U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

KAPP-KVEW reporter Maria Leal threatened with knife, had camera damaged

Incident Details

Maria Leal
January 14, 2019 - Update

Man sentenced after attack on Washington state reporters

A Yakima, Washington, man who screamed and threw a beer bottle at two local reporters, and was said by one to have chased them with a knife before breaking their equipment, was sentenced on Jan. 14, 2019, to a year in prison and a year in a community custody, or probation program.

The man, Ramon C. Corona, approached reporters Maria Leal and Trisha McCauley in October 2017 while they were shooting footage in preparation for an interview with a local city council candidate. He screamed at them to stop filming, left during the interview, but then returned, throwing a beer bottle at them and threatening to kill them. Leal said Corona chased all three with a knife, then circled back to the interview site, where he broke their video equipment.

Corona was later arrested and charged with three counts of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and one count of malicious mischief for property damage.

In a phone call with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the Yakima County Superior Court clerk confirmed that Corona pleaded guilty to the first charge of second-degree assault against Leal, but that the other two counts had been dropped. His case was closed as of March 6, 2019.

October 30, 2017

Maria Leal, a reporter for local TV station KAPP-KVEW, was chased and threatened by a knife-wielding man in Yakima, Washington, on Oct. 30, 2017. The man also broke Leal’s camera equipment.

At the time of the attack, Leal and another local TV reporter — Trisha McCauley, of KIMA Action News — were shooting B-roll footage in preparation for an interview with Jason White, a local city council candidate. While filming the footage, the two journalists noticed a man screaming at them from across the street.

“He crossed the street and got in our face, and he told us, ‘Get the fuck out of here, stop filming here,’” Leal said.

The man left after Leal and McCauley began interviewing White, but later returned.

“The man began yelling again, and he threw a beer bottle at us, which landed near us and broke,” Leal said. “He kept demanding that we leave, and he threatened to kill us.”

She said the man drew a knife from his pocket, lifted it, and then ran towards the reporters and White.

Leal said that the man chased them for half a block and then returned to the interview site, where he threw their video equipment to the ground.

He then barricaded himself in a house, leading to a police stand-off that was resolved a few hours later when SWAT officers took him into custody, arresting him for second-degree assault.

Leal stayed on the scene to report live from the police stand-off.

Leal said that her camera was damaged when the man threw it on the ground and that she will have to film stories with her phone until the camera is fixed.

She still does not know why the man attacked her and McCauley. She said that the man may have mistakenly believed that the two reporters were filming him, but her cameras were nowhere near where he was standing.

“I’ve had other people approach me in that way, but they’ve never threatened me or attacked me like that,” she said.

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