July 21, 2020 / 6:43 PM / 23 days ago

Detroit officer charged with shooting journalists with rubber pellets

July 21 (Reuters) - A police officer has been charged with an unprovoked attack against three credentialed journalists, shooting them with rubber pellets in May as a protest they were covering in downtown Detroit was winding down, prosecutors said.

Detroit Police Corporal Daniel Debono, 32, faces three counts of felonious assault, the Wayne County prosecuting attorney’s office said on Monday.

“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,” Prosecuting Attorney Kim Worthy said in a statement. “There are simply no explicable reasons why the alleged actions of this officer were taken.”

A date and time of arraignment has yet to be set, a spokeswoman for Worthy’s office said.

An attorney for Debono could not immediately be reached.

The incident happened in the early morning hours of May 31 during a demonstration over the police killing in Minneapolis a week earlier of George Floyd, after most protesters had dispersed, Worthy’s office said.

Photojournalist Nicole Hester, 30, of MLive, and independent photojournalists Seth Herald, 28, and Matthew Hatcher, 29, all wearing press credentials, had been covering the protests, identified themselves to Debono and two other officers and asked to cross the street, the office said in a statement.

As they did, Debono fired rubber pellets at them, injuring Herald’s wrist, hitting Hatcher in the face and ribs and Hester in the face, neck, arms and legs, the statement said.

Asked about the incident, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the incident was under review, but noted that his department has had to cope with several weeks of protests, during which time some officers were injured and cars destroyed.

“We’re constantly conducting evaluations, this was not different,” he told WXYZ-TV in Detroit. “You’ve got to remember that we’ve got a youthful workforce.” (Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; editing by Bill Tarrant and Tom Brown)

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