U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Sheriff’s deputies shoot reporter with pepper balls in California protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 31, 2020
La Mesa, California


Was the journalist targeted?
May 31, 2020

San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Andrew Dyer was shot with pepper balls while he was documenting protests in La Mesa, California, on May 31, 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.

Dyer told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was covering a protest near City Hall at around 9:15 p.m., and was wearing a reflective orange vest with his press credentials and camera around his neck.

He was standing to the side of a group of demonstrators when a protester threw a water bottle at a line of San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies. In response, the deputies opened fire on the crowd with what Dyer believes were pepper balls.

Dyer said two of the pepper balls hit him on his right side. He said he saw the deputies aim before firing, and believed that he had been targeted.

“Every time I saw deputies fire they shouldered the weapons and took aim,” Dyer said. “I’m also a large target.”

After he was hit, Dyer loudly identified himself as a member of the press, and said law enforcement then ignored him and continued to advance on the crowd. He added that he was bruised by the shots but was otherwise unharmed.

Neither the La Mesa Police Department nor San Diego County Sheriff’s Department could immediately be reached 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].