Update: Minneapolis prosecutors, based on information provided by the police, wrongly identified Lauren Patricia Peterson as the woman who assaulted an Alpha News journalist in August.
According to a document filed Oct. 2 in Hennepin County District Court, the charges against Peterson were dismissed because she “was misidentified as the perpetrator and is not the person who committed the offenses charged.” Some of the language in this article has been updated to reflect this development.
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The woman who assaulted an Alpha News journalist last month allegedly has been identified as 37-year-old Lauren Patricia Peterson, who was charged this week in Hennepin County District Court.
According to a criminal complaint obtained by Alpha News, Peterson faces charges of third-degree rioting, disorderly conduct, and two counts of fifth-degree assault.
Photojournalist Rebecca Brannon, an independent journalist who contributes video and photo stories for Alpha News, was attacked by the person prosecutors identified as Peterson during an Aug. 24 protest in Minneapolis organized in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake.
The suspect and a group of fellow Black Lives Matter agitators stalked Brannon as she walked to her car, shouted profanities at her, and eventually assaulted her.
“As the group moved aggressively toward her, she started backing up because she was afraid of being attacked from behind. Several items were thrown at her, including water bottles. One woman in particular was yelling and screaming at her and at some point picked up a large orange traffic cone and struck her with it and used it to push her back,” the charging document states.
The agitators later stole Brannon’s phone from her and tossed it into a fountain. Although her phone was destroyed, she was able to recover video of the altercation from the phone’s SD card.
The video was viewed more than 2.5 million times on Facebook and produced several tips regarding the suspect’s identity. Police said they confirmed her identity with a driver’s license photo and a picture from Facebook.
“It’s taken me some time to digest what happened nearly a month ago and, unfortunately, since that time we’ve seen numerous other similar encounters and assaults on independent journalists on social media,” said Brannon.
“Over the summer, I’ve been up close to see the anger from these protesters at numerous events. Their anger is real but, I personally believe, sadly misplaced,” she added. “It’s an entirely different situation when it suddenly becomes directed at you. It’s extremely startling and frightening to encounter individuals with a complete lack of self-control and rationality.”
Brannon said it’s not her style to engage with anyone while documenting protests, so she was shocked when the agitators approached her.
“It is best to get up close and document in real time so viewers and readers are given a sense of experiencing it firsthand – they can then draw their own conclusions,” she said. “The most unsettling part is knowing that it could have been worse.”
The charge of third-degree rioting comes with a sentence of up to one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine, while the remaining charges each come with a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.