Louisville Police Officer Fires Pepper Balls at Reporter, Cameraman During Protest

By Jason Lynch Comment

A Louisville, Ky., reporter and photojournalist covering a protest Friday night were hit by what appeared to be pepper balls fired by a Louisville Metro Police Department officer.

“I’m getting shot!” said WAVE 3 reporter Kaitlin Rust during a live remote, as photojournalist James Dobson, who was also hit, filmed an LMPD officer firing pepper balls at them.

Despite sustaining minor injuries, Rust and Dobson continued reporting after the officer fired on them.

“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. There is simply no justification for the Louisville police to wantonly open fire, even with pepper balls, on any journalists under any circumstances,” said WAVE 3 News general manager Ken Selvaggi in a statement.

The station noted that Rust and Dobson had been following police instructions, were standing behind the police line when they were fired upon and were not disrupting or interfering with law enforcement.

An LMPD spokesperson confirmed to WAVE 3 News that the officer in the video appears to be a member of the its department and that the LMPD would investigate the incident. While Rust and Dobson initially thought they were hit with rubber bullets, a LMPD spokesperson said its officers do not use rubber bullets, and they were likely hit with pepper balls.

“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, the president and co-CEO of the station’s parent company, in a statement. “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.”

The incident occurred during the second consecutive night of protests, in an attempt to have action taken against three LMPD officers involved in the March death of Breonna Taylor, an African American and former EMT who was shot dead when officers served a narcotics warrant at her home in March.

A WAVE 3 News truck was also vandalized downtown during the protest.

You can read WAVE 3’s coverage of the incident here.

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.

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