Monthly Archives: January 2013

Suspicion in Adams County – No Transparency & No Accountability

Anytime police fatally shoot someone, it’s a horrible situation.   

Such cases should be as transparent as possible so the public knows how the suspect acted and if lethal force was justified.    

But the Adams County Sheriff’s Office is dismissing transparency and ignoring public disclosure laws by refusing to release the name of a man who was fatally shot this week during a suspected DUI stop. 

We were told by a department spokesperson the man’s family requested his name not be released. 

If this is true, I certainly recognize and acknowledge the family’s grief.    It must be a horrible situation for them and of course they wouldn’t want their love one’s name all over the news.   Who would?

However one family’s wishes are not above the law and neither is the Adams County Sheriff’s Department.   I hope that doesn’t sound callous. 

While the shooting may be justified, not releasing the man’s name breeds an extraordinary amount of suspicion.

Was this man related to someone in the Sheriff’s department? 

Does the family have political connections?   

Why is the department treating this case differently?

Did the family really make this request to the department?

Transparency laws exist for a reason so reporters like me can gather information to hold agencies accountable for their actions.   

The man’s name is needed to research autopsy records and his background.   

Perhaps he was an upstanding citizen who never had any sort of trouble with police the past. 

Who knows?  

When an agency blatantly ignores these laws with arbitrary decisions like this, there is an inherent problem. 

Everyone should be treated the same and for some reason Adams County is making a highly suspicious exception. 

Do you like your name?

What you’re about to read is going to sound like it was ripped from the pages of a $4.99 self-help book found in the clearance bin at Barnes and Noble.

Excuse the cheesiness.

By the way, I could totally go for some cheese right now.  The good kind on nachos that gets kinda hard after awhile but is still delicious.  But not the horrible stuff you buy in blocks found at some organic grocery store.

I’m 33.  Is it still acceptable for me to eat string cheese by peeling it like a banana?

Anyway….

I was really impressed with this guy I met weeks ago before Christmas.   His name is James Holmes and he is sticking by his name, despite some inconveniences he’s had to deal with since the theater shooting.

His story made me think about self-identity and how we see ourselves as people through our names.

Our names were given to us, without our input, by our parents.   I guess if they did ask us in the beginning, we’d have a bunch of Goo-Goo Smiths and Gaggahhahawaaaaah Andersons running around.   Hahahaha!!  Jojola sounds good.

I’m actualy named somewhat after Jeremiah Johnson (Jeremy Jon), the mountain man.   I think that’s pretty awesome if you ask me.  I would be a horrible mountain man, though.  I like the conveniences of toilet paper .  And warm socks.   Not dying of hypothermia is cool too.

When we say or hear someone’s name, we may think of their physical image, but who they are often comes with the mental connection.

Like when I hear the name Mister Rogers, I think….nice dude in a sweater.

Lance Armstrong….cheater on a bike.

If only we could really know what perceptions people have of us when they mention our name during discussions or when they write Christmas cards.

Our name grows with us and it’s used by people who love us and sometimes by people who may detest our existence.

You can’t control who uses your name and how they use it.   If they trash it, that’s cool.  Their mental waste bin is likely full and they have their own problems with garbage.

Gossip is the junk food of conversation.  Let them have their fill.

But do YOU like your name?

If you do, I bet you’re doing okay.

Reporting on mass shootings – How far should we go?

A father of one of the theater shooting victims is challenging the media not to say the suspect’s name in an effort to curb copy-cat crimes and notoriety.

He believes media coverage can motivate more mass-shootings.

He named this challenge after his son, Alex Teves.   (See the challenge here.)

We have received feedback at 9NEWS asking us to avoid saying the suspect’s name and to avoid showing his image as much as possible.

In my opinion, this is a sensible request.

I have tried my best to avoid saying the suspect’s name and showing his image as much as possible over the last several weeks when talking about the criminal case.

We must be sensitive to the requests of the victims and their request just makes sense to a point.

On the flip side….

We journalists have a duty to the truth, even if people find the truth offensive.

Often people blame the media for a lot of things and we reporters become the target of a hateful emails and phone calls when we report on tragedies and horrible events like the theater shooting.

Reporting on horrible incidents like this is NOT fun for many of us because what we do is seen as superficial and plastic. We get hateful looks and receive a lot of contempt.

Out all the noise, sometimes we can add perspective about things like loopholes in laws, lack of government services and taboo issues like mental illness.

Sometimes we can rally a community together and call for donations and support.

Sometimes we find problems and they get fixed.

Unfortunately, it’s unavoidable to put a face to these problems and that’s where reporting facts and names can often offend many.

There is a thin line in reporting the news and sanitizing copy out of fear you will alienate your audience and offend those who have already been hurt by a tragedy. I struggle with this daily hoping to serve our viewership respectfully.

I want your honest opinion. How far should we go with this challenge? I think it’s an interesting idea. And please…in the comments section…..go easy.

The Second Day

The Two 911 Tapes

These were difficult.

The first one was 27 seconds long.   We could hear about 30 gun shots (by one detective’s count) in the background.   That’s around one per second.   It conjured a chaotic, horrific scene.

The second 911 tape was the most difficult.  Complete desperation as a 14-year-old girl pleaded for help as she was checking the pulse of her two fatally wounded cousins.  Describing the fear and despair is a lost task.

There must be many victims from that theater who have no physical wounds.

The Apartment, Guns & Ammo, and the Planning

From the massive amounts of ammo purchases beginning in May to the sophistication of home-made explosives in the apartment, it is apparent there was long-term planning with intricate, methodical detail that occurred for months.

At this point, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the people around the suspect, from his family, friends and fellow students, knew about what was happening in secret.

The fact the suspect was described as methodical may be hard for his defense team to reach the state established threshold of insanity, if they take that road.

However, Dr. Max Wachtel, a criminal forensic psychologist, did tell me once during an interview there are mental conditions that allow people to function in reality while lost in their own conceived “comic book” world.

There are many people who believe, including some victims, that the suspect is faking his mental illness.