Says they will be 'arrested' if they don't stop 'interfering' with his business

Staff Report, Alice Echo-News Journal

Duval County Sheriff Santiago Barrera Jr. told an Alice Echo-News Journal reporter Tuesday he would arrest reporters who "interfered" with his office by writing stories he deemed as negative toward his department.

During an interview concerning a recent jail disturbance, Barrera complained that Alice Newspapers Inc., and in particular Freer Press news editor Sue Fleming "had it out for him."

Alice Newspapers Inc. has written stories in the past year reporting the sheriff's decision to fire Romeo Ramirez, a task force commander who is running against Barrera for the office of sheriff, several of Ramirez's employees, and reported the recent arrest of the sheriff's son for public intoxication and resisting arrest.

The sheriff told the reporter, "If you guys keep interfering with my business, I'm going to have you arrested."

When asked for a specific instance in which a reporter had interfered with his duties as a law enforcement official, Barrera responded "It's on the front page of the paper every day."

Barrera then restated his comment, saying he would "put in jail" reporters if they continued to "interfere" with him.

ANI publisher Tony Morris said he was disappointed with the sheriff's statements.

"I am disappointed Sheriff Barrera would attempt to use his position to intimidate any member of the media simply because he disagrees with what is being reported," Morris said. "We have a responsibility to report the news and the public has a right to be informed. We will never shy away from that duty."