U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Two Valley News Live journalists attacked in Fargo by man with screwdriver

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 3, 2021
Fargo, North Dakota


Was the journalist targeted?
October 20, 2021 - Update

Man who attacked North Dakota journalists sentenced

The man who attacked two KVLY-TV journalists while they were reporting in Fargo, North Dakota, was sentenced Oct. 20, 2021, on a charge stemming from the incident, a Fargo Municipal Court clerk confirmed to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Reporter Nachai Taylor and photojournalist Michael Downs were preparing for a live report in May 2021 at a downtown Fargo building slated for demolition. Taylor reported that Gary Reinhart, the building’s owner, then drove a pickup truck onto the nearby curb and approached them while swinging a screwdriver. Reinhart shouted at the journalists to get off his property and jabbed the screwdriver at their camera, damaging it, she added.

Reinhart was charged with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. A Fargo Municipal Court clerk confirmed in a phone call with the Tracker that Reinhart had pleaded guilty and was sentenced on the criminal mischief charge but that the case is sealed, so sentencing details could not be made public. The disorderly conduct charge was dismissed.

May 3, 2021

Two journalists with TV news station Valley News Live, an NBC affiliate based in Fargo, North Dakota, were attacked by a man wielding a screwdriver, who damaged their camera while they were reporting in the city on May 3, 2021.

Valley News Live photojournalist Michael Downs and reporter Nachai Taylor were near downtown Fargo, preparing for a 9 p.m. live report about a building the city commission had decided to demolish, Taylor said in a report that aired on the station following the attack.

In that report, Taylor said she was walking toward Downs when an unidentified man drove a pickup truck onto the curb. The man approached them, swinging a screwdriver, “which was kind of a scary situation,” she said.

Video published by Valley News Live shows a man approaching the camera, gesturing with a screwdriver, then jabbing the tool directly at the camera. Downs’ assault and the equipment damage is documented here.

Taylor said the man was shouting at the journalists to get off his property, though the journalists were on the sidewalk, she reported.

Taylor said after she told the man that she was going to call police, he got in his truck and left. She said the journalists gave statements to police about the incident, including the license plate number of the vehicle the man was driving.

Neither Taylor nor Downs responded to requests for comment from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Valley News Live news director Renee Nygren told the Tracker the camera was not operable after the attack. She said it was being repaired, and believed that the damage would be fixable, but was not certain.

Nygren said she does not believe either journalist was physically touched during the attack, but she described the incident as frightening. “It's concerning and really unfortunate that they had to go through that,” she said.

On May 18 Valley News Live reported that Gary Reinhart, the owner of the building slated for demolition, was charged with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. The station reported that a fire had destroyed the property, after which the city ordered the building demolished by June 30.

The Fargo city attorney’s office told the Tracker it would not comment on charges against Reinhart because the case against him is still open. Reinhart entered a not guilty plea to both charges at his arraignment on June 8, according to North Dakota’s court tracking system.

Reinhart’s attorney declined to comment.

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