Two Los Angeles Times journalists trapped and targeted by Minnesota State Patrol troopers while reporting on civil unrest in Minneapolis following the killing of George Floyd have settled their federal lawsuit with the state agency for $1.2 million.

The case stems from a violent encounter on the night of May 30, 2020, when photographer Carolyn Cole and Houston bureau chief Molly Hennessy-Fiske were battered with blunt projectiles, tear gas and chemical spray by troopers interfering with their constitutionally protected First Amendment rights.

The veteran war correspondents had traveled to Minneapolis after Floyd's murder to cover what had become a global story of police brutality. Media was granted exemption from a nighttime curfew imposed by Gov. Tim Walz, citing the critical need for journalists to be free to safely document the events.

Yet, shortly after 8 p.m., as Cole and Hennessy-Fiske stood across the street from protesters at E. 31st Street and Nicollet Avenue — near the Fifth Precinct police headquarters — a legion of Minnesota State troopers moved toward the journalists, announcing that a curfew had taken effect and ordering crowds to disperse.

Cole, Hennessy-Fiske and other reporters in the group pointed out their clearly visible press gear to the troopers — Cole was wearing a flak jacket emblazoned with the word "TV" and carrying a large camera and bag, while Hennessy-Fiske wore a press badge around her neck and held a notebook.

But the officers continued to advance on the press group, backing them into a corner before firing rubber bullets and deploying pepper spray.

A trooper "intentionally" sprayed Cole in the eye, which she captured on camera, according to the lawsuit. Hennessy-Fiske was shot at least five times in the leg with projectiles and a tear-gas canister, which left her bloodied and bruised.

Cole suffered a corneal abrasion and chemical burns on her eye and skin. A photo enclosed in the civil complaint shows Cole crouched in a brick corner, draped in camera equipment, doused in chemical liquid and screaming in agony. Each journalist required medical treatment for their wounds.

"Being attacked by the [Minnesota] State Patrol four years ago was an experience no other journalist should have to face," Cole wrote in a statement. "I hope this ruling, upholding our First Amendment rights, will help to protect other photographers and reporters trying to do their jobs."

The state agency did not admit wrongdoing. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety, which oversees the State Patrol, released a statement Wednesday explaining that it opted to settle the matter to "eliminate the uncertainty and expense" of bringing the case to trial.

"The civil unrest in 2020 was a difficult time for our state," wrote DPS spokesman Howie Padilla. "Minnesota law enforcement, including the State Patrol, had the extremely difficult task of restoring order and public safety during this unprecedented situation. We value our partnership with the media and the role they play in informing the people we serve."

Both women have for decades covered dangerous conflict zones abroad and know the risks involved, but say that until 2020 they had never been singled out this way by police.

"During my nearly 25-year career, I have covered numerous law enforcement agencies and protests in various states and overseas," said Hennessy-Fiske, who now works for the Washington Post. "This was the first time that I was attacked by authorities."

The vast majority of the settlement — $1 million — is expected to pay legal fees for their Minneapolis-based law firm. Cole and Hennessy-Fiske have a agreed to split the remaining $200,000, their attorney confirmed.

"I hope that this settlement serves as a deterrent and protects other journalists," Hennessy-Fiske said. "Law-abiding reporters and photographers should never be blindsided, assaulted and injured by law enforcement for doing their job."

The settlement marks yet another legal victory on behalf of journalists who alleged that police intentionally targeted them as they covered the protests and riots that engulfed Minneapolis after Floyd's murder on May 25, 2020. In the two weeks that followed, more than 40 journalists were attacked, arrested or had equipment damaged in Minneapolis, according to data from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

The American Civil Liberties Union settled a federal class-action lawsuit against the State Patrol in 2022 after the department agreed to a permanent injunction preventing its troopers from assaulting or detaining journalists. That case — which resulted in an $825,000 payout by the state — also prohibited the agency from ordering journalists to stop photographing, recording or observing a protest, making journalists disperse, or seizing or intentionally damaging photo, audio or video gear.

Part of that settlement required that all troopers be outfitted with body-worn cameras, undergo media training and prominently display their badge numbers while working at protests. The federal court is expected to monitor their compliance with that injunction until 2028.

Staff writer Andy Mannix contributed to this report.