Photojournalist Shot in the Eye at Minneapolis Protest: 'They're Targeting Journalists'

Linda Tirado relied on strangers to take her to the hospital after being shot with a rubber bullet

Photojournalist Linda Tirado was aware of the risks when she jumped into her car and drove from her home in Nashville to cover the protests in Minneapolis.

With the coronavirus on her mind, she planned on camping out in her Toyota Prius in an effort to maintain social distancing. Instead, she spent the night in the hospital after she was struck in the left eye with a rubber bullet.

“I was honestly just standing there, trying to decide what shot I was going to take, and it was just a really intense pain in my face, Tirado tells PEOPLE. “And all of a sudden, I felt blood everywhere. I closed my eyes and started wandering in the direction that I thought was away from cops, yelling, ‘I'm press. I'm press.’ And some of the protestors picked me up, put me in a car and took me to the hospital.”

Linda Tirado
Linda Turado. Linda Tirado

It is not uncommon for volunteers to have a medic system set up at protests like those that have erupted across the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

RELATED: George Floyd's Girlfriend Pleads for Peace at Protests, Says Destruction Would 'Devastate' Him

Since Floyd's death, public figures such as Michelle Obama and Beyoncé have spoken out for justice while protestors continue to demonstrate and journalists continue to record history, sometimes at a cost to their safety.

“I think we know that they’re targeting journalists because there's no way any officer would have mistaken me for a protester,” Tirado says, “with my camera out and with my press pass dangling from my neck.”

Linda Tirado
Linda Tirado

As soon as Tirado arrived at the hospital, she was taken to surgery in hopes of saving her eye.

“They said that my eyeball actually nearly exploded. They said it was nearly separated in two, and so they did the surgery trying to put it back together, but there's no chance of restoring vision,” she says. “I might be able to see lights and shadows, but the surgery that they did was more cosmetic than anything.”

She planned on resting for a night, she says, but was determined to get back on the streets of Minneapolis despite her doctor’s orders -- the eye she uses to take photos still works.

“I'm going to keep reporting the story,” she says. “The doctors tell me that they will come and personally find me and hunt me down if I try to go out anymore, but that doesn't mean that the story doesn't get told and I can't work sources on the ground and things like that.”

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