U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Freelance journalist shoved, arrested while filming police in Arizona

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 16, 2023
Yuma, Arizona

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
Yuma Police Department
Detention Date
Unnecessary use of force?


Was the journalist targeted?

Body cameras worn by police captured freelance journalist Lucas Mullikin being pinned to the ground and arrested while filming a detainment in Yuma, Arizona, on May 16, 2023.

May 16, 2023

Freelance journalist Lucas Mullikin was shoved to the ground and then arrested while filming officers detain a man in Yuma, Arizona, on May 16, 2023. Prosecutors deferred two charges against him on Sept. 19.

Mullikin, whose work has been published by NBC News, Al Jazeera, Business Insider and CNBC, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was driving by as he saw officers aggressively detaining someone, so pulled over to film with his smartphone from what he believed was a safe distance.

“Knowing not to impede the detention, I positioned myself on the far side of the fence,” Mullikin wrote to the Tracker via email. “[An] officer saw me filming through the fence and yelled ‘Get that guy.’ As I was already backing up, suddenly another officer charged, shoving me to the ground.” Mullikin said that the fall reinjured his ACL and caused his knees to bleed.

In the footage Mullikin captured on his cellphone, the officer tells him to “Stay there” before Mullikin stands and asks multiple times for his badge number. The officer immediately turns, points at Mullikin and tells him that he’s under arrest. As Mullikin calls out for a sergeant, the footage ends.

“I didn’t resist [the arrest] in any way, even as he attempted to lift me off the ground by bending my arm upwards behind my back, a move that could have easily dislocated my shoulder,” Mullikin told the Tracker.

Mullikin told AZ Family that he turned off his cellphone to protect his footage, but that his girlfriend filmed his arrest, in which two officers can be seen pinning him to the ground. He told the Tracker he repeatedly identified himself as a journalist throughout the incident.

The Yuma Police Department released the body camera footage from the incident on Sept. 25. Voice-over narration detailed the department’s version of events, including that Mullikin and his girlfriend were “flanked” on either side of the officer during the initial arrest.

“The male subject started to inject himself into the incident by asking the officer questions,” Sergeant Lori Franklin said in the video. “For approximately five minutes the officer had to deal with a resisting suspect and attempt to watch two unknown subjects who continued to encroach into the officers’ direct space.”

Mullikin was charged with failure to obey and resisting arrest, according to court records reviewed by the Tracker. Mullikin said the city prosecutor’s office initially offered a plea deal that would have him serve 40 days in jail, which he declined. They later offered him deferred prosecution, akin to probation, under which he would not be prosecuted on the charges unless he was arrested over the subsequent year. Mullikin accepted the offer — which included paying a $500 fee — on Sept. 19.

Mullikin told the Tracker that he intends to file a civil lawsuit against the Yuma Police Department. He said the deposition of officers in his case found that the department does not provide training on how to interact with journalists or the public’s right to record, and that lack of training makes them negligent.

“It’s very important for me to have a positive outcome for this,” Mullikin said. “I want the city to start hiring accountable officers.”

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