A journalist who was covering the recent rioting in Minneapolis alleges in a lawsuit that law enforcement blinded her in one eye with a nonlethal projectile fired at her despite her declaring in words and documentation that she was a member of the news media.
Linda Tirado’s suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, names as defendants the city of Minneapolis and its police chief, Medaria Arradondo; Lt. Robert Kroll, in his capacity as head of the city’s police union; state Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, and State Patrol Col. Matt Langer.
“John Does 1-4” are also among the defendants, referring to unidentified officers she alleges played a role in her injury soon after curfew on the night of May 29, when the 37-year-old from Nashville was wounded.
The suit does not specify which agency’s officers injured Tirado; however, her attorneys told the Star Tribune on Monday that the officers who targeted her were with the Minneapolis Police Department.
Tirado’s attorneys provided a photograph that they say was her last at the scene and that it shows Minneapolis officers aiming at her before opening fire.
Police spokesman John Elder said in response that “it very well could have been us” who injured Tirado with a foam bullet as her attorneys contend.
Other than Elder’s comments on behalf of the Police Department, defendants associated with the city have not responded to requests for reaction to Tirado’s allegations.
While standing between protesters and a line of officers near the Third Precinct police headquarters in south Minneapolis, police “ignored the press credential she wore around her neck” and first marked her with a “ballistic tracking round” and then “shot her in her face with foam bullets,” according to the suit.
A bleeding Tirado “cried out repeatedly, ‘I’m press!’ But the police ignored her,” the suit continued, while also pointing out that Gov. Tim Walz’s nighttime curfews during the unrest had exempted on-duty news media.
The shot shattered her protective goggles, allowing tear gas to burn her eyes, the filing read. She continued to yell “I’m press!” while bleeding, but no law enforcement personnel came to her aid, her suit alleges.
Protesters led her to a medic before she was taken to a hospital, where she awoke from surgery and was told she was permanently blind in her left eye.
Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for defendants Harrington and Langer, said “the State Patrol is unable to discuss specifics of the litigation.”
However, Gordon did point to a statement state law enforcement issued in reaction to an earlier lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of several journalists who were injured or arrested over the course of the protests.
“When conducting law enforcement operations to restore order and keep people safe, it can be difficult for officers to distinguish journalists from those who are violating a curfew order or not complying with commands to leave an area,” the statement read. “While not all of the incidents involve the Minnesota State Patrol, we are reviewing the incidents involving our troopers in an effort to prevent similar incidents in the future.”
Tirado, the mother of a 9- and 7-year-old, has lost some hearing in her left ear from the projectile hitting her in the head, the suit said.
Her injuries have meant that she “does not anticipate returning to anything approaching her usual work life for at least six months,” the suit noted.
The suit does not specify a dollar amount being sought for Tirado, but it asks for punitive and compensatory damages along with an order from the court of the defendants to stop using “excessive force to stifle coverage of protests.”
One of Tirado’s attorneys, Davida Williams, said her client intends to donate a portion of what she might receive to social justice causes.
Along with being a photographer, Tirado is a published author. She wrote a memoir titled “Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America.” She’s also written for the Guardian in London, the Daily Beast and other online outlets.