News, Culture & Society

Journalist is left blind in one eye after ‘being shot with a rubber bullet’ at Minneapolis protest 

Linda Tirado, 37, has been left permanently blind in one eye following the protest

A journalist and mother-of-two has been left blind in one eye after being struck by what she believes was a rubber bullet or marking round at a protest in Minneapolis on Friday.

Linda Tirado, 37, from Nashville, was left with life-changing injuries while photographing the rally protesting the death of black man George Floyd.

The freelance writer and author told DailyMail.com: ‘Protesters said police were tear-gassing. I put on my goggles and respirator. 

‘It was pretty chaotic – people were moving in every direction. Then I kind of felt my face explode.’

The mother of two young girls, who had also photographed the protest in the city the night prior, added: ‘I put up my hands and shouted “I’m press, I’m press.”‘

With her eyes filled with blood, protesters ‘acted as my eyes when I couldn’t see past the blood and the swelling’ and got her to hospital.

Tirado shared this photograph of her backpack while she was in hospital. She believes she may have been hit by a marking round. They are reduced power cartridges tipped with soft plastic projectiles that leave a bright mark on the target

Tirado shared this photograph of her backpack while she was in hospital. She believes she may have been hit by a marking round. They are reduced power cartridges tipped with soft plastic projectiles that leave a bright mark on the target

Tirado kept her followers up to date via Twitter. She explained she is permanently blind in one eye but is grateful it's not her 'photography eye'

Tirado kept her followers up to date via Twitter. She explained she is permanently blind in one eye but is grateful it’s not her ‘photography eye’

‘I was in surgery for 20 minutes after that,’ she told DailyMail.com after returning from hospital on Saturday. ‘I woke up this morning with an eye patch on.’

Doctors have told her she is going to be left with scarring on her face and will be permanently blind in one eye – although she hopes in the future she may be able to gain the ability to see light and shadows through the damaged eye.   

It will take around six months for her wounds to heal, but she is grateful she didn’t lose her ‘photography eye so it’s not career-ending’.

She explained that her eyeball actually split in two and it is believed the injury was caused by a rubber bullet or a marking round. 

Marking rounds are reduced power cartridges tipped with soft plastic projectiles that leave a bright mark on the target. Tirado’s bag was left covered with large splotches of fluorescent paint.

She is trying to remain in good spirits despite her prognosis, and is planning to look through her photographs in the next few hours in an attempt to piece together what happened.

Protesters hold their hands in the air during a protest in Minneapolis on Friday over the death of George Floyd

Protesters hold their hands in the air during a protest in Minneapolis on Friday over the death of George Floyd

She explained that her eyeball actually split in two and it is believed the injury was caused by a rubber bullet or a marking round, which also destroyed her goggles

She explained that her eyeball actually split in two and it is believed the injury was caused by a rubber bullet or a marking round, which also destroyed her goggles

‘I am out of hospital!’ she tweeted Saturday afternoon. ‘Still covered in tear gas and blood, kinda pissed that I can’t go get like a steak or a super artery-clogging cheeseburger cause everything is shut down, but there’s a couple beers in the fridge and there’s worse things than a lack of cheese fries. 

Tirado’s ordeal is not the first by a journalist covering the protests.

Black CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez was arrested live on air on Friday morning by Minnesota State Patrol while reporting on the killing of Floyd. 

Jimenez was put in handcuffs and led away from his producers after the team was moved down the street by police in riot gear. 

According to one of his colleagues, the crew was told he was being arrested for refusing to move when he’d been told to but he was heard live on air telling the officers: ‘Put us back to where you want us – wherever you’d want us we’ll go. Just let us know.’ 

Jimenez told them they were live on air with CNN and was put in handcuffs. 

Black CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez was arrested live on air on Friday morning by Minnesota State Patrol while reporting on the killing of Floyd

Black CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez was arrested live on air on Friday morning by Minnesota State Patrol while reporting on the killing of Floyd 

The crew's films kept rolling as Jimenez was led away. The cops said they were arrested for not moving on

The crew’s films kept rolling as Jimenez was led away. The cops said they were arrested for not moving on

He asked: ‘Do you mind telling me why I am under arrest sir? Why am I under arrest sir’ then was led away. 

Two of his colleagues from the same team were also arrested. The trio were put in a police van and were driven to a precinct but were released around 90 minutes later after CNN President Jeff Zucker and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz intervened. 

Minnesota State Police has since claimed on Twitter the crew were released once they ‘confirmed’ they were reporters – which they’d done live on air, minutes before Jimenez was put in handcuffs.  

Also on Friday, Kentucky police shot non-lethal pepper balls at a local TV news reporter and her film crew while they were covering a protest in downtown Louisville.

