U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

WCHS reporter attacked, camera damaged while reporting on abandoned cars

Incident Details

February 6, 2023 - Update

Man ordered to pay restitution for snatching, breaking reporter’s camera

The West Virginia man who grabbed and broke WCHS-TV reporter Bob Aaron’s camera was ordered on Feb. 6, 2023, to pay restitution to the station, the Putnam County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed via email to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Aaron was filming abandoned cars along U.S. Route 60 in Putnam County on Aug. 4, 2022, for a piece about the local sheriff’s plan to remove junk cars on roads and in yards, when he reported that he was nearly run over by a flatbed tow truck. The driver of the truck, Clayton Frank Kelley, then got out of the vehicle, grabbed the camera from Aaron’s hands and broke the light off. Kelley turned himself in at the sheriff’s office the next day and was charged with battery and destruction of property.

Kelley pleaded guilty to the property destruction charge and was ordered to pay $100 in restitution. The battery charge was dismissed.

August 4, 2022

WCHS Eyewitness News Reporter Bob Aaron was assaulted on Aug. 4, 2022, in Putnam County, West Virginia, while reporting on the sheriff's plan to remove abandoned cars on roads and yards.

According to Aaron, who reported the incident in a newscast, he was nearly run over while filming the abandoned cars stationed along a main county road by a man who did not want him filming.

The reporter said the individual got out of his car and ripped the camera from his hands. Aaron, who did not respond to a request for comment from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, reported that the man broke the camera light off and refused to return the camera until Putnam County Sheriff's deputies were called to the scene.

WCHS reported that Putnam County Sheriff Bobby Eggleton announced his intention to enforce a clean-up plan to remove the vehicles from public and private locations, adding that some had not moved for more than 20 years. Eggleton told WCHS the announcement provoked an “emotional response from residents in the county” who feared authorities would take their property. Eggleton said in a video posted to Facebook that it was not a county ordinance but in accordance with state law.

The sheriff’s office could not be reached for comment.

In an article about the altercation, WCHS said Aaron, 75, was doing fine and that there were pending charges against the man who attacked him.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].