An Al Jazeera America news crew covering the tension in Ferguson, Missouri was hit with tear gas by police on Wednesday.
— rachel white (@ohhoe) August 14, 2014
The team was reportedly setting up their equipment for a report on the rising tensions when police threw tear gas and fired rubber bullets towards them. Surrounded by a cloud of tear gas, the crew abandoned their cameras and ran to safety.
All three crew members managed to get out unharmed, a spokesperson from Al Jazeera America said.
"Al Jazeera America is stunned by this egregious assault on freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story," the network's Jocelyn Austin said. "We believe that this situation must be investigated along with those involving our colleagues at other media outlets."
Ferguson has become a threatening place for journalists following the protests over the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. Wednesday night, the Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly and the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery were arrested and assaulted while working in a McDonald's nearby. HuffPost's Christine Conetta was also hit with tear gas Wednesday night at a protest in Ferguson.
Other journalists who witnessed the attack on the Al Jazeera America crew tweeted what they saw:
Just saw teargas land right at feet of al-Jazeera America camera crew. They say they were also shot at pic.twitter.com/tbMSlENDlV
— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 14, 2014
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) August 14, 2014
The St. Charles County Sheriff's Department that operates the SWAT team told TheWrap Thursday that they were not responsible for launching the tear gas at the journalists. Lieutenant David Tiefenbrunn said that although he is unaware of which police department is responsible, he does not think it was intentional.
“I'm sure that when they did deploy that, they were unaware that there were media there,” Tiefenbrunn said.
The Sheriff’s Department also assured that despite reports that it wrongly took the news crew's equipment, SWAT Team members were actually helping the journalists to disassemble the equipment and move it to a safer place.
NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect comments made by the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department.