U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

AP photojournalist assaulted during Capitol riot

Incident Details

October 21, 2022 - Update

Pennsylvania man sentenced to 34 months in prison for attacking AP photographer during Capitol riot

A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to nearly three years in prison on Oct. 21, 2022, for attacking an Associated Press photographer and other crimes during the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Alan William Byerly pleaded guilty earlier this year to multiple charges, including pushing and shoving photographer John Manchillo while he was documenting the riot for the AP. Byerly was sentenced to 34 months in prison, followed by supervised release. According to the Department of Justice, he must also pay a $2,000 fine.

Byerly, one of three men charged with attacking Manchillo, is the first J6 rioter whose sentencing involves the assault of a journalist.

To date, the DOJ has charged nearly 900 people for illegal activity at the Capitol that day. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is following cases directly connected with the assault of journalists or the destruction of media equipment. Read the updates here.

July 25, 2022 - Update

Pennsylvania man pleads guilty to attacking AP photojournalist during Capitol riot

The Department of Justice announced that a Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty on July 25, 2022, to charges of attacking a law enforcement officer and an Associated Press photographer during a riot at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021.

According to the 12-page plea agreement, Alan William Byerly, arrested on July 7, 2021, pleaded guilty to assaulting, resisting, or impeding law enforcement officers and striking, beating, or wounding an individual on federal grounds.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not identify the photojournalist attacked, but the description and photos included in the official complaint show it is John Minchillo. According to federal prosecutors, after Byerly saw Minchillo being assaulted and pushed down a flight of stairs, he then “pushed, shoved, and dragged the journalist with both hands and pushed him backwards.”

Byerly is one of three men accused of assaulting Minchillo and the only one to plead guilty so far. At least eight others have been charged with assaulting members of the media who were covering the insurrection at the Capitol.

Byerly faces a maximum sentence of eight years for assaulting a law enforcement officer, one year for assaulting Minchillo, and potential financial penalties. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 21, 2022.

May 24, 2022 - Update

Third man charged for the assault of an AP photojournalist during Capitol riot

The Department of Justice announced that a Maryland man was arrested on May 24, 2022, for assaulting law enforcement officers and an Associated Press photographer during the riot at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021.

The man, identified as Rodney Milstreed, was charged with 11 counts, including assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers with a dangerous weapon; civil disorder; obstruction of an official proceeding; simple assault and engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds.

Though the charging documents do not identify the photojournalist, the description and photos included in the complaint show it is AP photographer John Minchillo.

Minchillo was repeatedly assaulted while covering the insurrection in and around the Capitol. Milstreed is the third individual charged with assaulting Minchillo that day: Alan Byerly was arrested on July 7, 2021, and Benjamen Burlew was arrested on Aug. 19.

All three men are charged with pulling Minchillo down the stairs to the Capitol, repeatedly shoving him toward a dense section of the crowd. Burlew is also accused of deliberately throwing Minchillo over a wall to the west lawn.

According to the complaint, Milstreed bragged about assaulting Minchillo to a friend on Facebook a few days after the incident.

“I make [sic] a charge for punching the camera guy but it was worth it,” the message read. “Hit him with everything god give. The crowd cheered.”

If convicted on all counts, Milstreed faces more than 50 years in prison, fines or both.

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]