U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist Josie Huang arrested, charged with obstructing police in Los Angeles

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 12, 2020

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Detention Date
Unnecessary use of force?


Was the journalist targeted?

Equipment Damage

Equipment Broken
REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

Journalist Josie Huang was arrested outside of St. Francis Medical Center in Los Angeles. Protesters and law enforcement were gathered there following the shooting ambush of two LA County Sheriff's Department deputies.

— REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
November 7, 2023 - Update

LA radio reporter gets $700K settlement after 2020 arrest

Reporter Josie Huang has reached a $700,000 settlement with Los Angeles County and the LA County Sheriff's Department, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The county’s Board of Supervisors approved the agreement on Nov. 7, 2023.

RCFP, whose attorneys, along with counsel from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, helped negotiate the settlement without a lawsuit being filed, called it “the largest award to an individual journalist whose rights were violated in connection with protest coverage in 2020.”

The agreement addresses a September 2020 incident in which Huang, a reporter for public radio station KPCC-FM/LAist 89.3, was filming sheriff’s deputies making an arrest when they tackled and arrested her, stomping on her phone, she recounted on social media at the time. Huang was wearing her press ID and verbally identified herself as press during the altercation.

Huang was detained for five hours and then cited for obstructing a police officer. Two weeks later, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that it would not pursue charges against her.

In order to eliminate the arrest from her record, however, Huang had to petition the Los Angeles Superior Court for a finding of factual innocence, which was granted on May 19, 2023.

In addition to the payment to Huang, the settlement requires the Sheriff’s Department to re-brief its employees about the department’s news media policy, which affirms that photography and video and audio recording in themselves cannot form the basis of a detention, arrest or warrantless search, and that interfering with those activities on public grounds is prohibited.

The re-brief also notes that department personnel are prohibited from tampering with, altering, deleting or destroying any photographic, video or audio records, or equipment under any circumstances.

In exchange, the county denied violating any laws with respect to Huang.

“This settlement upholds the rights of journalists and helps ensure that what happened to me won’t happen to other reporters. My arrest was traumatic, but I hope that some good can still come of this experience,” Huang told RCFP, adding: “Journalists in Los Angeles County should be able to record police activity in public without fear of unlawful arrest. As the public’s eyes and ears, we must be able to cover protests and document how law enforcement responds to those protests.”

September 24, 2020 - Update

Charges dropped against journalist Josie Huang after arrest in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced on Sept. 24, 2020, that it will not pursue the charges against KPCC and LAist reporter Josie Huang, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Huang was tackled and arrested by deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department while she was covering officers making an arrest on Sept. 12.

In a memo declining to file criminal charges, prosecutors said that Huang was filming in a public area and given no opportunity to comply with deputies’ orders to move back before she was taken to the ground.

The Times reported that the County Inspector General and the Sheriff’s Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau are carrying out independent investigations of the arrest.

Huang told the Times that she appreciated the district attorney’s decision, but plans to continue challenging the Sheriff’s Department’s narrative of the arrest.

“I am seeking a finding of ‘factual innocence’ that will wipe this unlawful arrest from my record,” she said. “More than ever, I am grateful for the 1st Amendment, which entitles all Americans — not just journalists — to the rights of free speech and assembly.”

September 12, 2020

On the evening of Sept. 12, 2020, deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department tackled and arrested journalist Josie Huang while she was covering officers making an arrest, she confirmed to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Huang, who is a reporter for a National Public Radio member station KPCC and local news website LAist, wrote on Twitter that she was attending a press conference led by Sheriff Alex Villanueva at the St. Francis Medical Center in Los Angeles and had just gotten in her car to head home when she heard shouting. She wrote that she got out of her car and went to investigate what was happening, noting that she was wearing a press ID around her neck.

“A handful of men were on the sidewalk. A couple were carrying large flags. Others were filming deputies and taunting them,” she wrote. “I started filming on my phone, standing off to the side. No one took issue with me being there.”

Huang wrote that she followed deputies down the street and filmed as they arrested an individual, using the zoom on her camera to maintain a physical distance.

The deputies suddenly told Huang to back up and, “Within seconds, I was getting shoved around. There was nowhere to back up,” she wrote.

A video published by OnScene.TV shows deputies throwing Huang to the ground and arresting her. She also tweeted that the officers stomped on her phone and damaged it, but did not break it.

Deputies detained Huang for approximately five hours before releasing her with a citation for obstructing a police officer, according to Huang’s posts on Twitter and a copy of the citation seen by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

If convicted of obstructing police, a misdemeanor, Huang could face a fine up to $1,000, imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or both, according to the California penal code.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department tweeted the morning following Huang’s arrest that she did not identify herself as a member of the press and that she “later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person.” However, in a video Huang filmed while she was being arrested, she can be heard clearly identifying herself as a reporter for KPCC.

LAist published her full account on Sept. 13.

Committee to Protect Journalists, a founding partner of the U.S.Press Freedom Tracker, called the sheriff’s department for comment and was told by the person who answered that they are not answering questions at this time because there is an ongoing investigation. Deputy Grade Medrano, a department spokesperson, sent an emailed statement to CPJ that said the sheriff’s department was aware of the incident, and that an active investigation was underway.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a Tracker partner, and a coalition of 65 press freedom organizations — including more than a dozen other Tracker partner organizations — sent a letter on Sept. 16 calling on the sheriff’s department to drop all charges against Huang. It also urged the department to take immediate action to prevent future arrests of working members of the press.

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