A reporter is refuting accusations made against her by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after five deputies pinned her to the ground and forcefully arrested her after she covered a press conference on the ambush shooting of two other deputies in Compton.
Josie Huang, a correspondent for NPR’s Los Angeles station KPCC, said she was filming deputies at a distance as they were arresting a protester outside of the St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, where the press conference was held Saturday night.
After the deputies arrested the man, other deputies turned to detain Huang, as seen in her videos she posted Sunday night. The LASD claimed that Huang didn’t identify herself as a reporter and didn’t have proper press credentials.
However, footage from Huang and other witnesses shows otherwise.
Earlier Saturday, a lone gunman ambushed two deputies, shooting them through an open window of their parked patrol car. The deputies, a 24-year-old male and a 31-year-old female, were taken to the hospital in Lynwood. Both underwent surgery and were reported in stable condition on Sunday.
Protesters later showed up at the hospital and confronted law officers. The LASD has been under fire for allegedly using excessive force in the minority communities under its jurisdiction.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Huang said she stayed after the press conference at the hospital and was videotaping deputies’ “interactions with protesters” before she was arrested.
In videos posted by Huang, she can be heard identifying herself as a reporter for KPCC as deputies arrest her. In footage recorded by ABC 7, also on the scene at the time, Huang can be seen wearing a lanyard with a card attached to it.
In the videos, Huang can be heard shouting that she was “a reporter ... with KPCC” and screaming for help. At one point, Huang can be heard saying, “you guys are hurting me,” and asking for the deputies to stop.
ABC 7 reporter Leanna Suter confirmed that the lanyard had Huang’s “press ID”.
On Saturday night, ABC 7 aired footage that showed at least five deputies keeping Huang on the ground. A reporter for the station said on air that the deputies tackled Huang and threw her into a police car.
Hours after Huang’s arrest, the LASD claimed in several tweets that it had arrested a female member of the press for penal code 148, which covers obstruction of justice and resisting arrest.
The department said Huang “ignored repeated commands to stay back” and accused her of interfering with the arrest.
“The female adult, who was later identified as a member of the press, did not identify herself as press and later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person,” the department tweeted.
The LASD did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request for comment.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit that advocates for press freedom, said it was disturbed by Huang’s arrest.
“We condemn [the LASD’s] arrest of [Huang] while she was working in Los Angeles & are disturbed by video of many officers pinning her to the ground,” it said in a tweet.
Huang’s first video shows that she was recording protesters as they faced off with law enforcement officers in the front of the hospital’s parking lot entrance. Then, Huang said she began following a group of deputies who were pursuing a man down the street.
“I walked behind, using the zoom on my camera so I could keep physical distance,” Huang tweeted.
As Huang films deputies arresting the man they were following, deputies can be heard saying, “Back up.” Seconds later, Huang can be heard repeatedly saying, “Ouch!”
In another video, several deputies can be seen approaching Huang before her phone is knocked out of her hand. Huang can be heard screaming, yelling for help and identifying herself as a reporter.
In a public statement, KPCC acknowledged that the ambush on the two deputies created a “challenging and stressful” situation, but it called on the LASD to drop the charges against Huang.
“We offer condolences to the two sheriff deputies who were shot Saturday evening,” KPCC said in a statement, according to LAist.com. “These are challenging and stressful times for everyone, but Josie Huang was arrested while doing her job. The charges should be dropped.”
“Her arrest is the latest in a series of troubling interactions between our reporters and some local law enforcement officers,” the statement continued. “Journalists provide an essential service, providing fair, accurate and timely journalism and without them, our democracy is at risk.”
LAist is KPCC’s sister site.
In its own statement, NPR said the organization was “appalled” by Huang’s arrest and said that journalists’ rights are protected by the First Amendment.
The Asian American Journalism Association, of which Huang is a member, called for an investigation into her arrest and an apology from LASD.
KPCC’s executive editor Megan Garvey posted images of Huang’s injuries, including scratches to her ankle and arm, from the arrest.
The shooting of the deputies was captured on tape and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors authorized a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the gunman.
Tensions between law enforcement and anti-racism protesters have remained high as protests against racial injustice and systematic racism persist in major cities across the U.S., sparked by several high-profile police killings of Black people this year.
While some protests have given way to riots and looting, people at other peaceful demonstrations have been met with aggressive and violent police tactics. Over the summer, a number of journalists were arrested while reporting on the protests, including HuffPost’s Chris Mathias.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said it is investigating “more than 800 reported attacks on journalists in the U.S.” since late May, “the majority by law enforcement.”