Photojournalist Ringo Chiu, a member of the National Press Photographers Association, said he was struck with multiple crowd control-munitions while covering a protest in Compton, California, on June 21, 2020.
In an account first posted to Facebook and then shared with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, Chiu said that he was documenting arrests during a protest in response to the shooting death of 18-year-old Andrés Guardado by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies three days earlier.
The Los Angeles Times reported that approximately 600 demonstrators had marched that day from nearby Gardena down West Redondo Beach Boulevard, where Guardado was shot, to the Sheriff’s Department’s station in Compton.
After a peaceful protest, Chiu told the Tracker, a small group of demonstrators faced off against a line of sheriff’s deputies in riot gear in an alley on the north side of Compton City Hall.
“I was standing on one of the sides alongside other photographers taking photos when the officers began firing rubber bullets and pepper balls at the demonstrators,” Chiu said, adding that as his eyes became irritated by the chemical powder in the pepper balls, he then looked for a way to leave the area.
“In my attempt to leave the scene, I was hit by a rubber bullet near my elbow,” Chiu said.
Chiu didn’t leave the protest entirely, and shortly after being struck, he said that he’d tried to get closer to document as deputies arrested demonstrators standing between the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Compton City Hall.
“An officer used his gun to point at me and told me to leave the area. I raised my media pass and shouted that I was with the media, but they didn’t seem to care and began to fire rubber bullets at me,” Chiu said. “I was shot once again on my right inner thigh, and afterwards I left the scene to file my photos.”
In images posted to Fackebook, impact wounds can be seen on his right inner thigh and his right elbow. Chiu noted in his post that no protesters were standing near him when the officer opened fire and that he was wearing his press credentials and carrying multiple cameras.
The Tracker has also documented the cases of multiple other journalists affected by chemical irritants while covering the protests that day.
KTLA reported that the Sheriff’s Department confirmed that its deputies had used flash-bang grenades, pepper balls and smoke grenades on demonstrators that day, but did not provide details about what triggered their use.
The Sheriff’s Department did not respond to the Tracker’s requests for comment.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented hundreds of incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country in 2020. Find these incidents here.