U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Rubber bullet breaks finger of photojournalist

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 25, 2020
Kenosha, Wisconsin


Was the journalist targeted?
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Law enforcement officers stand guard on Aug. 25, 2020, after protests erupted in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man two days before.

— REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
August 25, 2020

Rubber bullets fired by law enforcement officers injured a photojournalist from a national media outlet covering a protest against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25, 2020.

Alyssa Schukar, who was on assignment for The New York Times, said she was hit in her left hand while documenting clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse that had continued past an 8 p.m. state of emergency curfew. In an effort to disperse protesters, officers fired pepper balls and tear gas, according to several press reports.

Schukar told U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was struck as she stood to the side of the demonstration, about 30 yards from the protesters and an equal distance from the line of police. The bullet struck the base of her index finger, shattering the bone and causing fractures.

“I went straight to the medic area and then I had to go straight to the hospital, it was very obviously broken,” she said. Since then, Schukar has had two surgeries, and she is now in physical therapy.

Schukar said that law enforcement officers were firing from a narrow gap behind a barricade and that when she was hit, she was standing far away from protesters. Although she said she could not be certain whether she was deliberately targeted, “it feels a bit suspect to me.”

Schukar said she was wearing a helmet and goggles, but no body armor. She added that when she was struck, her hand was on top of her stomach, where she was carrying one of her cameras.

“These are highly trained law enforcement folks,” she said. “To me, it doesn’t make sense that they could [accidentally] hit me so squarely in the middle of my body.”

Schukar said she did not file a complaint with police, but legal counsel for The New York Times submitted a letter to police and to the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department asking for an investigation into the shooting.

“It’s important this is on the record, because this is happening increasingly,” she said. As of late October the Times had not received a response, according to Schukar.

The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department and the police department have not responded to requests for comment.

Protests in Kenosha started on Aug. 23, 2020, after police officers shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in front of his three children, leaving him paralyzed. Hundreds of people in Kenosha joined public protests against police brutality and while many demonstrations were peaceful, some buildings in the city were set on fire.

The night Schukar was hit by a rubber bullet, a group of armed vigilantes patrolled the streets of Kenosha. Later that night, two protesters were shot dead and another man was injured. A 17-year-old was arrested and now faces criminal charges for those killings.

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