault charge will proceed in Montgomery Municipal Court.