Chicago police are looking for a man who assaulted and threatened a TV news reporter as she was streaming on Facebook Live from the South Loop on Wednesday evening. It is the third known incident involving TV news crews working in the field in a month.
At about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, a Univision reporter and camera operator were setting up for a live shot from a shopping center in the 1300 block of South Canal when the reporter stepped a few feet away to go on Facebook Live, according to a source with knowledge of the incident.
As she was streaming, a man walked up to her and asked what she was doing. He then tried to grab her phone and grab her, saying, “You know I could kill you,” the source explained.
The reporter ran toward the station’s cameraman, and the assailant left. Neither she nor the camera operator were injured. The source said the entire incident was caught on video, but the live stream has been removed from Facebook.
Chicago police radio transmissions show that a woman flagged down a passing patrol car in the 1200 block of South Canal about 15 minutes after the incident to report that a man asked her in Spanish, Don’t you know I can kill you?”
But the police dispatcher advised the victim to call 311 to file a report since the assault happened 15 minutes earlier.
A Chicago police spokesperson confirmed that a woman filed a report, saying a man threatened her and grabbed her hands until a witness intervened. In keeping with CPD policy, the spokesperson did not identify the victim as a TV news reporter.
Luis Godinez, Vice President of News at Univision, confirmed the incident via email on Friday afternoon.
“I can confirm what is in the police report, while doing a Facebook live in a shopping mall on 1300 South Canal Plaza in the South Loop, a reporter was approach[ed] by a disgruntle[d] man who made threatening remarks,” Godinez wrote. “This was NOT a robbery or an attempted robbery. The reporter and photographer are both safe.”
Godinez confirmed that the station had shared a photo of the suspect with police.
On August 28, a different Univision reporter and a cameraperson were robbed at gunpoint while preparing to file a report about the city’s robbery problem from West Town. And on August 8, an ABC7 videographer was robbed as he prepared to cover a press conference on the West Side.
Raza Siddiqui, president of NABET-CWA Local 41, the union representing TV news camera operators at many Chicago stations, said he met with Univision management on Friday and has been meeting with managers at other stations all week about crew safety. He has more meetings planned for next week.
Siddiqui said he hopes to consult with Chicago police about “best practices” for TV journalists reporting from the field. He is also talking with the union representing Chicago’s television reporters and the union representing videojournalists at WGN-TV and CBS2, two stations not under his union’s umbrella.
Godinez declined to detail the steps Univision is taking to keep its crews safe on Chicago’s streets “due to privacy and protection of our crews.”
However, a source at the station said management is asking editors to consider if it is “vital” to the station’s coverage to have a crew on the street. If being on the scene is not essential to coverage, editors are encouraged to consider having reporters record story intros and closings from the field or file reports from the studio, the source said.
Recent TV news incidents
The ABC7 reporter robbed on August 8 was preparing for a press conference in the 2800 block of West Monroe when two men walked up and asked him for money around 2 p.m.
When he told them he had no money, one of the men tried to take his phone. But the victim pushed the man off and put his phone inside his vehicle, police said. Then he ran from the scene after the man pushed him to the ground.
The second offender broke a window on the victim’s vehicle and took two phones from inside, the CPD spokesperson said. Both offenders ran from the area.
Police said the 45-year-old victim was not injured. CPD classified the case as an attempted strong-arm robbery, theft, simple battery, and criminal damage to a vehicle.
In the more recent crime, a Univision reporter and photojournalist were preparing to do a live shot about an overnight robbery spree when a holdup crew rolled up to them in the 1200 block of North Milwaukee shortly before 5 a.m. on August 28.
The victims, men ages 27 and 42, were standing outside when a black SUV and a gray sedan pulled up. Three men got out of the cars wearing ski masks and displaying guns. They took the victims’ personal belongings, went into their work vehicle, and stole the station’s camera, a source familiar with the crime confirmed.