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Columbia journalists handcuffed at apartment complex where two died

Columbia resident describes emotions of being evacuated because of gas leaks

Allen Benedict Court resident Keith Wise shares his experience of being evacuated following a gas leak that claimed the lives of two people.
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Allen Benedict Court resident Keith Wise shares his experience of being evacuated following a gas leak that claimed the lives of two people.

Columbia journalists were detained and handcuffed at the Allen Benedict Court public housing complex Tuesday, according to a lawyer for the Columbia Housing Authority.

The WLTX employees were detained by private security patrolling the facility for trespassing on the premises, but were released shortly after 11 a.m., the attorney, Bob Coble, said.

“I couldn’t imagine why a reporter was arrested if they identified as a reporter,” Coble said.

Private security officers were brought in to protect the property as former residents — who were evacuated from the complex after two died from carbon monoxide poisoning — returned to collect their belongings, Coble said.

Reporters Susan Ardis and Jenna Kurzyna were at the complex to ask for more public records related to the gas leak, WLTX General Manager Rich O’Dell said Tuesday. The duo knocked on the door of the office where the records are kept and were arrested by security officers, he said.

Ardis is a former reporter for The State.

The WLTX reporters were handcuffed though they identified themselves clearly as reporters, O’Dell said. As far as he knew, the reporters were not charged or given a trespass warning from the public housing complex.

Trespassing warning signs were posted around the complex after the evacuation.

The Columbia Housing Authority sent out an apology through a PR company later Tuesday afternoon.

“We, at the Columbia Housing Authority, apologize for the unfortunate incident that occurred earlier today with WLTX reporters, Jenna Kurzyna and Susan Ardis,” the statement read.

A member of the PR company would be meeting with security officers and putting in place procedures to keep similar incidents from happening again, according to the statement.

Staff writer Avery G. Wilks contributed to this report.

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