According to a statement from the station, at approximately 9:43 p.m. on Friday night, a Louisville Metro Police Department officer directly aimed and fired pepper balls at WAVE 3 News reporter Kaitlin Rust and her cameramen, James Dobson.
WAVE, Gray’s NBC affiliate in Louisville, Ky. (DMA 48), is condemning Friday night’s firing of what appear to be pepper balls at the station’s news crew by an officer of the Louisville Metro Police Department during live on-the-scene coverage of a protest in downtown Louisville.
According to a statement from the station, at approximately 9:43 p.m. and 9:44 p.m. Friday night, an LMPD officer directly aimed and fired pepper balls at WAVE reporter Kaitlin Rust and at her cameramen, James Dobson.
The officer’s shots struck both Rust and Dobson. Despite sustaining minor injuries, they two continued reporting during and immediately after the officer fired on them.
“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,” said Ken Selvaggi, WAVE’s general manager.
“There is simply no justification for the Louisville police to wantonly open fire, even with pepper balls, on any journalists under any circumstances.”
Pat LaPlatney, Gray Television president, said: “As colleagues and as citizens, we are indebted to the journalists who put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis to cover critical stories for their local communities, whether it’s a pandemic, flooding, wildfires, or a host of other dangerous situations.
“At no time, however, should journalists be fired upon by the police while peacefully exercising their constitutional rights to speak, assemble and report. We urge the LMPD to investigate fully and take all necessary actions to ensure that no journalist ever faces a situation like the WAVE 3 News team endured tonight.”
The station said that when the officer fired at Rust and 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.
Rust was wearing a bright yellow, reflective vest, a facemask, backup equipment and holding a large field microphone. Dobson was standing near her filming the encounter with a professional-grade field television camera.
An LMPD spokesperson confirmed to WAVE 3 News that the officer in the video appears to be a member of the Louisville Metro Police Department and that the LMPD would investigate the incident.
Gordon Smith, president of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) had this to say about the incident: “NAB condemns the actions of the Louisville police officer who fired pepper balls at a local TV crew legally covering downtown protests on Friday night. No police officer has the right to fire any type of ammunition at journalists who are simply doing their jobs and appropriately positioned to cover the news. NAB calls for a swift investigation of this incident to ensure that journalists have the necessary protections to report the news.”