U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist assaulted and camera destroyed by passerby

Incident Details

Screenshot via WQAD
— Screenshot via WQAD
May 1, 2020

A WQAD News 8 photojournalist was assaulted and his camera destroyed while on assignment in Rock Island, Illinois, on May 1, 2020.

The photojournalist — who was not identified in the station’s article about the incident — was gathering footage of local business in the area from a sidewalk at approximately 5 p.m, WQAD reported.

A man driving by the area, later identified as 45-year-old Brett Laermans, was reportedly angry that he may have been filmed. Laermans stopped his car and grabbed the photographer’s hat. He then repeatedly smashed the WQAD broadcast camera on the ground, destroying it.

Police were called to the scene shortly after.

WQAD reported that the outlet’s photographer was uninjured and had filed a police report.

Rock Island Deputy Chief of Police Jason Foy told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that Laermans was not arrested at the time. However, Foy said that the Rock Island County State’s Attorney’s Office charged Laermans with battery and criminal damage to property on May 5.

The State’s Attorney’s Office also issued Laermans a court summons for July 13, according to WQAD.

WQAD News Director Alan Baker could not be reached for comment.

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