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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Reporters Say Police|Shot Them in Ferguson

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Four journalists were shot with rubber bullets and falsely arrested while covering the Ferguson protests, they claimed in a federal lawsuit Monday.

Ryan Devereaux, Lukas Hermsmeier, Ansgar Graw and Frank Herrmann sued St. Louis County, the St. Louis County Police Department and John Doe police officers.

The four were arrested on Aug. 18 in two incidents. Graw is a senior U.S. correspondent for a major German newspaper, Die Welt.

They claim the officers "intentionally and willfully subjected plaintiffs to violations of freedom of the press and free speech, by purposefully obstructing plaintiffs from carrying out their assignments as members of the press - assignments which include oversight of police action against citizens engaged in protest activity."

Devereaux and Hermsmeier say they were driving to a designated media area when they saw protesters and got out to conduct interviews. They heard a police officer announce over a loudspeaker: "This is your final warning."

Their interviews ended when police began shooting tear gas to disperse the protesters. Devereaux and Hermsmeier say they tried to get back to their car, but police stopped them.

They say they identified themselves as journalists and tried to approach the police with their hands up. Police responded by shooting them with rubber bullets and arresting them.

Hermsmeier says one hand was numb for several weeks after his arrest due to the tight plastic tie handcuffs that were used. Devereaux says he still has numbness in a hand.

Both were charged with failure to disperse, but neither has been prosecuted.

Graw and Herrmann say they were arrested for failing to comply with the police's demand that protesters perpetually be moving

"When Graw asked for Doe officer 12's name, he replied 'Donald Duck,'" the complaint states. "Then, Doe Officer 13 tightened the plastic ties on both Graw and Herrmann, in order to deliberately inflict pain on both journalists."

Herrmann and Graw also say they suffered hand numbness from the handcuffs. They were charged with failure to disperse, but have not been prosecuted.

They seek punitive damages for constitutional violations and an injunction stopping the defendants from using illegal and unconstitutional means to stop journalists from covering the Ferguson protests.

They are represented by Corrine Irish, with Squire Patton Boggs, of New York City.

Devereaux works for Intercept/First Look Media.

Hermsmeier is a freelance journalist.

Graw is the senior political U.S. correspondent for Die Welt and Welt am Sonntag. Herrmann is the U.S. correspondent for a group of German regional newspapers.

In December, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against police on behalf of journalist Gerald D. Yingst III, with similar allegations.

Police claim they had probable cause for the arrests.

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