Freelance photojournalist Jintak Han said he was shot in the face with a crowd-control munition fired by a sheriff’s deputy while covering a protest in Los Angeles, California, on the evening of Sept. 7, 2020.
Han was photographing a protest over the death of Dijon Kizzee, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot by deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in South Los Angeles on Aug. 31. The killing of Kizzee, who had been stopped while riding a bicycle before he was shot 15 times, reinvigorated protests over racial justice and police brutality that had been occurring regularly in Los Angeles and across the nation throughout the summer.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.
Speaking to the Tracker, Han said he had been at the intersection of Imperial Highway and Normandie Avenue near the sheriff’s department’s South LA station for nearly three hours when deputies began to fire crowd control munitions at around 10 p.m. Shortly thereafter, he said, as he walked backward from law enforcement and continued to take photos, he was hit by a projectile fired by law enforcement.
“All of the sudden I had a big impact right above my eye,” he said. “Luckily I had safety goggles on.”
In a video captured by Daily Caller reporter Jorge Ventura, Han can be seen walking backward while taking photos as protesters retreat. About 15 seconds into the video there is a bang and Han recoils before falling to the ground.
Han told the Tracker that after he was hit he had trouble seeing—both from tear gas that had been deployed and as a result of losing the eyeglasses he was wearing under his goggles. After ensuring that he didn’t have too many injuries and his cameras were still working, he resumed working despite his now-limited vision. Later, after the protest had dissipated, he found his glasses smashed on the ground.
In a photo Han shared on Twitter early the next morning, abrasions can be seen surrounding his left eye.
Given where the munition hit him, Han fears that he could have been seriously injured if he had not been wearing goggles that night.
“I’m really glad I had the goggles on, because otherwise I have no idea what would have happened to my eye,” he said.
Han was also wearing a high-visibility vest with press markings as well as a white helmet with press markings at the time he was hit. While he was identifiable as press, he does not feel he was targeted by sheriff’s deputies.
“A lot of the protesters got hit, so I think they were just indiscriminately firing in that general direction rather than targeting press specifically,” he told the Tracker.
In a statement to the Tracker, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department public information officer Shawn DuBusky said deputies began to use crowd control munitions after protesters “became hostile and began to throw objects (i.e. frozen water bottles, concrete, bricks, rocks, and fireworks).”
He added: “At no time did anyone, including Mr. Jintak Han, identify themselves as being injured during this incident.”
While Han was photographing the Sept. 7 protest independently, his shots from that night and other protests over Kizzee’s death later appeared in Los Angeleno.