Public radio journalist arrested by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies at protest outside Lynwood hospital

Local news

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies arrested a public radio reporter covering a protest that broke out late Saturday night outside a Lynwood hospital where two deputies were being treated for gunshot wounds.

Video showed several deputies pulling KPCC and LAist reporter Josie Huang up from the ground and handcuffing her outside St. Francis Medical Center. Earlier, video showed deputies pushing her away from a patrol car where others were detaining a man.

What appeared to be a press badge could be seen around Huang’s neck while she was being detained and put into a patrol car, the video shows.

On Sunday, Huang released videos that her phone captured in the moments leading up to and during her arrest. One shows her approaching to film deputies detaining a man on the ground before they started yelling, “back up, back up.”

The clips appeared to contradict the Sheriff’s Department’s account and drew widespread condemnation from journalists and the national Committee to Protect Journalists. Following their release, Sheriff’s Captain Kerry Carter tweeted that “an active investigation is underway.”

“Within seconds, I was getting shoved around. There was nowhere to back up,” Huang wrote.

The phone continued filming the interaction from the ground, capturing her screaming and yelling, “I’m a reporter…I’m with KPCC.”

Another clip Huang tweeted shows a deputy apparently stepping on the phone as a crackling sound is heard. Another deputy is then seen kicking it. In the background, she’s heard saying “You guys are hurting me.”

After her arrest, the Sheriff’s Department said she had “interfered with the arrest” of a man who deputies were taking into custody. Huang said she was charged with obstructing a peace officer, a misdemeanor, and released from custody hours later.

It’s not clear if charges have actually been filed by the District Attorney’s Office.

“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,” the Sheriff’s Department said.

However, following Huang’s release of videos contradicting that narrative, Carter tweeted that the department planned to further investigate the arrest.

“We are aware of the incident which occurred in front of a hospital which resulted in two arrests, Carter wrote. “There is footage of the incident and an active investigation is underway. We are unable to comment further at this time.”

KPCC reporter Frank Stoltze tweeted that the “troubling audio” Huang’s cellphone captured shows she was repeatedly identifying herself as a KPCC reporter.

Executive Editor at KPCC and LAist, Megan Garvey, tweeted photos of bruises on Huang’s arm and ankle after the reporter was released from custody.

Garvey described Huang as an “an award winning, thoughtful journalist who has been covering protests for months.”

“As I told the sheriff’s officials here at the Century Regional Detention Center, we understand they have had a distressing night. I told them journalists are trying to do our jobs — a key part of our democracy and that work is protected by the Constitution,” Garvey tweeted.

Kristen Muller, chief content officer at KPCC and LAist, called the arrest “outrageous” on Twitter.

“The charges against @josie_huang should be dropped and @lasd should apologize immediately,” she wrote.

“The [Sheriff’s Department] has had an incredibly stressful night. Josie’s arrest occurred a few hours after two deputies were shot,” Muller said. “But the arrest of  @josie_huang is just the latest in a series of troubling interactions between our reporters and local law enforcement. They’ve been tear gassed, shot by a rubber bullet in the throat and had guns pointed at them.”

Videos from outside the hospital show a tense confrontation between the protesters and deputies that night. The department issued a dispersal order for unlawful assembly, arresting a protester they say refused to comply.

“During his arrest, a struggle ensued at which time a female adult ran towards the deputies, ignored repeated commands to stay back as they struggled with the male and interfered with the arrest” the Sheriff’s Department tweeted.

Video obtained by KABC shows the Huang down on the pavement being swarmed by multiple deputies. A reporter from the station said she saw Huang being “suddenly taken down by the deputies” after rushing up to the police line to see what was going on.

Huang posted video of the scene outside the hospital that she took before her arrest.

It shows deputies blocking the hospital’s emergency room parking entrance, one of them with his weapon pointed towards a small group of protesters who were yelling at the deputies. 

L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called for the Inspector General to launch an immediate investigation into Huang’s arrest.

“That’s what surprises me the most, is that once she was identified as a reporter that they transported her, that they cited her,” L.A. County Inspector General Max Huntsman told the Los Angeles Times Sunday.

The journalist’s arrest is the latest to draw criticism over the Sheriff’s Department’s handling of protests.

After deputies shot and killed Dijon Kizzee in the Westmont neighborhood of South L.A. on Aug. 31, several demonstrations broke out to decry the Black man’s killing. Protesters clashed with deputies and several people were arrested in the demonstrations, prompting activists to speak out against the deputies’ treatment at a news conference Friday.

While activists and protesters spoke out against excessive force at the news conference, deputies in riot gear advanced closer and tensions ran high.

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