NBC15 photojournalist, reporter attacked live on-air during morning show

NBC15 journalist Amelia Jones reacts as a suspect grabs the camera being held by photographer...
NBC15 journalist Amelia Jones reacts as a suspect grabs the camera being held by photographer Curt Lenz during a live shot on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (WMTV/Amelia Jones)(NBC15)
Published: Jun. 2, 2020 at 11:15 AM CDT
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A frightening moment early Tuesday morning as a NBC15 News reporter and photojournalist were attacked on-air just as their live shot was just getting under way.

NBC15’s Amelia Jones and Curt Lenz are okay, if shaken, following the confrontation, which began right around 5 a.m., just as they started giving viewers a glimpse of the damage caused during the third night of confrontations between demonstrators and law enforcement.

For people at home, just as Jones started talking the viewers saw the camera tilt then swing around to see a man on a bicycle marching toward the camera. While the newscast cutaway at that moment, the suspect grabbed the camera lens and started swinging it around before getting back on his bicycle and leaving.

Within seconds, Madison Police officers were there. After getting statements from Jones and Lenz, they were able to locate the suspect, who was identified as Michael Campbell and take him into custody. The 40-year-old Campbell has since been booked into the Dane County jail on counts of battery, disorderly conduct, resisting, and a probation violation.

Jones later explained their interactions with the suspect began minutes before their live shot. While at a 7-Eleven across the street from where the incident occurred, Lenz was recording people taking items that had apparently been left behind by looters. The suspect, who was not among those grabbing items from the store, told Lenz did not want to be on camera.

“This is a phone call you don’t want to get in the morning,” Don Vesely, VP/General Manager of WMTV, said in a statement about the incident.

“I am thankful that both Amelia and Curt were okay after this confrontation and assault," he continued. "They are incredibly talented journalists, and demonstrated their courage and conviction by providing additional news coverage for the next 2-hours.”

The incident came the morning after violence broke out again on State Street. After protestors who demonstrated peacefully well into the night – and hours past the 9:30 p.m. curfew – started to disperse, confrontations started after 1 a.m. That’s when, according MPD, large groups began moving down State Street, officers in riot gear responded to quell the violence.

Fifteen people were arrested for allegedly being involved in violence, looting, and property damage.

The entire team at WMTV NBC15 takes great care to report responsibly and ensure our stories reflect the many voices in our community.

In recent weeks, there's been several violent and unprovoked attacks on journalists around the country.

"This is unprecedented. This is something that has not happened in such a visible, overt, frequent, systemic way in the history of the U.S. There's always been violence against journalists, but never to this degree -- this level, this frequency -- as we're seeing in this moment," said Dan Shelley, executive director of the Radio, Television, Digital, News Association. The RTDNA defends First Amendment rights, advocates for responsible journalism, and is the world's largest professional organization for journalists.

"Journalists are covering these incidents of civil unrest to be the eyes and the ears of the general public. We're covering these stories so the general public doesn't have to go to these protests and civil unrest in order to know not only what's going on with the protest but what law enforcement are doing in the citizen's name," Shelley said.

The work being done by journalists, including WMTV NBC15 staff, is constitutionally protected in the same way the right to protest peacefully is protected, Shelley said. Our role is to keep you -- our viewers -- informed, and to record and write the first draft of history.