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TV news crew robbed at gunpoint while reporting on armed robberies

(Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
4 min

As a Chicago TV crew was covering a spike in armed robberies, their reporting took an ironic twist Monday when they were robbed at gunpoint while filming.

A reporter and photographer were about to film a live shot before 5 a.m. in the Wicker Park neighborhood, when a black SUV and a gray sedan pulled up, the Chicago Police Department said in a statement to The Washington Post. Three male suspects left the vehicles “wearing ski masks and displaying firearms” at the TV crew.

The men demanded money from the crew before stealing the camera used to film the story on robberies, as well as two bags of equipment and the photographer’s backpack, Raza Siddiqui, president of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians Local 41, which represents TV photographers in Chicago, said to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The offenders then took the victims’ belongings before returning to the vehicles and fleeing,” Chicago police spokesman Jose Lemus-Cortez told The Post.

While police did not confirm the employment of the victims, Spanish-language TV station Univision Chicago told local media that two of its employees, a 28-year-old man and a 42-year-old man who were not named, were held at gunpoint.

“They were approached with guns and robbed,” Luis Godinez, vice president of news at Univision Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune. Godinez did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning,

No injuries were reported at the scene, police said. No suspects were in custody as of Tuesday morning, and detectives are still investigating the incident.

The robbery of the TV crew comes as Chicago police are investigating a series of at least eight armed robberies and carjackings that unfolded on Sunday night and Monday. Police have not linked any of the incidents, but have said that each case has involved a group of two to four people ambushing the victims.

The rate of homicides in the city is down 8 percent from this time last year, according to data tracked by Chicago police, and the rate of shooting incidents is also down 11 percent compared with August 2022. But there have been more than 6,500 robbery complaints in 2023 as of Sunday, a spike of 23 percent compared with this time last year, police data shows. There have also been more than 19,500 reports of motor vehicle thefts — an increase of 99 percent compared with August 2022.

A spokesperson for Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson (D) did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning. The mayor’s office released a statement Monday saying that the police department’s bureau of patrol and detectives are working together to solve robbery and motor vehicle theft cases, reported WLS-TV, Chicago’s ABC affiliate.

Television news crews across the country have faced increasing threats of violence while on the job in recent years. In August 2015, reporter Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward of CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke were shot and killed while conducting a live TV interview. In 2021, crews in Raleigh, San Francisco and Miami Beach came under attack as they were trying to do their jobs.

TV news crews are increasingly threatened with violence on the job

The Monday incident is the second time in three weeks that a Chicago TV crew has been robbed while covering a story.

On Aug. 8, a photographer with WLS-TV was assaulted and robbed while covering a news conference on Chicago’s West Side. The station reported earlier this month that the photographer was “fine and suffered only minor scrapes,” and that police were investigating.

Godinez told the Tribune that the robbery was mentioned on Univision Chicago’s 5 p.m. broadcast, but the station decided not to make the incident central to its coverage.

“We don’t want to make the story about us, because there were other robberies that occurred within that same period,” he said.

Siddiqui told the Sun-Times that the station and others affiliated with the union are working toward taking additional steps to enhance security for TV crews in the field.

“We want to make sure that we provide a longer-lasting solution that we work not only with management but our members, and make sure that we read some protocols that everyone is happy with and feels can be a workable solution,” Siddiqui said.