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A journalist shot by police while covering the 2020 protests is dying of her injuries

Police prepare to open fire with tear gas and nonlethal rounds on a group of demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd on May 29, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minn.
Scott Olson
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Police prepare to open fire with tear gas and nonlethal rounds on a group of demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd on May 29, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minn.

A journalist who was shot by Minneapolis police while covering 2020 protests over the death of George Floyd is dying of her injuries.

Freelance photojournalist Linda Tirado, 42, entered hospice care in Tennessee earlier this week, the National Press Club announced in a statement.

The organization said it is sending "our love and admiration" to Tirado, as well as funding to support the costs of her care. President Emily Wilkins is "in contact with Linda and working on a way to honor her legacy," it added.

Tirado was 38 in May 2020 when she drove from Nashville, Tenn., to Minneapolis to cover the unrest unfolding after the murder of George Floyd. He died when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes. The city became an epicenter of widespread demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality.

Tirado was covering the protests on the night of May 29 when police officers fired "nonlethal" foam plastic bullets into the crowd. One of them hit her in the eye — even though she was wearing protective goggles and press credentials.

"I was lining up a photo when I felt my face explode," Tirado wrote in an op-ed for NBC News that June. "My goggles came off and my face was suddenly burning and leaking liquid, the gas mixing with the blood. I threw up my arms and started screaming, 'Press, I'm press,' although I'm not sure if anyone could hear me with my breathing apparatus and the general chaos around me."

Tirado permanently lost vision in her left eye, which led to additional complications like dizziness and lack of depth perception.

The National Press Club said it had learned that Tirado also suffered a traumatic brain injury from the blow, and developed dementia as a result.

"While we she has battled, her condition has continued to worsen to the point she is at life's end and receiving palliative care," it wrote.

Writer Noah Berlatsky, a friend of Tirado's, wrote on his Substack that she had been struggling with "short-term memory troubles," adding, "She still has some lucid moments, but they're becoming more infrequent."

Tirado, who won the press club's John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award in 2020, has been unable to work since her injury. She has written about her experience, including slamming the "police state" and political climate under then-president Donald Trump in a 2020 piece in The New Republic.

"I will not regain sight in my left eye. I will need more surgeries," she wrote. "But I have not been crying for my lost vision; rather, it feels as though my body is reacting to what is happening to my country."

Tirado sued the Minneapolis police in June 2020, and in 2022 received $600,000 as part of a broader settlement between the city and people assaulted by police during the protests. (Earlier this year, Minneapolis approved another $950,000 settlement on behalf of journalists hurt or detained by police while covering the protests.)

NPR has reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department for comment.

Most of Tirado's settlement money, the press club said, went toward medical fees. Tirado estimated that her injury would cost some $2.5 million in medical expenses during her lifetime, according to a 2022 profile in Long Lead.

"Linda's husband is doing his best to cover the bills for her care, but they have to support two children as well," the press club added, encouraging its members to send contributions directly to Tirado via Venmo, PayPal or Zelle.

Tirado wrote about "getting ready to die" in a June 13 post on her Substack, in which she said she was "lucky to have been diagnosed early, so that I have time to write another book or at least put all my journals in one place so that if I go sooner than we think I will, someone will be able to read them all and pull out enough words to publish on my behalf."

"But I don't feel lucky, or unlucky," she added. "I feel nothing but joy and peace and pain and fear, all of it all at once so that it bleeds into itself and can only be described as emotion raw and pure and beautiful and perfect, and also fleeting."

An X (formerly Twitter) account belonging to Tirado has tweeted several times since then, including one post on Sunday thanking people for their wishes and urging them to use that energy into "hit up your next local council meeting and give them hell for me."

The next day, in response to one user asking about eventual funeral arrangements, Tirado replied there would be no funeral or need to travel.

Instead, she encouraged people to "blast you some early 80s punk and raise a glass."

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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.
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