Blade photojournalist Kurt Steiss was struck with crowd-control munitions while covering protests in Toledo, Ohio, on May 30, 2020.
The protest was held in response to a video showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, for more than eight minutes during an arrest on May 25. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The incident sparked anti-police brutality and Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country.
Steiss reported on Twitter he was fired upon by police while documenting the police advance from the Lucas County Courthouse toward the police headquarters that afternoon. In a series of tweets, he recounted being struck multiple times with pepper balls, which left a welt on his arm.
Steiss, who did not respond to an emailed request for comment, was also struck on the forehead.
“Ironically there isn’t much of a mark there (compared to my arm), but I can still feel soreness on my head while my arm feels fine,” he wrote.
Lt. Kellie Lenhardt, who commands the Toledo Police Public Information Section, told the Tracker over email that the department did not receive complaints from Steiss or other journalists that day.
Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said during a press conference on June 22 that there was an investigation into officers’ conduct during the protests. Kapszukiewicz also announced that officers will no longer be permitted to wear military-style camouflage.
On July 22, Toledo police announced that three officers were disciplined for misconduct during the May 30 protests. One officer received a written reprimand while the other two were suspended and given last chance warnings, meaning they could be fired following another infraction.
“Police legitimacy cannot improve if departments fail at policing their own,” Police Chief George Kral said in a press release announcing the disciplinary measures. “I will ensure that officers are held accountable when their actions are found to violate department policies, and I will always support the hundreds of officers that positively represent Toledo Police.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.