Univision reporters Fernando Rentería and Alexander Zapata said they were fired on with what they believed to be pepper ball rounds by police while covering the arrest of a civilian protester in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 31, 2020.
The protest that day was held in response to a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. Protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the United States since the end of May.
Zapata and Rentería had been streaming live on Facebook as night fell on May 31, covering protests along the Strip. About an hour into their stream, the reporters can be seen making their way north on Las Vegas Boulevard when Zapata explains that tear gas had been fired on the crowd but that it was not very intense. Shortly thereafter, the reporters walked toward a group of officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Zapata can be heard saying, “It looks like they are arresting a civilian.”
In the video, reviewed by the Tracker, an officer can be seen moving toward the journalists. Several shots can be heard, after which Zapata can be heard groaning. He says on the livestream, “They have just shot us.”
Zapata then said to his audience, “Police officers from Las Vegas just shot us. Police officers from Las Vegas Police Department are attacking the press. I repeat, my partner, Fernando Rentería, and I were hit by the police.”
Rentería told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, “I was hit by pepper bullets on my abdomen and one of my elbows. It wasn’t very painful but it’s unexpected, so it’s frightening, and since I wasn’t the only one hit and I heard people around me screaming, it was a very tense moment.”
The LVMPD responded to requests for comment by emailing the Tracker two press releases. Neither addressed Zapata or Rentería specifically, or members of the media more broadly, nor did they address the use of particular munitions.
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.