While we interviewed looters, gang-bangers and activists, criminals violently set upon us. Here the story of that chaotic night, and the events that led us to that frantic melee.
I was interviewing a group of rioters who were busy stealing an ATM machine at the intersection of North Fulton Avenue and West North Avenue. They initially agreed to speak with me, if I wouldn’t take any more pictures.
Below, is the last picture Harper was able to take:
— Casey Harper (@CaseyHarper33) April 28, 2015
But some other folks had a different idea, and while I was scribbling frantic notes, I was sucker punched in the face. You can see where the pen trails goes awry on the top line, when they hit me; my blood marks the page:
My nose was broken and I was bleeding uncontrollably as the crowd surrounded me. Disorientated, I tried to get away but it wasn’t until I was able to push through the crowd that my crew of fellow reporters saw me and realized I needed help.
Grae Stafford, our crew leader and TheDC’s photographer, grabbed me when he saw what happened and led me across a street covered in fires, debris, crowds of looters and the twisted metal hulks of burnt-out cars. Harper, my fellow DCNF reporter, and Trey Yingst, a reporter from News 2 Share, were on hand to help.
As Harper used his phone to shine a light on my injuries, a young girl apologized: She and her crew were there only for the ATM — which they tore apart, but couldn’t get a dollar out of – and what they could find from shattered storefronts. But as she approached, violent thugs followed, including the crook who had broken my nose.
They seized Casey’s phone, loudly demanded our cameras and gear. We were being robbed, and the crowd around us was growing and becoming more violent.
I crouched and shined my iPhone’s flashlight onto Wolf’s bloody face as Stafford prepared bandages. Suddenly, a criminal snatched the phone from my hand. My heart sank as I turned to see him disappearing into a dozen masked, frenzied teenage rioters, shouting as they closed in on us.
“Come on, man!” I pleaded with my assailant. I noticed a white man about five yards away, menacingly pounding a hammer in the palm of his hand. He looked high on something violent. A young girl next to me called to him to give it back, when my robber stopped, turned, and started to move toward me again, telling me I had to delete all of my pictures, videos and notes– evidence of the violence he and his friends were visiting on their own neighbors. When he veered off again, seeming unsure of what to do, I turned back to check on Wolf.
Then I was hit: One of the thugs clubbed me across the right side of the head with a full bottle of liquor, fracturing my cheekbone and giving me a concussion. I fell to the ground, stunned and blacking out as my attackers pounced on me. A girl screamed.
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) April 28, 2015
Stafford moved quickly, pushing through the mob, grabbing my sleeve. “Get up!” he barked.
I stumbled to my knees, and he pulled me ahead, guiding me as I staggered through the riot.
As we turned the corner, the mob gave chase. Edgar Sandoval, a reporter from New York Daily News, came over, leading us to his nearby car. We piled in as quickly as we could, speeding off from the intersection police would later tell us was the most dangerous in the city that night. We made it several blocks before we were stopped by a line of police in full riot gear.
We climbed out of the car to assess our injuries. I was bleeding badly, but a delirious Casey looked worse.
The police pointed us toward a safe hospital, where we would spend the night filing photos and videos from our remaining equipment under doctor observation.
That night, the city of Baltimore was dominated by vicious thugs. We had come to find the truth behind the protests, and indeed we had. Before we were faced with a city plunged into anarchy, we met those who sought answers through peaceful demonstrations.
We saw rival gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, together in the hopes of showing the police a message more powerful then violence. Though they were angry, they stood together to show their mistrusts in the justice system. That was the message they wanted the world to know and that was the message that was drowned out by savage violence.
Grae Stafford contributed to this report.