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“Directly at us”: Louisville law enforcement shoots reporters with pepper bullets

Arrests, shootings, and harassment of journalists are features of the George Floyd protests.

A window of the metro police headquarters damaged during protests is seen on May 29, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

On Friday night, video footage captured a law enforcement officer shooting journalists covering the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor protests in Louisville, Kentucky, with what appear to be pepper balls — continuing a disturbing trend of unwarranted assaults on press covering the uprisings.

WAVE 3’s Kaitlin Rust was live on television that night reporting on the unrest in the city, part of a nationwide movement in the wake of Floyd’s death.

As Rust covered the standoff between protesters and police, she screamed and then yelled she was “getting shot.” The camera operator then turned to show the officer shooting right at the reporting crew. They were aiming “at us, like directly at us,” Rust told the station’s anchors.

The unidentified officer shooting the pepper-ball launcher gave no reason why he shot at Rust and her camera crew.

Hours later, Louisville Metro Police apologized to WAVE 3 for the incident. The force’s special adviser, Jessie Halladay, told CNN the shooting shouldn’t have occurred and that it’s still unclear who launched the supposed pepper bullets. It’s possible the officer formed part of the city’s police force or a member of a special response team.

Louisville authorities will now further review the video of the episode and see if disciplinary action is required.

Media keeps getting targeted during the protests

There’s a growing, troubling trend of having media outlets and individual reporters specifically targeted throughout the uprisings.

Early on Thursday morning, CNN’s Omar Jimenez and his crew were arrested live on air in Minneapolis without cause. After a quick call between CNN’s president and the state’s governor, Jimenez and his team were released. The governor apologized and took full responsibility.

On Friday night in Washington, DC, demonstrators targeted Fox News journalists for covering the uprising outside the White House. In the video, someone chants “fuck Fox News” at the crew as they approach a police officer requesting help.

And in Atlanta on Friday night, protesters damaged the front of CNN Center, including breaking glass and the logo. Some even entered the building and did further damage inside.

Those actions prompted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to lambast the vandalism during a press conference: “You have defaced the CNN building. Ted Turner started CNN in Atlanta, 40 years ago because he believed in who we are as a city.”

If the demonstrations persist throughout the country — as it appears they will — it’s more than likely similar incidents against journalists and media outlets will continue, too.