A former Cougar News reporter and College of the Canyons student was arrested in Kentucky Wednesday night while covering the Louisville protests that erupted after a grand jury’s decision not to issue a murder indictment against the officers in the Breonna Taylor case.
Jorge Ventura, originally from Palmdale, previously worked with COC’s Cougar News and had been one of its representatives for the SCVTV 2018 Education Forums. He was arrested soon after the protests broke out Wednesday afternoon.
Ventura arrived in Louisville on Tuesday evening to cover the events that would unfold for his employer, the Daily Caller, he said. By 11 p.m. Wednesday, he had been arrested and informed that, despite being a member of the press, he would be processed and charged in the same way as the protesters who had been arrested, he said.
“For us, it’s later in the night, and we know these things can get hectic,” Ventura said over a phone call with The Signal on Thursday. “So, you just want to be there to document it, to be able to show people, ‘Hey, this is what is happening.’”
Earlier in the day, Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that one law enforcement officer, Brett Hankison, would be charged for his alleged involvement in the incident that led to Taylor’s death. The former Louisville Metropolitan Police Department officer is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into apartments next to Taylor’s home.
Along with Hankison, two other Louisville police officers, Sgt. Jon Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, fired rounds into Taylor’s home March 13, with a total of 32 rounds being shot, Cameron said.
Mattingly and Cosgrove would not be charged, according to Cameron, due to the grand jury finding their actions did not warrant charges when they shot and killed Taylor in her apartment.
“There is no doubt this a gut-wrenching, emotional case, and the pain that many people are feeling is understandable,” Cameron said, later adding, “I think it is worth repeating again that our investigation found that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their use of force.”
Law enforcement personnel have said Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was in the home that night and fired upon police first while they were executing the search warrant, injuring Mattingly. Cameron said this week the evidence shows that, although the warrant was authorized to be a “no-knock” warrant, the officers did in fact knock and announce their presence as police, but received no response.
Walker has disputed law enforcement’s version of the chain of events that led to Taylor being shot six times and ultimately killed.
After news broke of the decision, protesters took to the streets while chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “Say her name.”
“We followed the march and then there was a police standoff line, so you had police in riot gear just holding the line,” said Ventura. “And then, when the crowd confronted the police line, that’s when the police moved in.”
Throughout the day, Ventura published videos and testimonials via his social media accounts of what the scene on the ground in Louisville was, showing clashes between protesters and the police, interviews with those who were demonstrating and the chaos that was befalling the city.
At approximately 9:30 p.m., Ventura was one of the first to report that two officers had been shot while responding to a call of shots fired in a public space. A 72-hour curfew had also been enacted by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer beginning at 9 p.m., and Ventura said he knew about the order, but said his job as a journalist, as well as the situation he was in, propelled him and his colleague, Shelby Talcott, to stay.
“We want to show the full story and show what goes on on both sides,” said Ventura. “The good and the bad.”
Ventura said he and his colleague were trapped, with police lines on both sides of them, cutting off any exit. Around 11 p.m., officers told Ventura and Talcott to get on the ground.
Ventura said he didn’t have his press identification around his neck, but had a press stamp on his bulletproof vest and he identified himself as a member of the media. Despite this, he was booked and put into a holding cell until 1 p.m. local time Thursday. He has been charged, he says, with two misdemeanor counts: breaking curfew and unlawful assembly.
Talcott was released at 5 p.m. Thursday, 16 hours after having been taken into custody.
Coming to Ventura and Talcott’s defense were their fellow reporters and even Ventura’s Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Ingersoll, who took to Twitter in support of his staff.
“I’ve now notified @LMPD that both @shelbytalcott and @VenturaReport were reporting for an accredited media outlet and were operating in the capacity of press,” said Ingersoll. “My expectation is that they will be swiftly released.”
Despite the arrest, and his colleague remaining in custody for most of Thursday, Ventura said he was planning to return to Jefferson Square Park Thursday night to continue his coverage.
Demonstrations in Louisville, as well as around the country, continued Thursday.