A news crew with Phoenix’s 3TV and CBS 5 was rushed by a crowd, and their security guard injured, while the journalists broadcast live from protests in Scottsdale, Arizona on May 30, 2020.
Demonstrations in Phoenix and Scottsdale began in response to a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis, on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Protests against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the U.S. since late May.
Reporter Max Gorden and a videographer went to Scottsdale Fashion Square, a large shopping mall, in response to a tip that protesters planned to gather there around 10 p.m.
The crowd grew to several hundred as demonstrators began marching down the blocks around the mall, Gorden told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. As protesters returned to the march’s starting point, some people started smashing store windows and spray-painting walls, he said.
At that point, Gorden suggested to his producers to throw the live broadcast to him. When the light on the camera turned on, Gorden said, his group became a target.
As he was getting ready to go live, someone began pushing a sign toward the camera shot.
Security guard Jesse Torrez, a private security contractor the station hired to accompany news crews during the protests, told the Tracker that when the camera light turned on, several people rushed toward the cameraman, with one individual holding a sign moving toward Gorden. Torrez put his hand out to stop the person with the sign. As he was holding that person back, someone else struck him over the head with a hard object. Torrez believes it may have been a metal pipe.
Gorden saw a scuffle out of the corner of his eye. When he looked to see what had happened, he saw Torrez bleeding from his head. Both Torrez and his partner were carrying firearms, and they put their hands on their weapons. The crowd eventually dispersed.
After safely getting out of the area, Torrez went to the hospital to seek medical attention. He had four staples put into the laceration on his head, and had to go to a concussion clinic for two months, he said. For a month after the attack, Torrez said he couldn’t drive because his equilibrium was off as a result of the head injury.
A Scottsdale Police Department spokesperson confirmed that the incident has been reported and that police have an open investigation for aggravated assault. However, no suspects have been identified and no arrests have been made.
Gorden doesn’t believe that he and his colleagues were targeted because they were journalists. He said tensions were running high that night, and when the sign was pushed out of the way, they escalated.
“Anything could spark violence in that situation,” Gorden said. “In that moment, windows were being broken out, there was kind of this fervor that sort of really, really escalated throughout the crowd.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas, or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.