News crew struck by pepper balls on live TV while documenting Louisville protests
A WAVE 3 News crew was shot at with pepper balls by a police officer while broadcasting live on May 29, 2020, during protests in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Associated Press reported that protests in Louisville have centered around the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, both of whom were black. Taylor was shot eight times in her Louisville home in mid-March by narcotics police who broke down her door. Floyd died on May 25, after a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, knelt on his neck for several minutes during an arrest. Video of Floyd’s death has sparked protests across the country.
WAVE 3 reporter Kaitlin Rust was reporting live at around 9:45 p.m. on May 29 when an officer walked into the frame and turned toward Rust and photojournalist James Dobson.
In the video, Rust can be heard screaming, “I’m getting shot!”
Rust then adds that the officer was firing “pepper bullets” directly at her and Dobson. The Louisville Courier Journal reported that pepper balls are essentially paintballs filled with a powdered form of pepper spray.
WAVE 3 reported that both journalists were struck by the ammunition and suffered minor injuries.
The station’s general manager, Ken Selvaggi, said in a statement, “We strongly condemn the actions of the LMPD officer who tonight repeatedly fired at and hit our reporter and cameraman, both of whom were courageously and lawfully covering breaking news in their community.”
“There is simply no justification for the Louisville police to wantonly open fire, even with pepper balls, on any journalists under any circumstances,” Selvaggi added.
LMPD spokesperson Jessie Halladay told the Courier Journal that the department would investigate the video after the protests were resolved and investigate or discipline as necessary. Halladay also apologized for the incident.
“[It’s] not our intention to target or subject the media as they try to cover this,” Halladay said.
WAVE 3 reported that during the same night of protests, one of its news vans was vandalized by protesters.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting damage of equipment and multiple journalists arrested or struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas while covering related protests across the country. Find all of these cases here.