U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

CBS4 News photojournalist assaulted, camera damaged as he covered story in Miami Beach

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 12, 2021
Miami, Florida


Was the journalist targeted?

Equipment Damage

Equipment Broken
August 8, 2022 - Update

Charges dropped in attack on Miami photojournalist

Charges were dropped against two people who attacked photojournalist Ebenezer Mends and reporter Bobeth Yates of Miami TV station WFOR-TV while they were filming in Miami Beach, Florida, according to Miami-Dade County case files reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Mends and Yates were recording a fight in the South Beach nightlife area on May 12, 2021, when some of those involved in the fight approached them and demanded not to be filmed, subsequently attacking both journalists and damaging Mends’ camera.

Miami Beach police officers arrested Alysia Nicole Freed and Billy Lee Bronner that day, charging both with criminal mischief and battery and Bonner with resisting an officer without violence. Bronner was issued stay-away orders from Mends and Yates on May 13 and June 10 in 2021.

Prosecutors declined to prosecute both sets of charges. Bronner’s case was closed on July 6, 2022, and Freed’s on Aug. 8.

May 12, 2021

Ebenezer Mends, a photojournalist for CBS4 News in Miami, Florida, was attacked and his camera was damaged while he was working on a story about rising crime rates in South Beach on May 12, 2021.

Mends was with CBS4 reporter Bobeth Yates near Fifth Street and Ocean Drive in South Beach. The journalists were there to report on the Miami Beach City Commission’s passage of a resolution to stop alcohol sales past 2 a.m. in the city’s entertainment district as a way to curb unruly behavior, the station reported.

Mends and Yates were doing research in the busy nightlife area about 9 p.m. when a fight broke out. Mends began recording the fight, but some of the people involved in it came up to him and demanded that he not film them.

When they started pushing his camera and hitting Mends, Yates said in the station’s report, she tried to get in the way.

“To be honest, I've been reporting for a very long time,” Yates said, according to the report. “I don't want to date myself, but about 20 years and I've never been attacked like this on a story.”

She said both she and Mends were hit. “The first hit came when we tried to kind of block the camera and I kind of stood in between everything because they started really coming on to Ebenezer and attacking him.”

At one point, Yates said, four or five people surrounded Mends. Yates said they hit her and tried to attack Mends and the camera, which was damaged.

“They also threw a bottle of liquid what I believe is some sort of alcohol because it was literally burning our skin, my eyes,” she said.

Yates called police and followed the people who harassed her and Mends, according to the station’s report. Neither Yates nor Mends responded to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker requests for comment.

Miami Beach police officers later detained two people near Seventh Street and Ocean Drive. The subjects were arrested for criminal mischief, resisting an officer and battery, the Miami Beach Police Department confirmed to the Tracker.

A charge sheet shared by police with the Tracker confirmed that Mends reported he had received a cut on his head during the incident and that Yates had reported being struck on her arms and being targeted when a liquid was thrown at the journalists. The police report also confirmed damage to the CBS4 crew’s Sony PXW-X400 video camera, which has a replacement value of $90,000. A CBS news report confirmed that the camera was damaged but did not specify the degree of damage.

Editor's Note: The date of the assault is May 12, 2021, not May 15, as originally published.

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