Photojournalist assaulted, threatened with gun by man opposed to BLM protests

By September 23, 2020 No Comments

A man yells at protesters near Mayor Bill Peduto’s Point Breeze home. (Current Photo: Ed Thompson)

By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor

A Pittsburgh Current Contributing photojournalist covering a protest outside the home of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was assaulted and threatened with a firearm by a neighbor, who has shouted racial slurs and threatened to kill protesters both last night and in the past.

Ed Thompson has covered dozens of protests for the Current since June and several in recent weeks outside the mayor’s house on Hastings Street in North Point Breeze. The neighbor, whose identity is unknown did all of these actions in full view of Pittsburgh Police Officers.

Thompson says the protest was going on as usual when the neighbor came down and tried to turn a hose on protesters, even spraying a police officer who intervened (second video).

During this incident, Thompson said he continued to record the man.

“I was doin what I always do,” Thompson says. “All of a sudden he charges me and punched me. He hit my hand and my camera,” Thompson says. Then he walked back toward his house and started throwing rocks at me from his yard.”

Eventually, the man went into his house and came back onto his deck, which is adorned by pro-Trump signs. He had been talking over a microphone to protesters, which was in his left hand. The man told Thompson over the speaker: “Get off my property or I’ll shoot you.”

Thompson replies that he is on the sidewalk. The man tells Thompson to “get off my grass. I’ll shoot your fucking [inaudibe word],” as he pulls the weapon. Thompson begins shouting to nearby police and protesters that the man has a gun.

Here is Thompson’s video of the scene. The man appears to be pulling a gun at about the 45-second mark:

“When he pulled that gun, I immediately imagined him pulling the trigger,” Thompson says. “I thought that was it.”

“What was also strange is that when I yelled ‘gun,’ the officers didn’t even flinch. They didn’t pull their weapons or anything. If that were a Black man who had done that, they would have kicked down the door and brought him out in cuffs, if he would have come out alive at all.”

Another video of the incident:

Thompson said Police didn’t ask him for a description of what happened. They took his name and phone number before asking him to leave the area. Police were going up to the man’s house when Thompson left.

The Current reached out to Pittsburgh Police this morning with several written questions, including asking if the man had been charged and/or arrested. An email reply simply said: “Police are aware of the incident and are investigating.” In a follow-up email a police spokesperson said, “The male actor was questioned on scene and was never “taken” or booked into jail.”

Thompson said it was hard to understand why a man who brandished a handgun and made verbal threats to several people in front of police officers wasn’t arrested. In the first video above when a police officer takes the hose from the man, he yells directly at the officer calling him a “piece of shit” before yelling: “If it was up to me, you’d all be dead.”

“It doesn’t make sense,” Thompson says. “Look at the way police have treated protesters and protest leaders in this city. This is a very real and very dangerous situation. I expected sometime this morning, I would have gotten a call from detectives who were investigating this. But I haven’t heard anything. I worry that at the next protest he’ll escalate the situation further.

“I got out of it alive. But who knows if the next person will be so lucky.”

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