Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Bad day to be a Photojournalist

Tuesday, January 11, 2005. Two lives were taken in a home invasion in Randolph County. It seems that 2 of Randolph County's finest citizens were in a dispute with another guy over the sum of $30. The guys who wanted to collect their $30 told the other over the phone that they were coming to his house and they threatened to kill him. They did. They also killed his friend who just happened to be at the residence.

I was at home in bed as all of this unfolded in the early morning hours. I got the call around 7 that morning to go to the scene.

Arriving on the scene I was confronted by a rather large and unruly man who told me to turn around and get the F off of his F-ing property. I was parked on the side of the state road well back from what I figured was his property so I wasn't too concerned with him at first. I put two and two together pretty quickly, as he continued to cuss me and insist that I leave, that this man was related to one of the dead. I politely told the man that I was there to help with the search for the killers by getting the informatin on the air and that as bad as I know the death of his loved one was painful, a double murder is news. I tried not to say a whole lot to him because I could tell his rage over the death of his step-son would continue to be directed at me. The mother of the dead teen soon joined her husband in yelling at me to leave the area or she would sue me for this or that or the other.

The fact that I wanted footage of their mobile home where a terrible crime had occured, even from the street, was unfathomable for the couple. The man's words soon turned to threats as he told me that if I got out of the car and got a camera out that 'It's on!', meaning that he was going to come after me. He made several other statements, but that one sticks with me the most.

I decided that the best course of action would be to just pull away from this area and get footage from a different location. I attempted to pull forward, but the man stepped into my path and wouldn't let me go. He wanted me to leave, but he wouldn't let me. It was strange. We played a little back and forth tango with me shifting from D to R and him sidestepping to keep me at bay.

I was able to waive a deputy over to my vehicle and she tried to calm the man down, but he was adament that I leave, but the deputies told him that I didn't have to. The deputies asked me to stay in my car while they talked to the man but after they talked to the man they told me to stay in the car and not get the camera out.

The man was still yelling from a distance continueing his threat that if I got the camera out 'it would be on.' I didn't even want to know what 'IT' would be, considering the size of this guy.

I sat unhappily in the car and waited for the live truck and reporter who was on the way even before the confrontation started. When he arrive he was also advised by deputies to stay in the vehicle. He joined me in my news unit and we talked about what we should do and what the ramifications of our actions could be. I kind of figured that if I tried to get out and shoot that this enraged man would probably get to me before a deputy could even stop him.

It wasn't long before scanner traffic indicated that the remaining suspect who was at-large was apprehended. We saw the Sheriff sprint to his vehicle and peel out of the area. We put the newscar in Drive to follow. The StepDad motioned for us to roll our windows down and he said we needed to follow the sheriff. Since he was now being pleasant to us I asked him if he knew the exact location.

He said, 'Yeah, go that way and get on the bypass and (now yelling) KEEP GOING TO F-ING GREENSBORO AND GET YOUR ASSES AWAY FROM US.'

I was stunned. That was quite a little show he put on. We left and tried to follow the sheriff to the scene. We ended up just waiting at the Sheriff's Department for the suspect to show up. Deputies had the suspect in for questioning before we arrived at the Department, so we waited from 10 in the morning until 1:30 in the afternoon for the suspect to be led out of the building and be taken to the jail.

At this point we still needed to go back to the scene and get footage to go in our story. When we got back to the scene, deputies were still there but the family was not. As we gathered a couple of minutes of streetside video, they wrapped up their CSI work and left. We followed suit, but went out to the Freeway View of the Property and gathered a few more shots. While we were shooting from the Freeway we heard a horn honk we looked around to see the Step Dad headed up the other side of the 4 lanes. We had to finish a standup and then we could leave. We would have just enough time before he could get to the exit and get back to our location.

Just as we were pulling away, I was still videotaping, gathering a rolling shot of the scene, you can see in the footage the minivan pull up on the side road on the opposite side of the fence that separates the Freeway from the side road that the murder happened on. The door of the minivan flung open even before the van could stop and the man hollered that he wanted to talk.

Nice words of apology came from his mouth, and we stopped our vehicle and walked up to the fence to talk to the couple. I carried my camera with me, still rolling, and we had a converation with the StepDad and the Mom. The talk with them was very cordial, as they asked us if we taped on their side of the fence. I didn't want to directly answer them, knowing it could set them off. I told them how sorry I was for their loss, and they said they appreciated that. They were telling us that they thought it was too soon for the News to show up and tape at their property and that they would do interviews later if we would leave them alone now.

We talked nice for about 5 minutes exchanging apologies and talking about how this happened. But they still wanted assurance that we weren't goint to use footage of their property on the news. I wasn't ready to lie to them outright and piss them off even more when they saw it on the news.

But when we couldn't offer an absolute promise that their property wouldn't be on the news they ended up transitioning back into the raging parents of a dead kid and began taking their anger out on us again.

The two told us how we were just ambulance chasing vultures and that we just put this stuff on the air to make a buck no matter who it hurt. We tried to assure them that it is certainly more pleasant to shoot stories about the good things people do. They balked at this concept saying that they knew for a fact that only thing that people watched new for was to see the bad stuff liked this. This was in the same breath that they admitted being loyal news junkies. I found this very interesting.

The lady talked of lawsuits and about her family member that is a lawyer. The Man said he didn't need a lawyer, that he would just take care of me personally. He said, "I want a piece of you anyway you little punk.", as he pointed at me and glared with a seriously mad look.

He dared me to come across the fence and I said I didn't need to, and then he dared me to come across the road, and I said again, no need for me to, and then he upped it again to daring me to come in his yard and see what he would do to me. I just smiled and responded that there was no reason for me to do that.

I reached down to punch the record button on my cameara as the talk now became more confrontation than talk. I had forgotten that I already had the thing rolling. So I lost everything after this point.

The reporter and I backed out of the situation as the man continued to threaten to get me, especially if their place was on the news. We got out of this situation shaking and a bit mad, and facing having to do a 5 o'clock live shot from the Sheriff's office and then leave there before the irate parents showed up to kick our asses. Then we were notified about our 6 o'clock Live shot.

I am chalkikng this one up to experience. I would like to charge the guy with threatening me and the Sheriff said he would file charges if he were me, but it would probably just piss the guy off even more and then he would have easy access to my name and address.

I did do a background check on him tonight. He served prison sentences several different times from 1980 to 1988 for Robbery, Assault with a Deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, and other various charges.


Anonymous said...

Wild story...what irritates me the most is that I'm sure most of the people back at your station have no idea what it's like to deal with situations like this, and probably don't care about anything aside from whether or not you're getting the video they want.

Anonymous said...

AE: "Just go get some sound from the neighbors and the family."

PHOTOG/REPORT: "Yeah, that's easier said than done."

Incredible story, never quite been that close to it before. Had a couple of close ones, but that one takes the cake.

-J in Wilmington

Anonymous said...

Good grief!! Your Mom