Photojournalist shot with projectile and pepper ball at South Los Angeles protest

September 8, 2020

Photojournalist Brian Feinzimer was shot with crowd-control projectiles while reporting on a protest in Los Angeles on Sept. 8, 2020, he told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Racial justice protests, held regularly in Los Angeles since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, were renewed in early September after Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies shot and killed 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee on Aug. 31.

Demonstrators gathered outside the South LA sheriff’s station several days in a row in early September, and tensions escalated between demonstrators and police, the Los Angeles Times reported. On Sept. 8, the sheriff’s department declared an unlawful assembly at around 8 p.m. and deployed crowd control munitions on demonstrators, according to the Times.

Feinzimer, whose work has been published by LAist, Capital & Main and other publications, told the Tracker he was photographing a line of deputies facing off with protesters. After a while, he said, the sheriff’s department issued a dispersal order and rushed the crowd, firing pepper balls and flash-bang grenades.

Feinzimer said he was facing the deputies directly, from a distance of about 15 feet, as he photographed them. He said he wasn’t initially hit with any of the crowd-control measures but decided to move away when the deputies neared him. He said he turned to walk in the same direction as the deputies, staying to the side, and continued to take photos while many nearby protesters ran from the officers.

As Feinzimer was walking away, he said, he was hit in the hand with a pepper ball, which also covered his camera with residue. He was then struck in the back of his right thigh with a crowd-control munition, which he believes was either a foam baton or a 40-millimeter rubber bullet.

Feinzimer said that although the impact from the projectile was painful, he was able to continue covering the protest that night. He said he had a large bruise where he had been hit, and his leg remained sore for several weeks.

Feinzimer said he was wearing a press credential issued by the LASD around his neck, and was carrying two cameras at the time he was hit.

Feinzimer told the Tracker he believes he was targeted because he was a journalist. He said he was clearly identifiable to the deputies just before he was shot because he was facing them and photographing them.

“I figure that there was no way that they didn't know who I was or what I was doing based on my previous moments before that,” he said.

LASD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting arrests, assaults and other obstructions to journalists covering protests across the country.

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

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