Police Apologize After Reporter Is Hit with Pepper Balls During Broadcast of Louisville Protest

by San Eli News


While covering a protest in Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday night, camera crews filmed a police officer appearing to hit a television reporter with pepper balls.

In a video of the live broadcast, WAVE-TV reporter Kaitlin Rust can be heard screaming off-camera, and saying, “I’ve been shot,” as an officer is filmed standing in front of the cameras, aiming towards them.

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The reporter goes on to clarify that they were not shot with actual bullets, but with what she believed at the time to be either rubber bullets or pepper balls.  (A police spokesman has said that they do not use rubber bullets.)

Asked where the officer was aiming, the reporter replied, “At us. Directly at us.”

“Do they not know? Obviously they see the camera,” said one of the newscasters in the studio, as the reporter added that they were being told to move further back away from the police line.

“We were behind their line. I guess a little too close for comfort,” Rust added, emphasizing that both she and photojournalist James Dobson, who was with her, were doing okay.

According to a statement from the news station, the pair sustained minor injuries.

“We strongly condemn the actions of the LMPD officer who tonight repeatedly fired at and hit our reporter and cameraman, both of whom were courageously and lawfully covering breaking news in their community,” WAVE 3 News General Manager Ken Selvaggi said in a statement. “There is simply no justification for the Louisville police to wantonly open fire, even with pepper balls, on any journalists under any circumstances.”

The station said that an LMPD spokesperson confirmed that the officer was a member of their department and that the LMPD would investigate.

Police have also issued their own statement. “LMPD is looking into the circumstances surrounding an incident involving a WAVE-3 reporter having pepper ball launched in her direction on Saturday during the riots downtown. We will identify the officer involved and review the video to determine what was going on at the time and if further action is needed,” a spokesperson tells PEOPLE.

“I want to apologize,” a Louisville police spokeswoman Jessie Halladay told the Courier Journal. “It’s not something that should have occurred if she was singled out as a reporter, and that is what the video looks like occurred.”

Although Halliday added that “it’s a little difficult to determine” the identity of the officer, they would be reviewing the video “and if we need to do any investigation for discipline, we will do that.”

The incident took place hours after CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, his producer and cameraman were arrested by state police while reporting on the Minneapolis protests.

RELATED: Minneapolis, Atlanta, D.C. and More Cities Erupt in Protests Across the U.S. Over George Floyd’s Death

Friday marked the second night of protests in Louisville over the March death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman who was fatally shot by police in her home.

Shortly before the protests began, audio of the 911 call her boyfriend made was released following the shooting.

A wrongful death suit filed in April alleges that police, who were executing a drug warrant, were actually looking for a man who lived in Taylor’s building but not her apartment.

Breonna Taylor
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Thursday’s protests, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced that seven people had been shot, but that “no officers fired their weapons.”

“I feel the community’s frustration, the anger, the fear, but tonight’s violence and destruction is not the way to solve it,” he continued. “I urge protests again, as Breonna’s family said tonight, to say her name, but let’s not see anyone else get hurt.”

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In an attempt to avoid further violence, Fisher announced there would be a dusk-till-dawn curfew on Saturday. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has also announced that the National Guard has been called in.

“The demonstrations in Louisville have all started peacefully, but what we have seen, especially last night, and what our intelligence says is going to happen are outside groups moving in, trying to create violence to harm everybody who is on those streets. We cannot let Breonna’s legacy be marred by violence, and we can’t let our streets turn violent,” he said in a video message. “This is a big step and a tough step, and it’s not one intended to silence any voice, because I want to hear. But I want to make sure at the end of the day that we are all safe.”