An Intercept reporter is suing the St. Louis County Police Department after he was shot with rubber bullets and arrested while reporting on protests in the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown last August.
The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux is joined in the civil rights suit, filed today in federal court in the Eastern District of Missouri, by three German journalists who were also arrested. They allege that the police department, St. Louis County, and 20 unidentified officers violated their First Amendment rights of freedom of press and freedom of speech, used excessive force against them, and arrested them without probable cause. (The complaint is embedded below.)
On the night of August 18, Ferguson police shot Devereaux and Lukas Hermsmeier, a freelance journalist for several German newspapers, apparently with rubber bullets, handcuffed them with plastic ties for hours, and held them overnight in jail. Devereaux and Hermsmeier say they clearly identified themselves as press when they encountered the police.
“It may sound naive but I never assumed the possibility of police officers shooting at journalists in a manageable situation like this,” Hermsmeier told The Intercept in an emailed statement.
The other two plaintiffs, reporters Frank Herrmann and Ansgar Graw, were arrested the same day while trying to interview and photograph police and protesters. All four journalists were arrested on the charge of “failure to disperse.”
Devereaux wrote about the arrest, and the men he met in the jail, as part of his Ferguson coverage for The Intercept last summer.
“I was exposed to so many stories of everyday people locked in a predatory system of excessive fines and dubious warrants,” Devereaux said. “It’s clear that a lot needs to be done to address the policing crisis in Ferguson and much of St. Louis County.”
“What happened to us last summer was just one example of the kind of overly aggressive and reckless behavior that police in St. Louis County have developed a reputation for,” said Devereaux.
Photo: David Carson/St Louis Post Dispatch/Polaris