It was a scene reminiscent of Ferguson, Mo., in the summer of 2014: While reporting live at a protest in Louisville, Ky., last night, a TV reporter and her cameraman were repeatedly shot at with pepper balls by a police officer who was wearing riot gear.
News reporter Kaitlin Rust and photojournalist James Dobson were covering protests in downtown Louisville when suddenly they were hit with pepper balls reportedly fired by an Louisville Metro Police Department corrections officer. Rust was covering the protests in Louisville for WAVE-TV, an NBC affiliate owned by Gray TV. She was describing the scene live on the ground when the incident occurred.
Despite sustaining minor injuries, Rust and Dobson kept reporting. One can hear in the clip that Rust and her colleague were following police instructions by standing behind the police line when they were fired upon, and they were not interfering with law enforcement.
As our local news-focused blog TVSpy notes, this was the second time on Friday that police targeted journalists during their live shots covering protests. Earlier in the day, CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez was arrested live on-air, and briefly detailed, while covering the civil unrest in Minneapolis as people protested the death of George Floyd.
LIVE ON @wave3news – something I’ve never seen in my career.
An armed officer shooting directly at our reporter @KaitlinRustWAVE and photographer @jbtcardfan during the protests in #Louisville.
My prayers are going out to everyone tonight.
Such a scary situation for all. pic.twitter.com/Ipg0DjFIXu
— Lauren Jones (@LaurenWAVE3TV) May 30, 2020
“We strongly condemn the actions of the LMPD officer, who tonight repeatedly fired at and hit our reporter and cameraman, both of whom were courageously and lawfully covering breaking news in their community,” WAVE-3 News general manager Ken Selvaggi later said in a statement. “There is simply no justification for the Louisville police to wantonly open fire, even with pepper balls, on any journalists under any circumstances.”
WAVE-TV parent company Gray added a statement of its own: “As colleagues and as citizens, we are indebted to the journalists who put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis to cover critical stories for their local communities, whether it’s a pandemic, flooding, wildfires, or a host of other dangerous situations,” said Pat LaPlatney, Gray TV president and co-CEO. “At no time, however, should journalists be fired upon by the police while peacefully exercising their constitutional rights to speak, assemble, and report. We urge the LMPD to investigate fully and take all necessary actions to ensure that no journalist ever faces a situation like the WAVE 3 News team endured tonight.”
According to local news reports, this protest in downtown Louisville had less to do with the police murder of Floyd (although that was certainly on folks’ minds), and more a demand to have action taken against three LMPD officers involved in the March murder of an African-American Louisvillian named Breonna Taylor. Reportedly, Taylor was shot during a no-knock warrant that was being served at her home. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has since suspended the use of no-knock warrants.