Vince Lovato was the editor of the Lake County Leader in Polson, Montana…until this happened.
At 53 years of age, with over three decades of journalism experience, Lovato lost his job after being arrested on October 1 for obstruction, resisting arrest and belligerence for daring to take photos at an accident.
Lovato had heard about a car collision and drove to the scene of the accident to gather information for the newspaper with his wife, also a reporter at the same paper.
When Lovato arrived, Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Anthony Isbell asked Lovato to step behind his car. Lovato, who identified himself as a member of the media, was ready to move when he saw a firefighter pull a dog out of the wreckage and bent down to snap a low-angle shot. At that moment, Isbell pounced, turning on his heels and telling Lovato he was under arrest.
“He never told me that I would be arrested,” Lovato told PINAC. “He didn’t tell me why I was arrested.”
Luckily, Lovato was able to obtain the dash-cam video of his arrest, and the obstruction and resisting charges were dismissed, with Lovato pleading no contest to “belligerence.”
Without the dash cam video, Lovato would have faced jail time and expensive fines as the prosecutor went ahead and tried the case based on the officers’ testimony. Instead, the prosecutor saw the dash-cam video and immediately offered Lovato a plea.
Even with the charges dropped, Lovato still found himself out of a job, and is no longer working at the Lake County Leader. He is currently looking for legal representation for a civil suit against the Montana Highway Patrol and Lake County Jail, which is why he did not want to release the dashcam video to PINAC.
Here is what Lovato had to say about the matter.
I’m a 53-year-old grandpa of two, father of three college educated daughters, happily married for 23 years, worked for 33 years (yes, 33) at large metros in SoCal and some small weeklies in the NW. I have never been arrested or handcuffed in my life. I haven’t even had a ticket in two or three years. I have literally rolled on dozens if not hundreds of crime scenes and crash scenes and never really had a problem because, even though I know my rights, when a guy with a gun and a badge tells me he will arrest me, I do what he says. If he oversteps, I talk with his supervisor the next day. I have short hair, no tattoos, no piercings, shirt tucked in, clean jeans, boots, no bling except a Mickey Mouse watch. I have never tried illegal drugs IN MY LIFE – even when it was cool to do it. I am a credentialed teacher in three states. I volunteer to lecture at schools, run journalism programs, coach and sponsor youth sports teams out of my own pocket. Since this incident, my mug shot went around the country, I no longer have a job. Isbell is back at work happily making a living. I am NOT against the cops. I take issues one at a time. All Americans should be terrified if a guy like me can be arrested, detained, have their career ruined just for taking a picture of a firefighter rescuing a dog.
For anyone that feels like contacting the Montana Highway Patrol, here is their contact page.