Advance Notice: Briefs

Charges dropped against Detroit cop accused of shooting journalists with rubber bullets

By: - October 28, 2021 8:08 am

Detroit protest of George Floyd’s killing, May 29, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

A judge dismissed charges Tuesday against a Detroit cop who was accused of firing rubber bullets at three photojournalists during protests over police brutality in May 2020.

Corp. Daniel Debono was charged with three felony counts of felonious assault for allegedly shooting rubber bullets at MLive’s Nicole Hester and independent journalists Seth Herald and Matthew Hatcher, while they were crossing the street in downtown Detroit. Hester suffered injuries to her face, neck, arms and legs; Herald’s wrist was injured; and Hatcher had bruises on his face.

Following a preliminary examination Tuesday, 36th District Judge Roberta Archer dismissed the charges, citing a state statute that “grants immunity to any officer where an unlawful assembly is declared.”

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is considering an appeal, arguing the statute does not apply because the journalists were not protesting, and the rally had finished by the time of the assault.

“The evidence shows that these three journalists were leaving the protest area and that there was almost no one else on the street where they were,” Prosecutor Kym Worthy says in a statement in July 2020. “They were a threat to no one. There are simply no explicable reasons why the alleged actions of this officer were taken.”

Protests broke out in late May following the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. While covering the protests, reporters in Detroit were arrested, assaulted, and antagonized by overzealous police. Cops also shoved reporters and fired tear gas and flash-bang grenades at journalists.

This story first ran in the Detroit Metro Times. Subscribe to our newsletters, and follow us on Google News, Apple News, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit.

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Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist with the Detroit Metro Times. He operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker, Neavling was a five-year veteran of the Detroit Free Press, covering Detroit’s city hall.