Reporter Shot On Live TV By Police Pepper Balls At Protest In Louisville
An officer shot pepper balls directly at a reporter live on air while she was covering a protest addressing racial injustice.
The incident took place in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, where WAVE 3 News reporter Kaitlin Rust was stationed for her broadcast.
Protests have broken out across numerous US states following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes during his arrest.
See the moment Kaitlin Rust was hit here:
These demonstrations likely inspired the Louisville protests, which saw members of the public gather to demand action against three Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers involved in the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, a black woman shot during a no-knock warrant at her home in March.
Rust was reporting on local protests on Friday evening, May 29, when she started screaming: ‘I’m getting shot!’
Footage shows a uniformed officer pointing their gun in the direction of the camera operator as Rust told her co-workers she was being hit with pepper bullets, which contain a powdered chemical that irritates the eyes and nose, similar to pepper spray.
Rust assured viewers she was okay, but insisted she had been abiding by the police officers’ instructions and standing ‘behind their line’, where they had been told to stand while filming.
The reporter said she and the crew were now being told to move further away, despite having earlier been told otherwise.
At first Rust said she was being hit by rubber bullets, but Jessie Halladay, of the Louisville Metro Police Department, said its officers do not use rubber bullets, WKYT News reports.
Following the incident, WAVE 3 News General Manager Ken Selvaggi issued a statement ‘strongly condeming’ the actions of the officer who ‘repeatedly fired at and hit [the] reporter and cameraman, both of whom were courageously and lawfully covering breaking news in their community.’
There is simply no justification for the Louisville police to wantonly open fire, even with pepper balls, on any journalists under any circumstances.
An LMPD spokesperson has confirmed the officer in the footage appears to be a member of their department. Louisville Metro Police will be investigating the incident.
The LMPD later apologised to CNN affiliate station reporter Rust. Halladay said the incident is not something that should have happened if Rust was singled out as a reporter.
On Friday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced no-knock warrants would be suspended in the city.
To people who gathered downtown last night to protest and to many more throughout our city and throughout our country who feel angry, hurt, afraid, frustrated, tired and sick of story after story of black lives ending at the hands of law-enforcement, I hear you.
The seemingly baseless shooting of pepper balls towards the WAVE 3 News crew is one of a number of controversial moves made by law enforcement amid the protests. Earlier this week, an entire CNN crew was arrested live on air.
Unnecessary and avoidable actions by law enforcement are exactly what are being protested, but the examples just keep racking up.
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