Journalist with local ties is shot by federal agents
BRISTOL — On July 26 photojournalist Trip Jennings, whose father and stepmother, Howard Jennings and Sarah Stott, live in Bristol, was shot in the face by federal agents in Portland, Ore.
The Trump administration had sent agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Federal Protective Services to the city in early July — despite loud objections from the local and state officials who did not want them there — to quell demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter.
Before he was shot, Jennings and the protestors he’d been filming were fleeing from the agents, who had detached from the Multnomah County Justice Center they had been guarding and were advancing on them, firing tear gas.
“I walked away swiftly, hands and camera in the air, ducked behind a tree some distance down the block, and turned to see if I was far enough away to be safe,” Jennings wrote in a July 27 Facebook post. “As I turned, I was pelted with what I think were pepper balls. One hit the lens of my gas mask on my left eye. The plastic broke, lacerating my eye, eyelid and cheek.”
Volunteer medics helped Jennings at the scene, but when they tried to drive him to the hospital, federal agents surrounded the car, pointing guns and flashlights, Jennings wrote. Even after Jennings leaned close to the car window, pointing to his bloody face and yelling “hospital,” agents shot the retreating vehicle with impact munitions.
The doctor who treated Jennings at the hospital had to leave the room several times, coughing uncontrollably, so toxic was the pepper spray Jennings was soaked in, and she had to wear a respirator to stitch up his eye.
Near sunrise, as he was leaving the hospital, Jennings said he saw someone else being admitted with the same injury.
A couple of hours later, Jennings reached out to his father and stepmother and told them his story.
The Independent spoke with Howard Jennings by phone on Tuesday — one day after his son had undergone eye surgery.
“We heard from Trip last night,” he said. “He’s much better. The surgery went well. His sight seems to be OK.”
The 38-year-old videographer has worked all over the world and his footage has appeared on National Geographic, PBS and other outlets.
“We’ve been very proud of Trip and have always supported him,” his dad said. Still, “we’re always concerned about his work and the dangers he’s exposed to.”
In a statement he and Stott released on July 27, Jennings blamed his son’s shooting on President Trump.
“Trip was documenting a protest with a message of justice and a claim that Black Lives Matter,” they wrote. “These troops were sending a message that public assembly is wrong, and that the public should not voice their opposition to white supremacy. This occupation of American cities is a pure political stunt by Trump that threatens our democracy.”
The incident has been galvanizing, Howard Jennings told the Independent, and he and Stott are more motivated to speak out about injustices.
At this past Friday’s Peace Vigil on the Bristol town green, they carried a large sign with Trip’s photograph on it. The following day, Howard Jennings spoke at a Statehouse rally against fascism in Montpelier.
“Relating our story has impacted people,” Jennings told the Independent. “Here was a local person whose son was shot. It has made this thing real to them.”
Which federal agents shot Trip Jennings is unclear.
Portland Police Bureau officials told CNN that its officers had not been involved in dispersing crowds on the night of July 25-26.
Both CNN and TheHill.com sought comments on the incident from the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Protective Services (a division of DHS) and the Marshals Service, but officials from those agencies either failed to respond or refused to comment.
CNN did receive a reply from Customs and Border Protection, according to its July 30 report.
“We’re not going to be able to analyze every video of the response in Portland that comes to us and positively or negatively identify if they include our personnel,” CBP spokesperson Stephanie Malin told the network.
Several other documented incidents in Portland have sparked outrage about Trump administration tactics.
On July 11, federal agents shot protestor Donavan La Bella with a projectile, fracturing his skull.
On July 15, armed individuals in camouflage who refused to identify themselves kidnapped protestor Mark Pettibone, drove him to the federal courthouse in an unmarked vehicle, and then, when Pettibone demanded an attorney, released him — without ever telling him why he was arrested.
On July 18, when former Navy officer Chris David approached federal agents and asked them how they could reconcile their tactics with their oath to the Constitution, they beat him with clubs and broke several of his bones.
On July 22 federal agents tear-gassed Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler as he convened a “listening session” with protestors.
On July 27, the day after federal agents shot Trip Jennings, President Trump announced that more federal agents would be sent to the city as reinforcements. A few days later, however, he changed his mind, and ordered the withdrawal of federal agents.
“To everyone who believes that the only people who get hurt at protests are those who have been violent, that’s wrong,” Trip Jennings wrote on Facebook. “To those who think it is only ‘other people’ who are not like you, that is also wrong. I am a professional journalist, a father-to-be, I run a business, I create jobs for other people, I’m a landlord, a neighbor, a friend, and I want to live in a world where black people and all BIPOC feel the freedom I normally do. I hope to help out by telling stories and bearing witness.”
Reach Christopher Ross at email@example.com.