A journalist and award-winning filmmaker appears to be the first American killed in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Brent Renaud was filming for Time Studios, which is associated with Time magazine and related media outlets, when he was shot and killed at a checkpoint outside Kyiv Sunday. He was there, Time said in statement, covering the plight of refugees in the conflict.
A reporter for Coffee or Die Magazine in Kyiv was near the checkpoint when Renaud was killed. Jariko Denman, a former Army Ranger, said he was about 800 meters from Renaud at a second checkpoint when an ambulance arrived carrying him. Denman said medics were attempting to revive him. Other foreign journalists said that snipers had shot an American and were targeting journalists, but Denman saw no evidence of hostile fire.
It was unclear who had shot Renaud or why. Kyiv Region Police Chief Andriy Nebytov asserted via Facebook that the journalist was shot by Russian forces while in his car. Nebytov shared photos of Renaud’s passport and a New York Times press badge. Initial reports that he was working for the Times in Ukraine were incorrect, the Times confirmed.
Another American journalist was in the car with Renaud at the time of the attack. Juan Arredondo, a photojournalist and professor at Columbia University, was taken to a hospital. Italian journalist Annalisa Camilli released a video of Arredondo in the hospital, in which he describes Renaud’s shooting.
Arredondo said that he and Renaud were offered a ride by a driver in Irpin, a city on the northwestern outskirts of Kyiv where they had been reporting. At a checkpoint, he said, their vehicle came under fire. According to Coffee or Die’s Denman, the checkpoint was almost certainly run by Ukrainian troops.
“We crossed the checkpoint and they started shooting at us. […] So the driver turned around and they kept shooting,” Arredondo said in the video. “There’s two of us. My friend is Brent Renaud, and he’s been shot and left behind.”
He also said Renaud had been shot through the neck.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a letter of condolence to Renaud’s family.
There was an outpouring of support following the attack and Renaud’s death. Time Studios, Renaud’s employer at the time of his death, released a statement confirming the events.
“We are devastated by the loss of Brent Renaud. As an award-winning filmmaker and journalist, Brent tackled the toughest stories around the world often alongside his brother Craig Renaud,” the statement read. “In recent weeks, Brent was in the region working on a TIME Studios project focused on the global refugee crisis. Our hearts are with all of Brent’s loved ones. It is essential that journalists are able to safely cover this ongoing invasion and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.”
My friend Brent Renaud died today, killed while working as a photojournalist in Ukraine.— Matthew Teague (@MatthewTeague) March 13, 2022
Brent’s work excelled. But his friendship was better: He was humble, kind, gentle. He, almost frustratingly, always wanted to hear about others rather than talk about himself. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/hDxsH09lZX
In a letter to the community, Steve Coll, the dean of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, gave his condolences to Renaud’s family and wished Arredondo, the former student and faculty member, a speedy recovery. Coll said the university’s professors often discuss with students that “it is axiomatic in journalism that when trouble engulfs the world, reporters run toward it, despite the risks they must manage.”
A statement from the US-based Military Reporters & Editors Association said, “Renaud was telling the stories of people who have been under relentless attack since Russia launched a full-scale war on Ukraine in late February. He and other journalists allow the entire world to bear witness to the unfolding nightmare inside Ukraine. Journalists who report from combat zones risk their lives to make sure that victims of war are not treated as nameless statistics.
“This is not the first instance of reporters being fired upon in Ukraine, as a recent video from Sky News has shown.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists also released a statement condemning Renaud’s killing and calling for justice.
Renaud traveled the world — Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Libya, Egypt, Mexico, and more — to share “humanistic” stories through documentary films. In 2014, he and his brother, Craig Renaud, won a Peabody Award for their TV series Last Chance High, which captured the lives and struggles of troubled students at the Moses Montefiore Academy in Chicago.