U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Colorado magazine editor hit in groin by rubber bullet while covering protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 31, 2020
Denver, Colorado
Case number
Case Status
Type of case
Class Action


Was the journalist targeted?
March 7, 2022 - Update

Trial date set for Denver journalist's claims against City of Aurora, police department

A suit filed against the cities of Denver and Aurora and their police departments by journalist Jonathen “De La Vaca” Duran, who was assaulted multiple times in May 2020 while covering Black Lives Matter protests in Denver as an editor for Yellow Scene Magazine, was separated into two cases.

According to court documents reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, Duran reached a settlement agreement with Denver on March 7, 2022, for his claims stemming from his assault on May 30, 2020.

Duran’s claims against Aurora and its police department, pertaining to an officer shooting him in the groin with a rubber bullet on May 31, 2020, were separated into a second case, according to Duran’s attorney, Elizabeth Wang. That case is scheduled to go to trial on June 19, 2023.

Editor's Note: This article was updated to reflect that Duran no longer works at Yellow Scene Magazine.

July 23, 2020 - Update

Editor at Colorado’s Yellow Scene Magazine files lawsuit against cities of Denver, Aurora

Johnathen Duran, content editor at Colorado-based Yellow Scene magazine, was added as a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the cities of Denver and Aurora and numerous law enforcement officials and officers on July 23, 2020, in response to his assault while covering protests on May 31.

Duran, who writes under the name De La Vaca, was struck in the groin by a rubber bullet while livestreaming a Black Lives Matter Protest at the intersection of Colfax Avenue and North Pearl Street in Denver. He was also struck with multiple pepper balls the previous night.

The class action lawsuit, reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, was filed on behalf of Duran and six Denver residents who were also affected by Denver Police officers’ crowd-control efforts at Black Lives Matter protests from May 30 through June 5. The suit alleges First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations, as well as “failure to intervene,” and seeks a permanent injunction barring future violations, damages and attorneys fees.

“The Defendants’ use of force cut short De La Vaca’s exercise of his First Amendment rights,” the suit reads. “The serious injury inflicted on him by Defendants suppressed and cut short his ability to exercise his First Amendment rights, not only on that day but on several days afterwards.”

Elizabeth Wang, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told the Tracker a trial date has been set for March 7, 2022.

May 31, 2020

Johnathen Duran, the content editor at Colorado-based Yellow Scene Magazine, said he was hit in the groin by a rubber bullet while he livestreamed from a Black Lives Matter protest in Denver on May 31, 2020.

Duran, who writes under the name De La Vaca, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he was at the intersection of Colfax Avenue and North Pearl Street at around 9:30 p.m. when a police officer shot at him with a rubber bullet.

“I was shot in the left testicle with a rubber bullet while wearing a press pass, carrying a camera bag and backpack, holding a cellphone to livestream,” he said, adding he was wearing a white helmet with MEDIA written on it in four places while he shot video with his phone.

In video supplied by Duran and reviewed by the Tracker, gunfire can be heard amid the scene of an apparent protest. In the video he shows a large rubber bullet to the camera.

“It feels like I was kicked in the balls, but I am walking,” he said in the video, adding later: “There’s no blood on my pants, so I should be OK.”

A Denver Police Department spokesperson said the incident was investigated and closed because the officer couldn’t be identified. However, the spokesperson said the department had undertaken a review of its response to the large-scale demonstrations in the city following the killing of George Floyd, some of which escalated into violence.

The department reviewed the use and tracking of “less-than-lethal” munitions, the processes for documenting use of force during protests, the use of body cameras and improving dispersal orders, among other issues.

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