Police officer charged for allegedly shooting three photojournalists with rubber pellets during protest

National News

Detroit, Michigan (CNN) (07/21/20)— A Detroit police officer was charged with three counts of felonious assault on Monday in connection with the shooting of three photojournalists with rubber pellets during a protest in May.

Cpl. Daniel Debono was dressed in riot gear and armed with a weapon that fired rubber pellets along with his department-issued firearm during the overnight hours of May 31 as protesters took to the streets of downtown Detroit over the death of George Floyd, Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a press release.

Police officers launch tear gas canisters at protesters in Detroit during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Sunday, May 31, 2020.

After the majority of protesters had cleared the area, MLive photojournalist Nicole Hester and independent photographers Seth Herald and Matthew Hatcher encountered Debono with two other officers.

The three photographers, all wearing press credentials, identified themselves as members of the press and with their hands up, asked to cross the street, the release said.

As the three began crossing the street, Debono allegedly fired his weapon at them, striking all three with rubber pellets, according to the release.

All three photographers were injured by the pellets. Hester sustained the most injuries, to her face, neck, arms, and legs, according to the release. Herald’s wrist was injured and Hatcher was bruised on the face and ribs.

Worthy said the three photographers were leaving the protest area and that there was almost no one else on the street when they were hit by the rubber pellets.

“The shooting was unprovoked. At no time did the three complainants do anything to cause the defendant to shoot at them,” Worthy’s statement’s read. “They were a threat to no one. There are simply no explicable reasons why the alleged actions of this officer were taken.”

CNN has reached out to Debono and the Detroit Police Officers Association for comment.

A time and date for Debono’s arraignment have yet to be confirmed, Worthy’s statement said.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig responded to the charges on Monday, saying “our officers have responded very appropriately, so this should not reflect, as an agency, that this one incident defines how we manage our protests.” Debono has been suspended, according to Craig.

Craig said as soon as he became aware of the incident, he had a conversation with the photojournalists’ news outlet employer and opened an investigation.

Each of Debono’s charges of felonious assault carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison, the release says.

Police officers in other cities are facing charges in incidents regarding use of force during protests.

In Philadelphia, a high-ranking police inspector is facing multiple charges after he was seen on cell phone video appearing to strike a Temple University student in the back of his head with a metal baton.

In New York, a police officer seen on camera shoving a woman to the pavement was charged with assault on June 9. He is the first NYPD officer to face criminal charges from the protests in response to Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

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