A news crew with CBS Channel 11 covering protests in Dallas was forced to scatter when a police officer tossed an activated canister of tear gas at two journalists as they were about to go live on air on May 29, 2020.
Protests that began in Minnesota on May 26 have spread across the country, sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest the day before. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Photojournalist Bret Kelly and reporter Steve Pickett were stationed in downtown Dallas covering protests. At around 10:15 p.m., they were getting ready to begin their live shot. Typically, the station would have alerted them both, but they had only one working earpiece so Pickett told Kelly aloud, Kelly told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
Kelly believes that a Dallas police officer standing 10 feet away overheard him. "As soon as [Pickett] said that, an officer took a canister and tossed it right at our feet, underhand, like he was playing cornhole," Kelly said. The canister landed on the ground between them and started spewing tear gas. "By then we were live," Kelly said. "We got gassed pretty hard and took flight a little bit."
Pickett can be seen on CBS 11 video struggling to breathe and find a way out of the area where the gas was deployed. "I’m trying to get out of the tear gas, this is killing us," Pickett says to the studio journalist as his eyes visibly water and he stumbles his way out of the cloud. He tells his colleague that earlier that night he was also threatened with arrest. The Tracker has documented his assault here.
Kelly wrote about the experience on Twitter the next day, saying “ ... I was nowhere near any protesters. Definitely a conscious decision by that officer.”
An emailed request for comment sent to the Dallas Police Department about the incident was not returned.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.