Detroit police officer accused of firing rubber bullets at 3 journalists charged with felony assault: prosecutor

Detroit police officer accused of firing rubber bullets at 3 journalists charged with felony assault: prosecutor
Mike Shaheen from Miami Beach / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

From Washington, D.C. to Minneapolis, journalists covering the George Floyd protests have been the targets of police abuse. And in Detroit, a police officer who, according to prosecutors, fired rubber bullets at three journalists during a protest in late May is now facing felony assault charges.


The Detroit Free Press’ Frank Witsil reports that on Monday, July 20, 32-year-old Detroit police officer Daniel Debono was charged with multiple accounts of felony assault. Debono is facing nine counts altogether: three accounts per journalist.

According to prosecutor Kym Worthy, “The evidence shows that these three journalists were leaving the protest area and that there was almost no one else on the street where they were. They were a threat to no one. There are simply no explicable reasons why the alleged actions of this officer were taken.”

Debono, who is presently suspended with pay, could be sentenced to up to four years in prison if convicted. The journalists Debono is accused of assaulting with rubber bullets are 30-year-old Nicole Hester, 29-year-old Matthew Hatcher and 28-year-old Seth Herald — all of whom, according to Worthy, wore press credentials.

Witsil reports, “They identified themselves as members of the press, had their hands up and asked to cross the street. As the three began to cross, Debono is accused of firing his weapon at them, striking all of three with rubber pellets. The shooting, Worthy said, was unprovoked.”

According to Worthy, Herald suffered a wrist injury — while Hester suffered face, neck, arm and leg injuries. And Hatcher’s face was bruised.

The injuries that Hester, Hatcher and Herald suffered in Detroit are not the first time police have drawn criticism for their abusive treatment of journalists who were covering the Floyd protests. At a protest in Louisville, Kentucky, journalist Kaitlin Rust and her cameraman were shot with rubber bullets by police, according to CNN. And in Minneapolis, CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez — along with a producer and a photographer — were arrested and handcuffed by police but later released.

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