The incident was captured live on WAVE-TV. Reporter Kaitlin Rust is heard on the air letting out a scream indicating that she had been shot.

Louisville Metro Police Department officer fires a pepper ball toward a television news crew on Friday in downtown Louisville

WAVE-TV reporter Kaitlin Rust reacts to LMPD police shooting pepper balls in her direction

A Louisville Metro Police Department officer (left) fired pepper balls at a local television news reporter, Kaitlin Rust (right), who was covering a protest in downtown Louisville on Friday night

‘I’m getting shot!’ she said.

The news anchor from inside the studio asks Rust if she’s ok, to which she replies: ‘Rubber bullets, rubber bullets.’ 

On Saturday, the full Minnesota National Guard was activated for the first time since World War II after four nights of civil unrest. 

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said the deployment was necessary because outside agitators were using protests over Monday’s death of Floyd to sow chaos and that he expected Saturday night’s demonstrations to be the fiercest so far.

From Minneapolis to several other major cities including New York, Atlanta and Washington, protesters clashed with police late on Friday in a rising tide of anger over the treatment of minorities by law enforcement.

‘We are under assault,’ Walz, a first-term governor elected from Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, told a briefing on Saturday. ‘Order needs to be restored… We will use our full strength of goodness and righteousness to make sure this ends.’

He said he believed a ‘tightly controlled’ group of outsiders, including white supremacists and drug cartel members, were instigating some of the violence in Minnesota’s largest city, but he did not give specific evidence of this when asked by reporters.

As many as 80% of those arrested were from outside the state, Walz said. But detention records show just eight non-Minnesota residents have been booked into the Hennepin County Jail since Tuesday, and it was unclear whether all of them were arrested in connection with the Minneapolis unrest.

Minneapolis: Looting and fires broke out again in Minneapolis as protesters defied the state curfew and the National Guard failed to keep the city under control

Minneapolis: Looting and fires broke out again in Minneapolis as protesters defied the state curfew and the National Guard failed to keep the city under control

The Trump administration suggested civil disturbances were being orchestrated from the political left.

‘In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized and driven by anarchic and left extremist groups – far-left extremist groups… many of whom travel from outside the state to promote violence,’ U.S. Attorney William Barr said in a statement.

In an extraordinary move, the Pentagon said it put military units on a four-hour alert to be ready if requested by Walz to help keep the peace.

Activists staged another round of protests on Saturday in at least a dozen major U.S. cities coast to coast, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta, New York and Atlanta.

In the nation’s capital, hundreds of demonstrators assembled near the Justice Department headquarters, then marched toward the U.S. Capitol, chanting, ‘Black lives matter,’ and ‘I can’t breathe,’ a rallying cry echoing Floyd’s dying words.

Many later ended up near the White House, where they faced off with shield-carrying police, some mounted on horseback.

The streets of Minneapolis were largely quiet during daylight on Saturday, though several National Guard armored personnel carriers were seen rolling through town.

Members of the National Guard hold a perimeter as a fire crew works to put out a fire at a gas station in Minneapolis on Friday

Members of the National Guard hold a perimeter as a fire crew works to put out a fire at a gas station in Minneapolis on Friday

Minneapolis protesters took to the streets for a fourth night on Friday, in defiance of a curfew

Minneapolis protesters took to the streets for a fourth night on Friday, in defiance of a curfew 

On Friday, in defiance of a newly imposed curfew, Minneapolis protesters took to the streets for a fourth night – albeit in smaller numbers than before – despite the announcement hours earlier of murder charges filed against Derek Chauvin, the policeman seen in video footage kneeling on Floyd’s neck.

Three other officers fired from the police department with Chauvin on Tuesday are also under criminal investigation in the case, prosecutors said.

The video of Floyd’s arrest – captured by an onlooker’s cellphone as he repeatedly groaned, ‘please, I can’t breathe’ before becoming motionless – triggered an outpouring of rage that civil rights activists said has long simmered in Minneapolis and cities across the country over persistent racial bias in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Floyd, a Houston native who had worked security for nightclubs, was arrested on suspicion of trying to pass counterfeit money at a store to buy cigarettes on Monday evening. Police said he was unarmed. An employee who called for help had told a police dispatcher that the suspect appeared to be intoxicated.

In a striking coincidence, Floyd and Chauvin had both worked security at the same Latin nightclub in Minneapolis, though it was unlikely they ever interacted, former owner Maya Santamaria, who sold the El Nuevo Rodeo club in January, said.

Santamaria said Floyd worked inside the club on certain nights, supporting other staff with security. She said Chauvin, who worked outside the club as an off-duty cop for 16 years, had a reputation for roughing up customers, but she considered him responsible and a friend.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk