U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Television reporter struck while reporting outside Massachusetts court

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 3, 2024


Was the journalist targeted?

WPRI-TV photographer Brian Felsenthal, right, was struck by a man he and other journalists were attempting to interview outside a courthouse in Taunton, Massachusetts, on June 3, 2023. The man was arrested on multiple assault charges.

June 3, 2024

Brian Felsenthal, a news photographer for WPRI-TV, was attacked alongside other members of the press while reporting outside a courthouse in Taunton, Massachusetts, on June 3, 2024. His alleged assailant was charged with multiple counts of assault later that day.

According to a police report shared with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a man identified as Louis Chaves was being arraigned at the Taunton District Court on unrelated assault charges and was released on a $250 bond. Following his hearing, Chaves and his wife exited through a side door of the courthouse and were approached by a gaggle of broadcast journalists from multiple local stations seeking comment on the allegations against him.

“Louis appeared to be overcome with rage at the sight of the reporters and started advancing on a cameraman,” the report stated. After striking and kicking the first photojournalist, identified in the report as James Cullity of the Boston-based station WFXT, Chaves directed his attention and aggression toward Felsenthal.

In footage aired by Rhode Island-based WPRI-TV, Chaves’ wife can be seen attempting to hold him back while he slaps at Felsenthal and his camera. Felsenthal told police that he was not injured and his equipment was not damaged.

According to the police report, WPRI-TV reporter Alex Torres-Perez was working alongside Felsenthal that day. She told officers that while Chaves threatened her and the other journalists when they attempted to ask him questions, he did not assault her.

After walking a short distance away, Chaves also picked up a branch from a nearby tree and attempted to throw it at the group of journalists but it struck the tree in front of him instead.

Chaves was arrested several hours later and booked on three charges: assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault with a dangerous weapon for his alleged attacks on Cullity, and assault and battery for his alleged attack on Felsenthal.

He was arraigned at 10 a.m. the following day and released on the same bond, but was issued a warning and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation.

According to court records reviewed by the Tracker, Chaves has a pretrial hearing on Aug. 8.

Neither Felsenthal nor WPRI-TV responded to requests for comment.

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