WMC Channel 5 Memphis TV reporter Jason Miles arrested on New Year’s Eve

Memphis police arrested a Mid-South television news reporter on New Year’s Eve, charging him with disorderly conduct following an alleged altercation with a police officer on Beale Street.

According to an affidavit of complaint and arrest warrant issued by the Shelby County General Sessions Criminal Court, WMC reporter Jason Miles, 39, was arrested Monday at 3rd Street and Beale. He was released on New Year’s Day after posting $100 bond, The Commercial Appeal reported, and was due to appear in court earlier today.

WMC-TV Channel 5 Memphis reporter Jason Miles, 39, is seen in a Dec. 31, 2012 jail booking mugshot released by the Shelby County Sheriff's Office. Miles was arrested on New Year's Eve and charged with disorderly conduct following an apparent altercation with police while he was performing newsgathering activities on Beale Street. (Photo by Shelby County Sheriff's Office)

WMC-TV Channel 5 Memphis reporter Jason Miles, seen here in a Dec. 31, 2012 mugshot released by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the complaint, Memphis Police Department Officer Matthew Merritt spotted a marked Channel 5 vehicle in a no-parking zone on Beale Street with a crew from the station engaged in newsgathering nearby. Officer Merritt, the complaint alleges, approached the crew and asked reporter Miles if the vehicle — a Ford Explorer branded with Channel 5 graphics — was his. Miles responded, “What Ford Explorer? I don’t see any Ford Explorer,” the complaint alleges.

The officer repeated his order to move the vehicle, the complaint alleges, at which point Miles responded, “I’ll move it in 15 minutes.” Then Merritt and another police officer, identified in the complaint only as Officer Fowler, instructed Miles once more to move the station vehicle off Beale Street.

Merritt’s complaint alleges Miles then approached the officer in “an aggressive manner” and yelled, “Why are you being such an asshole? I told you I’d move it in 15 minutes.”

Another nearby MPD officer, identified in the complaint as Officer Gibbs, heard the apparent altercation from across the street, the complaint alleges, and came over to assist officers Merritt and Fowler.

At this point, the complaint alleges, police asked Miles to step back from Merritt, at which point Miles got even closer to Merritt “in an aggressive manner” and “bumped Officer Merritt with [his] chest.” At that point, police arrested Miles on a charge of disorderly conduct, a Class C misdemeanor in Tennessee.

The complaint also alleges Miles “started to tighten up and not allow officers to put handcuffs on” him, though no resisting arrest charge was apparently filed. A police supervisor, identified in the complaint only as Lt. Lawrence, arrived on scene and then police transported Miles to the Shelby County Criminal Justice Complex at 201 Poplar Ave. for booking.

The complaint also alleges Miles “advised officers that he was sorry” while in custody following the altercation, implying Miles showed remorse for his actions — a common police technique used to illustrate a defendant’s apparent guilt.

Miles responded to the incident briefly Jan. 1 on Twitter, where the reporter told Shelby County Commissioner Chris Thomas, “The jail staff could not have been more courteous and professional.”

WMC first reported their own reporter’s arrest shortly before 8 p.m. CT Monday, saying the incident “happened after Memphis police asked us to move our live truck while covering the story for a New Year’s celebration on Beale Street.”

Copy of the original general sessions court affidavit and arrest warrant  for Memphis reporter Jason Miles following an apparent New Year's Eve altercation with police on Beale Street.

In this affidavit of complaint obtained from Shelby County General Sessions Criminal Court, Memphis police officer Matthew Merritt alleges WMC-TV Channel 5 reporter Jason Miles “chest bumped” him while covering a New Year’s Eve story on Beale Street.

A satirical Facebook page titled “Free Jason Miles” was created on New Year’s Day, the day after Miles was arrested, and had 296 “likes” at the time of this article’s first publication. The page’s tongue-in-cheek description says, “On New Years Eve, in a small town, sitting on Bluffs high above a mighty river, Government agents arrested a good man simply going about the people’s business, reporting on their right to party, for the crime of parking his van, down by the river.”

A @FreeJasonMiles Twitter account was also created, sending out Tweets such as “Freedom isn’t Free. Just like @jmilesWMC,” many using the hashtag #FreeJasonMiles.

Miles is a graduate of Georgia College & State University, where he says he received a bachelor of science degree in history and theater. After college, he worked at Atlanta-area radio stations WBHF and WGST, then made the jump to TV news in 1999 as a reporter for WRBL-TV Channel 3 in Columbus, Ga.

Following three years at WRBL, Miles move to WHNT Channel 19 in Huntsville, Ala., where he served a two-year stint as both a reporter and weekend anchor. Miles came to Memphis and joined WMC’s Action 5 News team in 2004, serving as a reporter and fill-in anchor.

Miles’ bio on the WMC website says, “His favorite types of stories to cover are the ones that are still breaking.” Perhaps the station will let him cover his own court proceedings.

I'm a Mid-South photojournalist, Kentucky writer and digital media consultant (or eNinja™). Circle me on Google Plus at Plus.BillySuratt.com, follow me on Twitter at @surattb and Instagram me at @BillySuratt. Got a news tip or suggestion about some journalism that needs committed? Email blog@billysuratt.com (discretion is always guaranteed).

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