Toledo Blade editor Nolan Rosenkrans said he was caught in tear gas and shot at with crowd-control munitions by law enforcement while covering protests in Toledo, Ohio, on May 30, 2020.
The protest was held in response to a video showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, for more than eight minutes during an arrest on May 25. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The incident sparked anti-police brutality and Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country.
Nolan Cramer, a journalism student interning for the Toledo City Paper, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he was photographing near the corner of East Woodruff and Franklin Avenues as Toledo Police Department officers worked to disperse protesters in the street at around 5:45 p.m.
Cramer said that an officer deliberately threw a tear gas canister at him and Toledo Blade editor Nolan Rosenkrans, who was standing next to them, despite both of them wearing visible press passes. Both journalists were caught in the cloud of tear gas.
Rosenkrans told the Tracker that he had not felt targeted with tear gas that day, but noted that he did not know what Nolan had experienced or seen.
“What police did do was shoot pepper spray balls when I crossed some arbitrary line toward them,” he said.
Rosenkrans tweeted shortly after 6:30 p.m. that he had also been shot at with a “paintball gun” by an officer who knew he was a reporter.
He told the Tracker that he had continued documenting the protest and speaking with protesters and police as the march continued down Franklin Avenue to where it becomes 17th Street.
“[The police] knew I was a journalist. The camo team was near me for several miles and I had been talking to them from the street for quite some time,” he said. “I can’t say I was targeted because I was a journalist, but I can’t say for sure.”
Lieutenant Kellie Lenhardt, who commands the Toledo Police Public Information Section, told the Tracker over email that the department did not receive complaints from Rosenkrans or other journalists that day.
Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said during a press conference on June 22 that there was an investigation into officers’ conduct during the protests. Kapszukiewicz also announced that officers will no longer be permitted to wear military-style camouflage.
On July 22, Toledo police announced that three officers were disciplined for misconduct during the May 30 protests. One officer received a written reprimand while the other two were suspended and given last chance warnings, meaning they could be fired following another infraction.
“Police legitimacy cannot improve if departments fail at policing their own,” Police Chief George Kral said in a press release announcing the disciplinary measures. “I will ensure that officers are held accountable when their actions are found to violate department policies, and I will always support the hundreds of officers that positively represent Toledo Police.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.