In a video that has shocked many, WAVE 3 News Louisville reports that their reporters were fired on by police at a protest with pepper balls.
WAVE 3 News reporter Kaitlin Rust and photojournalist James Dobson were struck by pepper balls reportedly fired by an LMPD officer during a protest in downtown Louisville on Friday night.
It was previously reported that the officer was firing rubber bullets, but LMPD spokeswoman Jessie Halladay said the department’s officers do not use rubber bullets, and it was likely that was Rust and Dobson were hit with pepper balls.
Halladay commented again on the incident during a Saturday morning briefing with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.
“We believe it was one of our SRT officers; we are still trying to identify which officer,” Halladay said. “Targeting the media is not our intention. There was a lot going on last night, and to be fair to both the officer and to Kaitlin, we need to take a deeper look at what happened and what prompted that action. So we have said that we will do that and if there needs to be discipline we will address it.”
In response to what happened to Rust and Dobson, WAVE 3 News General Manager Ken Selvaggi issued a statement saying, “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. There is simply no justification for the Louisville police to wantonly open fire, even with pepper balls, on any journalists under any circumstances.”
The statement also said “When the officer fired at Ms. Rust and Mr. Dobson, the two had been following police instructions, were standing behind the police line when they were fired upon, and were not disrupting or otherwise interfering with law enforcement.” (source)
Was this an accident? Surely it was possible.
However, what is the excuse?
Just look at the video.
One of the major rules about having a gun is to NEVER POINT IT AT SOMETHING YOU DO NOT INTENT TO HARM. This is a fundamental rule of all firearms handling, because once a bullet is released, it cannot be taken back. This is, if one may call it, “Firearms 101”, and is probably the most serious of all rules alongside the rule to always check if a gun is loaded before receiving it from another person and even before doing anything else with it even if one is alone.
Police officers know this well. Their job involves being entrusted with the same handling of firearms, which most do. The same can be said about most gun handlers. If a person is shot, even accidentally, that person is held responsible for the accident, and there are often severe consequences.
Please tell me, how can one say that, upon seeing the video, that this was just an “accident”?
What excuse would there be for a police officer that he would be unable to distinguish between, say, an individual posing a true threat, versus a news crew?
I can say with certainty that if this was an average man who did the exact same thing to another average man and the police saw him, he would be hit up with all kinds of charges, and told that he was “irresponsible” and the state would move to try and strip him of his rights to own a firearm.
Likewise, why does it seem from statements released by police after and picked up and reported by the station that there is a seeming “defense” of this particular person’s actions?
If the police was actually asking the reporters to move, why were they not approached? Why the need to fire a weapon at them? What specific reason justifies it?
I’m not saying that people don’t have to make tense decisions in a short amount of time. I’m not saying that accidents don’t happen involving firearms. What I am saying is that it is incredibly difficult to believe that given all of the tension between police and the citizenry going on right now, including the fact that it seems and there are allegations that police are being ordered to stand down in the face of riots across the country and how police are being watched so carefully, that a police officer, fully dressed in tactical gear, would fail so gravely in his duty to distinguish between a serious threat and a clearly obvious local news crew filming and then simply proceed to shoot at them as though they were no different than rioters.
That is a very difficult concept to process.
The only thing that I can take away from this video is that we are witnessing, albeit slowly, the death of freedom of the press in real time by historical events.