A local Los Angeles radio reporter covering the shooting of two sheriff’s deputies in Inglewood Saturday night was arrested in an incident largely caught on video that has sparked outrage among journalists and led to calls for an independent investigation.
Josie Huang, a veteran reporter for KPCC and its website LAist, was arrested and charged with obstructing a peace officer by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, after filming them arresting a protester who was part of a small group that had gathered at the hospital where the deputies were being treated.
The department said in a tweet that Huang failed to identify herself as a member of the press and ignored repeated commands to back up, but video released Sunday appears to contradict the department’s account and has led to calls for an investigation into the arrest.
Huang was released from custody early Sunday morning with a misdemeanor citation.
In a series of tweets Sunday afternoon, Huang posted videos and audio of before and after her arrest that appeared to contradict the department’s version of events. Parts of her arrest were also caught on video by a local TV camera crew.
Following the shooting of two sheriff’s deputies in Compton Saturday, Huang covered Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s news conference in Lynwood.
Following the news conference, Huang said she returned to her car when she heard some shouting, so she went back onto the street to find a handful of protesters gathered and engaging with deputies.
“I had on a lanyard around my neck with a press ID,” Huang tweets, an assertion that appears to match up with arrest video that was captured by the local news station that happened to hear her scream as she was being handcuffed.
Her version of events goes directly against the version that the sheriff’s department released on its Twitter account at 2:20 a.m. Sunday.
On video Huang posted, she can be heard saying, “I’m a reporter. I’m with KPCC.” Again, this video seems to contradict the LASD account that states, “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.”
Video from Huang’s phone also appears to show two sheriff’s deputies stepping on Huang’s phone and kicking it. Whether it was an attempt to damage the phone remains unclear, but the deputies did not take the reporter’s belongings with her as she was arrested and instead left her wallet and phone on the street, according to the reporter and her editor.
Notably, the sheriff’s department does not currently have body cameras, though funding has been approved, and the department is due to receive them in the coming months. The only known video evidence of the arrest is via Huang’s phone and the local news crew that recorded the arrest, which showed five deputies on top of a woman who did not appear to be physically resisting arrest.
Executive Editor of KPCC and LAist Megan Garvey took to social media as she went down to the women’s jail and worked to get her reporter released, an effort that caught the eyes of journalists and reporters across Southern California.
After about five hours in custody, Huang was released showing some signs of bruising and a cut on her foot.
Several journalists and organizations, including the LA Times Guild, have spoken out about the arrest. LA Counter Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has called for the Inspector General to immediately launch a special investigation and has asked for a special meeting of the Citizen Oversight Commission on the matter.
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Source: NBC Los Angeles