Man arrested for threatening Fox journalist at Huntington Beach stay-at-home protest

A message written on a man’s back reads, “CHINA LIED PEOPLE DIED,” as demonstrators crowd the intersection at Main Street and Walnut Avenue in downtown Huntington Beach on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

A Costa Mesa man is behind bars on suspicion of holding a television journalist at knifepoint after Friday’s protest in Huntington Beach against coronavirus-driven stay-at-home orders.

Christien Francis Petersen, 36, was arrested just before 8 p.m. Friday for exhibiting a deadly weapon other than a firearm and for kidnapping, according to the Huntington Beach Police Department log. He remained in custody at the Orange County jail Monday on $100,000 bond.

Petersen allegedly approached a cameraman and reporter from Fox 11 News while they were reporting a post-demonstration story in downtown Huntington Beach and demanded they delete any video he might be in, the station reported Monday.

Armed with a pocketknife, Petersen then allegedly forced the cameraman into his live van to delete the video. Officers found Petersen still holding the cameraman at knifepoint inside the van, the station said. Police described Petersen as intoxicated.

The cameraman and reporter were shaken but unharmed.

Close to 200 people gathered in downtown H.B. Friday to protest the ongoing social and economic restrictions that are part of city, state and national efforts to suppress and control the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jail records list Petersen’s occupation as lawyer, and the State Bar of California lists a Christien Francis Petersen as having an active license since graduating from Costa Mesa’s Whittier College law school.

A Christien F. Petersen out of Whittier College law school was listed as an associate on the website of the Alvandi Law Group, which focuses on workers’ compensation and has an office in Irvine, but he hadn’t worked there since September.

“He worked for the firm for less than six months in 2019,” the Alvandi Law Group said in a statement Tuesday. “While we understand that he was arrested for several felony crimes during a demonstration yesterday, he is in no way affiliated with Alvandi Law Group and we do not condone any of these actions.”

Petersen wrote in his LinkedIn profile that he grew up in Solvang, a small town 34 miles north of Santa Barbara, and played rugby as an undergraduate at Westmont College, two things that shaped his outlook on life.

“I’ve come to appreciate more and more where I come from as it has proven an invaluable touchstone in treating people I meet wherever I go just as I would if I had grown up knowing them in Solvang,” he wrote. “Folks deserve to be treated with respect, and I’ll be damned if I don’t at least do that.”

Rugby, Petersen said, “taught me what deserved a conflict and what did not.”

Fox did not air a television report that evening because all raw footage was immediately turned over to Huntington Beach police. The station has not identified the reporter or cameraman, but is expected air further details during a regular broadcast.

Andrew J. Campa is a staff writer with the Los Angeles Times.

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7:28 p.m. April 21, 2020: This article has been updated to reflect when Christien Francis Petersen left the Alvandi Law Group and it includes a statement from the firm.

This article was originally published on April 20 at 7:49 p.m.