DULUTH – A 70-year-old man from southern Minnesota was cited with misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct for punching a WCCO-TV journalist’s phone out of his hands near President Donald Trump’s rally last week, the city attorney said Thursday.
Duane Waldriff, of Lamberton, said he was driving near the Duluth airport a few hours before the president’s Sept. 30 visit when a group of Joe Biden supporters started pounding on his truck, which had Trump stickers and signs on it. Waldriff got out of his vehicle and told the protesters to stop hitting it, he said.
Dymanh Chhoun, a photojournalist covering the protest for WCCO, said he was on the phone with his station when he noticed the altercation happening. He didn’t have time to grab his camera gear, so he turned his phone sideways and started recording video.
In the video, Waldriff said: “You guys want to be peaceful? Be peaceful. You want to be violent? Come to me.” He then turned and hit Chhoun’s phone out of his hand.
Chhoun picked up his phone and started filming more. WCCO aired the footage, which police also used to ask for help identifying Waldriff.
“I was scared,” said Chhoun, who said he’s covered dozens of protests in Minnesota over the course of his career. “I’m used to people verbally attacking me but not physically. I was just doing my job.”
Waldriff on Thursday evening said he was not aware he had been cited. He said Chhoun violated his space and added that he wasn’t previously aware it was legal to film others in public spaces without their consent.
“I’ve got nothing against him personally but he wasn’t assaulted,” Waldriff said. “He was aggressively coming after me, and I defended myself.”
Waldriff said he did not realize until after the altercation that Chhoun was a member of the media, though Chhoun said he was wearing a press badge and a WCCO jacket.
“Our office looked at all currently available evidence and asked the Duluth Police Department to issue a citation based on our review,” Duluth City Attorney Rebecca St. George said in a statement Thursday. “We take all criminal matters very seriously, and will prosecute this case accordingly.”
The offenses are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.