Los Angeles D.A. will not prosecute KPCC reporter arrested for interfering with arrest of a protester
A KPCC reporter who was slammed to the ground and accused of interfering with an arrest the night two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were shot in Compton will not face criminal charges, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said Thursday.
Josie Huang, 39, was arrested outside St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood after deputies alleged she tried to interfere with the arrest of a protester earlier this month. The incident drew widespread condemnation from journalism organizations and politicians, criticism that worsened after video of the incident captured on Huang’s cellphone seemingly disproved allegations levied by Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
“Ms. Huang was in a public area filming a protest. When asked to back up, she is almost immediately grabbed by deputies and taken to the ground, giving her little if any time to comply,” prosecutors wrote in a memo declining to file criminal charges. “It does not appear that she was intentionally attempting to interfere with the deputies, but merely trying to record the occurrence.”
Hours earlier on Sept. 12, someone had walked up to a Sheriff’s Department cruiser near the Compton Metro station and opened fire on the two deputies, both of whom suffered gunshot wounds to the head. The deputies — a 31-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man who have not been identified — were seriously injured but are expected to survive.
Both deputies have been released from the hospital, officials said. No arrests have been made.
In the hours that followed the shooting, a small group of protesters descended on the hospital where the deputies were being treated, some of whom were chanting that they hoped the deputies died. Recordings that Huang posted to Twitter the day after the incident showed her approaching a group of deputies as they arrested a man. The deputies ordered her to back up, but then almost immediately took her to the ground.
The Sheriff’s Department initially alleged Huang failed to identify herself as a reporter. But Huang’s phone kept recording while she was in handcuffs, showing deputies stomp on the device and ignore her as she continually announced she was a reporter for KPCC.
In the days after the incident, Villanueva told the Associated Press that Huang had “crossed the line from journalism to activism” and defended his deputies’ actions.
In a statement, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman said the agency “values the media and highly respects the freedom of the press” but maintained that deputies believed Huang “inserted herself too close to the highly charged situation as an arrest was being made.”
“It is unfortunate this incident took place during a time in which our focus was on the horrific attempted assassination of two of our deputies. The events during that time were very tense and rapidly evolving,” the statement read. “At that same time, our personnel were dealing with protesters who were blocking the driveway to the hospital emergency room and chanting for our wounded deputies to die, which could also be heard by their family members.”
Separate investigations of the arrest are being carried out by county Inspector General Max Huntsman and the Sheriff’s Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
Huang said she appreciated the district attorney’s office’s decision and was thankful prosecutors reviewed her cellphone video. But she isn’t done challenging the Sheriff’s Department’s narrative.
“I am seeking a finding of ‘factual innocence’ that will wipe this unlawful arrest from my record,” she said. “More than ever, I am grateful for the 1st Amendment, which entitles all Americans — not just journalists — to the rights of free speech and assembly.”
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