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Police fire pepper balls and rubber bullets at news crew to move them during Louisville protests

May 30, 2020

NBC News producer Kailani Koenig and correspondent Cal Perry were shot at with pepper balls while covering protests in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 30, 2020.

Protests in Louisville have centered around the deaths of Breonna Taylor, shot and killed inside her home by Louisville police in March, and the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police on May 25.

Perry told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that the news team and their security guard were reporting from a bus stop with plexiglass barriers in downtown Louisville shortly after 8:30 p.m. when police began to disperse the crowd. Both news crew members were wearing press passes, Perry said.

“As the police moved, they just turned and started firing at the bus stop,” Perry said. “We took off running and then as we were running a kid right in front of me got hit with a rubber bullet, and I thought for sure that I was next.”

When they made it around the corner and out of the midst of the police advance, Koenig turned around and Perry noticed that her bag had been hit with pepper balls anywhere from six to 12 times.

In a tweet posted the following day, Koenig’s backpack can be seen with numerous residue marks where it was struck by the less-lethal pepper ball rounds.

Perry said that while Koenig’s bag had prevented her from being hit by any of the rounds, the security officer with them was struck in the center of his back with a rubber bullet, causing a large welt.

“There was no question: they were moving us along by firing the little pepper rounds and rubber bullets at us,” Perry said.

The Louisville Police Department did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred total incidents of journalists who were assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country related to the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Find all of these cases here.

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

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