WASHINGTON – U.S. law enforcement authorities in recent days have charged four people with various offenses targeting journalists, including theft and destruction of their camera gear as the journalists covered the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
More than 500 of the estimated 800 people who stormed past authorities to enter the Capitol during the chaos that occurred as lawmakers were certifying the Electoral College victory of Democrat Joe Biden have been charged with an array of offenses, including assaults on police.
But the latest arrests are possibly the first in which suspects have been accused of singling out journalists or trying to destroy their equipment as they reported on the violence. Five people died during the day and in the immediate aftermath, including one protester who was fatally shot by police.
Much of the day’s mayhem was captured on video surveillance at the Capitol or by the rioters themselves, who bragged about being at the Capitol and posted clips on social media sites.
In one incident at the beginning of the attack, federal authorities accused Shane Jason Woods, 43, of Auburn, Illinois, of tripping a U.S. Capitol Police officer and pushing her to the ground as she pursued another protester who had sprayed her with bear mace.
Authorities alleged that later in the afternoon, Woods emerged as a large crowd gathered at a media staging area. Some yelled and spat at journalists. Woods “climbed over (a) toppled fence and participated in the assault on the media equipment,” prosecutors alleged.
“Woods can be seen walking around the piled media equipment, as well as picking up and tossing some of it,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington. “He was also observed walking closely around a cameraman. As depicted in publicly available video, Woods then ran into and tackled the cameraman, causing him to fall and drop his camera.”
In another incident, authorities accused Sandra Pomeroy Weyer of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, of filming and taunting a New York Times photographer as four or five men harassed the photojournalist and grabbed her camera and pushed her aside.
The photographer told authorities the protesters were angered when they saw from her press credentials that she worked for the Times, pushed her down and took one of her cameras. She chased after them and was pushed down a second time, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case.
Investigators say Weyer can be heard on a video of the incident screaming that the photographer was a traitor, to “get her out. Mace her.”
Weyer is facing charges of illegally entering the Capitol, disrupting government proceedings and engaging in disorderly or threatening conduct while inside the building.
In one of the two other cases, authorities accused Zvonimir Joseph Jurlina, 31, of Bethpage, New York, of helping protesters destroy media camera equipment that may have been worth between $30,000 and $34,000.
In an affidavit supporting the charge that he engaged in physical violence on the Capitol grounds, the FBI alleged that Jurlina tried to set the media equipment on fire. At one point, Jurlina took a cordless microphone and pretended he was reporting a live broadcast from the Capitol. He later kept the microphone as a souvenir, the FBI alleged.
The FBI said Jurlina was caught on a video telling a cameraman who was trying to retrieve his gear, “Yo. Your camera is busted, boy. Your camera is busted.”
Later, Jurlina is heard saying, “Yo. I guess we should loot now, right? This is pretty expensive equipment. I’m thinking maybe I should just grab it up and then go to a pawn shop.”
In the fourth case, authorities accused Gabriel Morgan Brown of Bayville, New York, of stomping on media equipment at the staging area and encouraging others to steal and destroy it.
The FBI said videos captured Brown profanely attacking the mainstream media covering the attack on the Capitol.
“It’s dead, the legacy media is dead,” he said, among other taunts targeting journalists.
Later, the FBI said Brown allegedly grabbed a bullhorn and shouted toward the Capitol, “You stole the Senate from us. You stole the House from us. And now you think you’re going to steal the presidency from us? Let me tell you something — you want to take peaceful revolution away from us? Well, you better prepare for … violent revolution,” he said.