Brent Renaud, an accomplished filmmaker who journeyed to the world’s darkest and most perilous corners for documentaries that carried audiences to little-known locations of misery, was killed Sunday when Russian soldiers opened fire on his vehicle in Ukraine.
The 50-year-old Little Rock, Arkansas, native was gathering information for a story on refugees when his vehicle was damaged at a checkpoint in Irpin, just outside Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
Renaud and Putzel received an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University journalism prize in 2013 for their documentary “Arming the Mexican Cartels,” which examined how firearms smuggled from the United States fueled chronic drug gang violence in Mexico.
“This man was the absolute greatest,” Putzel said over the phone from New York City to The Associated Press. “He was simply the finest war journalist I’ve ever met.” This is a man who has been to every battle zone.” Ukrainian officials did not immediately provide information about Renaud’s death, but American journalist Juan Arredondo claimed the two were riding in a car approaching the Irpin checkpoint when they were both shot.
Arredondo told Italian journalist Annalisa Camilli from a hospital in Kyiv that Renaud was hit in the neck. Camilli informed the Associated Press that Arredondo had been wounded in the lower back.
“We passed the first bridge in Irpin, we were going to film other refugees fleeing, and we got into a car, someone volunteered to take us to the second bridge, we crossed the checkpoint, and they started firing at us,” Arredondo said in a video interview provided by the Associated Press.
According to a statement from Kyiv regional police, Russian forces opened fire on the automobile. Irpin mayor Oleksandr Markushyn announced hours after Renaud’s shooting that media would be barred admission to the city. In response to Renaud’s killing, the Committee to Protect Journalists, located in New York, called for an immediate end to violence against journalists and other people.
Renaud earned a Peabody Award for “Last Chance High,” an HBO series about a school for at-risk adolescents on Chicago’s West Side, alongside his brother Craig.
Two duPont-Columbia journalism honors and outstanding programs for HBO, NBC, Discovery, PBS, the New York Times, and Vice News are among the brothers’ many accomplishments. Renaud was also a 2019 Nieman Fellow at Harvard and a visiting distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas’ Center for Ethics in Journalism.
Renaud has covered conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the terrible 2011 earthquake in Haiti, political unrest in Egypt and Libya, and radicalism in Africa, among other things. Putzel, who worked with Renaud for 12 years, praised his bravery and devotion.