Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with a statement from the LA County Office of Inspector General Max Huntsman.
An Asian American journalist was arrested Saturday evening while covering the shooting of two Los Angeles County deputies in Compton.
The arrest: Josie Huang, a reporter for KPCC/LAist, was apprehended by the L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies over alleged “obstruction of justice” as she was documenting the arrest of a protester outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, LAist reported. Huang had just finished covering the press conference held by L.A. County Sheriff officials headed by Sheriff Alex Villanueva shortly after the shooting when she went to investigate a commotion after the conference finished.
- Protestors had blocked the ambulance entrance to the hospital following the ambush shooting of two Sheriff deputies who were hit with gunshot wounds to the head by a suspect still at large, The Wrap reported.
- The radio reporter was recording the encounter and even captured some audio after her smartphone was knocked away from her hand. In the clip, Huang can be heard identifying herself as a reporter and shouting “KPCC” multiple times.
- Huang, who was thrown to the ground by the arresting officers, was wearing her press I.D. attached to a lanyard at the time.
- Huang was also crying in pain and pleading to the officers, saying, “You’re hurting me.”
- In a video captured by ABC7, at least five deputies can be seen arresting Huang, pinning her to the ground, handcuffing her and placing her in a patrol car.
- The phone that Huang dropped in the scuffle appeared to have been stepped on by the officers multiple times during the incident.
- Huang was detained at the Century Regional Detention Center before being released from the women’s jail at about 4 a.m. While she was released without bail, Huang was cited for an obstruction charge.
- Huang reportedly sustained “visible bruises and scrapes, a sore shoulder and a blackened eye.”
The excuse: Deputy Juanita Navarro of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau would later say that Huang was arrested for suspicion of obstruction of justice by “interfering with a lawful arrest.” Navarro then claimed Huang “didn’t have proper credentials” at the time of the arrest, and the Sheriff’s Department made a claim via a thread of tweets early Sunday saying that Huang “ran towards the deputies, ignored repeated commands to stay back” and failed to identify herself as a journalist, according to CNN.
- Based on Huang’s recording, the deputies were told at least five separate times in less than a minute that she was a reporter and staffer for KPCC, and that her press credentials were around her neck.
- LAist and KPCC have since called for an apology from the L.A. Sheriff department.
- “Her arrest is the latest in a series of troubling interactions between our reporters and some local law enforcement officers. Journalists provide an essential service, providing fair, accurate and timely journalism and without them, our democracy is at risk,” KPCC said in a statement.
- Among those who condemned Huang’s treatment was the Society of Professional Journalists which released a statement urging the department to drop the charge, noting “this is at least the second time that a journalist of color from this news organization was mistreated and injured while reporting on civil protests.”
- L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, representing Lynwood, called on Inspector General Max Huntsman to start an investigation into Huang’s arrest, which the latter said is underway.
- “The Los Angeles County Office of Inspector General does confirm that we have initiated an investigation of the arrest by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department of KPCC reporter Josie Huang on September 12, 2020. The Inspector General will be discussing the matter at the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission meeting on Thursday, September 17,” a spokesperson at Huntsman’s office told NextShark.