U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist assaulted and camera destroyed by passerby

Incident Details

Screenshot via WQAD
— Screenshot via WQAD
August 25, 2020 - Update

Man who smashed Illinois photojournalist’s camera is fined, sentenced to anger management classes

The man who attacked a WQAD News 8 photojournalist in Rock Island, Illinois, was sentenced to 24 months of court supervision, anger management classes and a $75 fine on Aug. 26, 2020, according to case files reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

The photojournalist, whom the station did not identify, was filming in May when Brett Laermans approached him, grabbed his hat, and smashed his camera on the ground, destroying it. The photojournalist filed a police report. Laermans was not arrested, but the Rock Island County State’s Attorney’s Office charged him with battery and criminal damage to property a few days later.

As part of the sentencing, the property damage charge was dismissed, and the judge ruled Laermans cannot have contact with the journalist.

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].