U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

DC police fire crowd-control round past journalist’s head during protest

Incident Details

October 27, 2020

Independent journalist Wyatt Reed had a crowd-control munition shot past his head at close range while he covered a protest in Washington, D.C., on the evening of Oct. 27, 2020.

Reed is a Washington-based journalist who produces the show By Any Means Necessary on Russian state-owned Radio Sputnik. He was covering a protest over the death of Karon Hylton, a 20-year-old Black man who crashed an electric scooter while being pursued by police on Oct. 23 and died three days later. Police said they had attempted to stop Hylton after he was observed driving on a sidewalk and not wearing a helmet.

On the night of Oct. 27, protesters gathered at the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s Fourth District station, less than a mile from where Hylton was killed. When Reed arrived, he said the situation was tense and the crowd of protesters had been pushed back to the corner of Georgia Avenue and Missouri Avenue, just south of the precinct.

In a video Reed uploaded to Twitter at 8:46 p.m., the situation appears relatively peaceful as a line of police officers stands in the street in front of a group of protesters. Suddenly, one officer rushes forward and fires a crowd-control munition, which appears to flash past at eye level, just to the left of Reed.

“Sir, is you okay? I saw that! You alright? Thank god,” somebody in the crowd asks Reed.

“I’m OK, I’m OK. They could have shot my fuckin’ eye out,” Reed replies.

“MPD launched a flashbang just inches from my face as they unleash a brutal crackdown on DC protesters demanding justice for #KaronHylton” Reed wrote on Twitter with the video.

Reed told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that, looking back on the video, he believes an officer positioned behind the line of police may have been hit with a thrown object, prompting another officer to rush forward and fire.

The D.C. public radio station WAMU reported that rocks had been thrown at police during the protest.

Reed said the fired munition passed about six inches from his head.

Reed said officers were shooting with “fairly little to no regard for who they could hurt.”

While he was standing at the front of the crowd near officers, was filming on a large camera and had his press identification “prominently displayed,” he said the incident felt like it was the result of “incompetence more than malice.”

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting hundreds of incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, hit by crowd-control munitions or having their equipment damaged at protests around the country. Find these incidents here.

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