Editor at Colorado’s Yellow Scene Magazine hit in groin by rubber bullet while covering protest

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 cell phone 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]

July 23, 2020 Update

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 attorney’s 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.

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