Harrowing footage has captured the moment riot police shot pepper bullets at a TV reporter live on air, with her distressing cries sparking panic in the voices of her newsroom correspondents.
Journalist Kaitlin Rust was reporting for WAVE 3 News in Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday evening (local time) when suddenly she began screaming and yelled out, “I’m getting shot”, to her colleagues.
Live footage appears to show a police officer walking directly towards the camera crew and pointing his gun in their direction before firing several more rounds.
“Katie, are you OK?” a panicked female anchor was heard saying before Rust assured them she was not seriously injured.
“Rubber bullets, rubber bullets, it’s okay,” she said, adding: “It’s those pepper bullets.”
More shots continued to be fired at the crew who held their ground briefly before retreating.
A shaken Rust said the officer was shooting “directly at us” and was not sure why.
“They’re telling us to move now, I guess further away,” she said, explaining the crew had already positioned themselves behind a certain line they believed was acceptable.
“We were behind their line, but it was a little too close for comfort.”
The news crew were covering protests over the police killing of 26-year-old African-American emergency room technician Breonna Taylor, who police shot at least eight times, The New York Times reported.
UPDATE: WAVE 3 News management has issued a statement regarding reporter Kaitlin Rust and photojournalist James Dobson being hit with pepper balls by an LMPD officer Friday night while covering a protest in downtown Louisville. https://t.co/8KkOoSHncW
— wave3news (@wave3news) May 30, 2020
Officers had been issued a “no knock” warrant to investigate two men they believed were selling drugs in an apartment near hers and entered her home on suspicion a package had been delivered there.
This wasn’t the first time the riots over police brutality towards black citizens has caused injury, with a freelance writer being shot in the eye in Minneapolis, where people are protesting over the death of George Floyd.
Linda Tirado said she was left completely blind in one eye after being struck with a rubber bullet that “exploded” her eyeball.
“My vision is gone, no matter what it winds up looking like scar wise,” she wrote in one of several tweets about the incident.
Hey folks, took a tracer found to the face (I think, given my backpack) and am headed into surgery to see if we can save my left eye
Am wisely not gonna be on Twitter while I’m on morphine
Stay safe folks pic.twitter.com/apZOyGrcBO
— Linda Tirado (@KillerMartinis) May 30, 2020
Police also arrested a CNN reporter covering riots in Minneapolis live on air after the crew allegedly failed to follow their direction to move. They have all since been released.
Governors in several US states have called in National Guard troops as protests over police killings of black men intensifies.
Similar scenes of unrest unfolded across several cities on Saturday from New York to Tulsa to Los Angeles, where police fired rubber bullets to scatter crowds and at least one police car burned.
Rowdy protests continue across the United States
The protests – which began in Minneapolis following Monday's death of George Floyd during an arrest – have left parts of that city a grid of broken windows, burned-out buildings and ransacked stores.
In Washington DC, US President Donald Trump sent tweets ridiculing protesters outside the White House who were among thousands nationwide incited by the death of Mr Floyd, who died after a policeman pressed his knee onto his neck for more than eight minutes.
The demonstrations have spread across the nation, with protesters decrying years of deaths at police hands.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma's Greenwood District, the site of a 1921 massacre of black people that left some 300 dead, protesters blocked intersections and chanted the name of Terence Crutcher, a black man killed by a police officer in 2016.
Other peaceful protests were being held in California, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
In Tulsa and Wilmington, Delaware, demonstrators made their way onto nearby interstates and shut them down temporarily.
In Tallahassee, Florida, a pick-,up truck drove through a crowd of protesters, sending some running and screaming as the vehicle stopped and started and at one point had a person on its hood, police said. No serious injuries were reported.
In Columbia, South Carolina, a television reporter for WIS-TV was injured by rocks thrown amid protests outside the Columbia Police Department.
Several hundred people participated in the demonstration, tearing down the American and state flags in front of the police department's headquarters. They also swarmed a Columbia police car, breaking its windows, The State reported.
In Los Angeles protesters chanted, "Black Lives Matter", some close to the face shields of officers.
Police used batons to move protesters back and shot rubber bullets to scatter the crowd. One man used a skateboard to attempt to break the windshield of a police SUV. A spray-painted police car burned in the streets.
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti imposed an overnight curfew in a bid to reduce looting, property damage and violence.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz fully mobilised the state's National Guard and promised a massive show of force to help quell unrest that has grown increasingly destructive.
"The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd," Mr Walz said. "It is about attacking civil society, instilling fear and disrupting our great cities."
The Pentagon has ordered the US army to put military police units on alert to head to the city on short notice, at Mr Trump's request, insiders said.
The rare step came as the violence spread to other cities, with a man shot dead in Detroit, police cars attacked in Atlanta and skirmishes with officers in New York City.
Criminal charges were filed on Friday against the white police officer who held his knee on the neck of Mr Floyd. However, this has done nothing to stem the widespread anger.
Derek Chauvin, 44, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
With Associated Press
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