A Reporter’s Video Of Her Violent Arrest Contradicts Claims From Deputies
“Like being tossed around in the ocean and then slammed into rock”: Reporter Josie Huang’s video of the encounter tells a different story than the one from the sheriff’s department.
First-person video released by a Los Angeles reporter who was tackled and arrested by deputies while filming a protest over the weekend starkly contradicts claims by the sheriff’s department that she didn't identify herself as a member of the press. The arrest has sparked a wave of outrage from national journalism organizations, news publications, activists, and celebrities.
Josie Huang, who works for public radio station KPCC and LAist, said she was arrested on Saturday night and charged with obstructing a peace officer after filming the deputies’ interactions with protesters outside of a hospital in Lynwood. Huang said the arrest felt “like being tossed around in the ocean and then slammed into rock.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department claimed in a series of tweets Sunday that Huang was interfering in the arrest of a protester and “ignored repeated commands to stay back.” The department claimed that Huang didn’t identify herself as press and that Huang herself “admitted” to not having press credentials with her.
When asked by the Washington Post to clarify its claims following the release of footage of Huang clearly identifying herself as a member of the press, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department declined to comment citing an ongoing investigation. LASD’s Century Sheriff’s Station Captain Kerry Carter tweeted on Monday that an “active investigation is underway” regarding Huang’s arrest.
During the encounter, Huang claimed that there was “nowhere to backup” while officers commanded her to do so. In her video of the attack and arrest, she repeatedly states she is a reporter with KPCC while also screaming for help.
Somehow I was able to start a new video right away. You see my phone clatter to the ground and I start shouting “I’m a reporter...I’m with KPCC.” I scream for help from the TV reporters I know are around the corner doing their 11 p.m. live hits pic.twitter.com/O9CZNuSrQI— Josie Huang (@josie_huang) September 13, 2020
Footage recorded after Huang dropped her phone in the scuffle also shows two deputies kicking and stepping on the device, while Huang can be heard in the back saying, “You guys are hurting me” and “Stop it.”
After my phone drops, it keeps recording and it captures two deputies damaging my phone by kicking and stepping on it. I can hear myself in the background shouting: “You guys are hurting me” and “Stop it.” It feels very out-of-body to play this back. pic.twitter.com/8o1kdjqlA9— Josie Huang (@josie_huang) September 13, 2020
Huang said she spent “some 5 hours” in police custody “that began with the deputy refusing to uncuff me so I could put my face covering back on, telling me I just had a ‘scrape’ when I was bleeding from my foot and not giving me back a shoe.”
She shared several videos capturing her arrest.
Prior to the arrest, Huang said that she was covering a press conference led by LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, where two deputies were being treated after someone shot into their patrol vehicle in Compton.
She then went to her car in the hospital garage after the press conference ended around 11 pm. She said she was on the phone with one of her editors when she heard “loud shouting” outside of the garage and went to check it out. She also said she had a lanyard around her neck with a press ID.
Huang then said she saw a group of men with large flags that were filming and taunting deputies outside of the hospital. She began filming the encounter, which included one of the officers pointing a gun at the group. Huang texted the video to her editors, she said, then noticed the group was dispersing and the deputies were following at least one man down the street. As she continued to film, deputies “rushed one man and chased another,” before deputies told her to back up and subsequently arrested her.
Following the news of her arrest, several journalism organizations, including the Los Angeles chapters of the Asian American Journalists Association and the Society of Professional Journalists, as well as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, spoke out in support of Huang and called for justice. The ACLU, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, and filmmaker Ava Duvernay also expressed outrage over the arrest. NPR, of which KPCC is an affiliate, said it was “appalled.”
NPR is appalled by the arrest of Josie Huang, a KPCC public radio reporter, who was performing her job last night—gathering facts to inform the American public. The rights of journalists are protected by the First Amendment, and essential to an informed public and our Democracy.— nprextra (@NPRextra) September 13, 2020
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member Mark Ridley-Thomas has reportedly asked the Inspector General to investigate Huang’s arrest.
“Her arrest is the latest in a series of troubling interactions between our reporters and some local law enforcement officers,” KPCC President and CEO Herb Scannell, said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “Journalists provide an essential service, providing fair, accurate and timely journalism and without them, our democracy is at risk.”