U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Broadcast reporter charged following investigation of protest arrest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
April 26, 2024
Austin, Texas

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
Texas Department of Public Safety
Detention Date
Unnecessary use of force?

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
REUTERS/Nuri Vallbona

Texas state troopers at a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas at Austin on April 24, 2024. A photographer with TV station KTBC was charged with a felony, downgraded to two misdemeanors, following his arrest while covering the protest.

— REUTERS/Nuri Vallbona
April 26, 2024

KTBC broadcast photographer Carlos Sanchez was charged on April 26, 2024, with the felony assault of a peace officer, the Austin American-Statesman reported, two days after he was arrested filming a student protest at the University of Texas at Austin. The charge was downgraded to two misdemeanors on April 30.

Sanchez said he was pushed into a state trooper as Texas Department of Public Safety officers drove back a pro-Palestinian protest line on campus, NBC affiliate KXAN-TV reported. Another officer immediately pulled him backward and threw him to the ground, arresting him. Sanchez was initially charged with criminal trespassing, but the charge was dismissed the following day.

The American-Statesman reported that the law enforcement agency then launched a criminal investigation into the incident. A warrant for Sanchez’s arrest on the second-degree felony charge was issued on April 26, after additional witnesses — including the trooper who was said to have been hit — were identified and additional footage obtained.

E.G. “Gerry” Morris, an attorney representing Sanchez, told the American-Statesman that they learned the felony charge had been dropped when Sanchez arrived at the jail on April 30 to turn himself in.

KTBC reported that the Texas Department of Public Safety detective investigating the incident acknowledged that the allegations did not rise to a felony offense. A new warrant for Sanchez’s arrest was issued later that day on two misdemeanor counts: assault against a peace officer and impeding a public servant.

Morris told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that Sanchez turned himself into custody on May 1 and was released on his own recognizance after being booked.

“Mr. Sanchez was performing an important news gathering function during a chaotic event when he inadvertently bumped into a police officer. He did not commit a crime,” Morris wrote the Tracker via email. “We look forward to someone taking a unbiased look at the evidence and exonerating Mr. Sanchez. That may ultimately occur with a jury.”

In a thread posted on the social media platform X, Society of Professional Journalists President Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins called the new misdemeanor charges “blatant retaliation and intimidation.”

“TX DPS is trying to make an example out this photographer to scare other journalists from covering these highly publicized protests on campuses across TX,” Blaize-Hopkins wrote. “What they are doing is unconstitutional and just plain vindictive.”

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