Officer fires pepper balls at reporter, photographer during Louisville, Ky., protest

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE/Gray News) - A reporter for WAVE 3 News, Kaitlin Rust, and a photojournalist, James Dobson, appeared to have been hit by pepper balls, reportedly fired by a Louisville Metro Police Department officer, during a protest in the downtown area.

WAVE 3 News reporter Kaitlin Rust appeared to have been hit by pepper balls, reportedly fired by a police officer, during a Friday night protest in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. (Source: WAVE/Gray News)

It was previously reported that the officer was firing rubber bullets, but LMPD spokeswoman Jessie Halladay said the department’s officers do not use rubber bullets, and it was likely that was Rust and Dobson were hit with pepper balls.

Halladay commented again on the incident during a Saturday morning briefing with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

“We believe it was one of our SRT officers; we are still trying to identify which officer,” Halladay said. “Targeting the media is not our intention. There was a lot going on last night, and to be fair to both the officer and to Kaitlin, we need to take a deeper look at what happened and what prompted that action. So we have said that we will do that and if there needs to be discipline we will address it.”

In response to what happened to Rust and Dobson, WAVE 3 News General Manager Ken Selvaggi issued a statement saying, “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. There is simply no justification for the Louisville police to wantonly open fire, even with pepper balls, on any journalists under any circumstances.”

The statement also said “When the officer fired at Ms. Rust and Mr. 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.”

During night two of several hundred protesters gathering downtown in wake of protests across the country following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, crowds appear to be larger and police are continuing their efforts to clear the area.

A WAVE vehicle was found vandalized downtown as the crowd intensified.

Louisville protesters want action taken against three LMPD officers involved in the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, a black woman, in March. She was shot during a no-knock warrant that was being served at her home.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced Friday morning no-knock warrants would be suspended in the city.

“To people who gathered downtown last night to protest,” Fischer said, “and to many more throughout our city and throughout our country who feel angry, hurt, afraid, frustrated, tired and sick of story after story of black lives ending at the hands of law-enforcement, I hear you.”

He also spoke of unity and thanked Taylor’s family for speaking out against the Thursday night protests that resulted in seven people being hit by gunfire and vandalism.

“This is the challenge of our time that we must rise to,” Fischer said. “So let’s rise to the challenge of this moment and work for the truth, work for peace, work for justice for Breonna Taylor, her family and for all of the people of our city. They deserve it. We deserve it.”

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