U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Rubber bullet hits LA Times photojournalist’s camera and arm

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 30, 2020

Equipment Damage

Equipment Broken

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
No
May 30, 2020

Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco said his camera was struck by a rubber bullet, which also bruised his arm, while he was covering a protest in Los Angeles on May 30, 2020.

Sinco was covering one of hundreds of protests against racial injustice and police brutality that were held across the country in response to the killing of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25.

Peaceful protests were held across the city earlier in the day on May 30, but by afternoon, people began looting and vandalizing property in some parts of the city, the LAist reported. Later that day, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency, and a curfew was imposed from 8 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. the following morning in LA and the surrounding area.

Sinco told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in an email that he was covering a protest that night in downtown Los Angeles. Demonstrators were confronting police, and some people threw objects toward law enforcement, according to Sinco. Police began moving in a line formation toward the group of protesters, where Sinco was positioned, and two officers shot less-lethal projectiles, a category that includes rubber bullets, toward the demonstrators.

Sinco said that he was lowering his camera from his eye, holding it near his stomach, when a rubber bullet hit it. He said he could feel the impact of the projectile on the camera. The rubber bullet then ricocheted off and hit him near his elbow on the inner bicep of his left arm, he said.

The projectile ripped through metal alloys of the body of the Canon 1DX camera, according to Sinco. A photograph he posted on Twitter shows a hole on the top of the camera exposing the interior of the device.

Sinco said he tried to use the camera after it was hit, but it no longer worked.

Sinco believes he was likely hit because he was with the group of demonstrators that police were firing on. He said he does not think he was targeted because he was a journalist.

Sinco said he was wearing a press credential around his neck. The situation was chaotic, he said, and he did not identify himself verbally to police or protesters as a journalist.

The camera was substantially damaged and needed to be repaired, Sinco said. He said he had a bruise for several days where the rubber bullet ricocheted into his arm, but it was not very painful.

“The camera took most of the force, I think,” he said.

The damage to Sinco’s camera was referenced in a resolution the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted on June 9 affirming the rights of journalists to report without interference from law enforcement.

Los Angeles Police Department did not respond to a request for comment

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting damage of equipment and multiple journalists arrested or struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas while covering related protests across the country. 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]