U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

AP photojournalist assaulted during Capitol riot

Incident Details

Date of Incident
January 6, 2021


Was the journalist targeted?
August 19, 2021 - Update

Man charged for the assault of an AP photojournalist during Capitol riot

The Department of Justice announced that an Oklahoma man was arrested on Aug. 19, 2021, for his involvement in the breach of the Capitol and the assault of an Associated Press photojournalist in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6.

The man, identified as Benjamen Scott Burlew, was charged with two federal offenses: assault in special territorial jurisdiction and acts of physical violence on restricted grounds.

“Burlew was captured in two videos engaging in a physical assault against a credentialed media member who works as a photographer for the Associated Press,” the DOJ press release said. “Burlew, together with other assailants including Alan William Byerly, grabbed the photographer and pushed him, then shoved and dragged him parallel to the stairs.”

Byerly was indicted on Aug. 20 in connection with this assault, as well as that of a Metropolitan Police Department officer, according to the press release.

“Later, the photographer can be observed on video having been backed up against a low stone wall separating the U.S. Capitol structure from the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol by the assailants. As alleged, Burlew lunged toward the photographer and grabbed his upper chest and leg to forcefully throw and push the photographer over the wall to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building, several feet below,” the release states. “Burlew continued to shove and push the photographer until the photographer was thrown backward over the wall, where he landed on his back on the grounds of the west lawn.”

While the photographer is not named in the press release, the descriptions of the assaults match the assaults against AP photojournalist John Minchillo.

If convicted, Burlew faces up to a year in a half in prison, a fine or both.

January 6, 2021

Associated Press photojournalist John Minchillo was assaulted by rioters while covering the insurrection in and around the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump spoke at noon at a rally in front of the White House in response to the Congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden, promoting false claims of election fraud and calling for his supporters to march to the Capitol, The New York Times reported. Following the rally, thousands of pro-Trump supporters waving Confederate and Trump flags violently stormed the Capitol, disrupting and occupying several areas within the building.

Minchillo and fellow AP photographer Julio Cortez were documenting from along the front barriers, near where Capitol Police officers stood, when rioters attacked Minchillo.

Cortez posted an Instagram video showing multiple rioters dragging Minchillo through an angry mob.

“He was labeled as an anti protesters, even though he kept flashing his press credentials, and one person can be heard threatening to kill him,” wrote Cortez in the post.

In Cortez’s video, shouts of “Get the media out of here!” and “Who is he? Antifa!” can be heard. At the 45-second mark, an individual shoves Minchillo over a wall. Several aggressively question if he is “antifa,” while a man in a Trump hat retrieves his camera.

After Minchilllo shows his press pass and repeats that he is press, two men help him leave the area, with Cortez filming from behind. “Thankfully, he wasn’t injured,” Cortez wrote in his post.

“Please use this moment to reflect on the importance of journalism as a conduit between us,” Minchillo wrote in a tweet.

In an AP article about the attacks and harassment journalists faced while covering the riot, an AP spokesperson specifically responded to the attack on Minchillo.

“While we are thankful he is OK, this is a reminder of the dangers journalists both in the U.S. and around the world face every day while simply trying to do their jobs,” said Patrick Maks.

Minchillo did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

In a press release the next day, outgoing Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund called the attacks on Jan. 6 "criminal riotous behavior" and said the United States Capitol Police would be conducting a "thorough review of this incident."

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting multiple assaults, detainments and equipment damages from Jan. 6 events. Find those here.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]