Detroit officer charged in rubber pellet shooting at protest

The police corporal is accused of firing at three journalists who were covering the protest

By Associated Press

DETROIT — A police corporal accused of shooting three photojournalists with rubber pellets while they covered protests in Detroit against police brutality was charged with felony assault, prosecutors said Monday.

Detroit Police Corporal Daniel Debono, 32, faces multiple counts of felonious assault for allegedly firing rubber pellets at the three photojournalists during a May protest, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said.

Protesters march on the MacArthur Bridge during a rally in Detroit, Friday, June 5, 2020 over the death of George Floyd.
Protesters march on the MacArthur Bridge during a rally in Detroit, Friday, June 5, 2020 over the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Shortly after midnight on May 31 in downtown Detroit, photojournalist Nicole Hester, 30, and two independent photojournalists, Seth Herald, 28, and Matthew Hatcher, 29, encountered Debono and two other officers.

Each of the photojournalists was wearing press credentials, identified themselves as news media and raised their hands as they asked to cross the street, Worthy said. Debono, dressed in riot gear, struck all three with rubber pellets that inflicted bruises and other injuries.

“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,” Worthy said. “There are simply no explicable reasons why the alleged actions of this officer were taken.”

The photojournalists were covering the protest in downtown Detroit, which was sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Most of the protesters at the time had already dispersed from the area in downtown Detroit where the photojournalists were shot.

Floyd, who was Black and handcuffed, died after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly 8 minutes even as Floyd begged for air and eventually stopped moving.

Detroit Police Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood said Monday in an email to The Associated Press that an investigation was “immediately launched” after the department learned about the incident, and Police Chief James Craig suspended the officer.

“It’s important that we do not paint an entire organization with a broad brush,” Kirkwood said. “The actions of this officer should not reflect the vast majority of the men and women who have been working and responded to the protest appropriately for the last (eight) weeks.”

The Associated Press left an email Monday afternoon seeking comment from the Detroit Police Officers Association union.

No arraignment date for Debono was listed in court records as of Monday.

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