Phoenix CBS affiliate KPHO is being accused of unethical journalism by the Pinal County Sheriff’s department over the way it’s showing video of a deadly police shooting.
In cellphone video shot at the end of a police chase on January 14, a suspect is seen standing at the side of his vehicle surrounded by Pinal County deputies and officers from the Eloy Police Department. Police first shoot the suspect with non-lethal rounds. He then reaches into his car, turns his back to the officers and raises his hands before being shot to death.
In emails obtained by TVSpy between Pinal County Sheriff’s pubic information officer Tim Gaffney and KPHO reporter Morgan Loew about the CBS affiliate’s coverage that began airing January 22, Gaffney tells Loew, “the fact you freeze the video at the exact split second the suspect raises his hands and then delay the sound of the shots being fired, is both unethical and completely misleading.”
Loew tells Gaffney, “It does seem that you are going out of your way to clear your deputy in the shooting before the homicide investigation is complete. ”
>UPDATE: KPHO told TVSpy, “We stand 100 percent behind our reporting of this story. It was accurate and balanced. To our knowledge, we did not alter the video in any way shape or form. We did make an editorial decision not to show footage of the subject dying on screen as to not offend our viewers. But we felt it was important to continue with the audio portion so they could hear that gunshots were fired at the subject while his hands were in the air and back was to the deputy who fired the fatal shots.”
“You have done at least 3 stories now on the deputy involved shooting which occurred on January 14th, 2014,” Gaffney writes in another email exchange on February 12. “I have asked for two corrections already related to the stories and you have agreed and updated the stories after they have already aired for your viewers. Last night you once again did another critical story. The issue I have with the story last night is you continue to alter the cell phone video. Instead of playing it at normal speed so your viewers can see things as they actually occurred, you freeze the video the moment the suspect throws his hands in the air and then you delay with the sounds of the shots being fired.”
Loew replies, “[I]t isn’t our intent to make it seem like the amount of time the officers had to decide whether to shoot lasted longer than it actually did.”
Gaffney sent us a copy of the original cellphone video and we lined it up with the KPHO version that aired January 22. In KPHO’s version we heard the fatal shots 22 frames after they happened on the original video. That means KPHO added a little under a full second of time before the suspect was shot dead.
Loew told TVSpy, “At the end of the day, what we are investigating is an officer-involved shooting that involved a sheriff’s deputy shooting someone who had his hands in the air. I firmly believe that we’ve treated this story with the required accuracy, the depth, and the sensitivity to the family of the man who was killed, our TV viewers and the police agencies involved.”
Gaffney also sent a copy of his email exchange with Loew to Stephen Lacy, CEO of KPHO’s parent company Meredith Corporation.
When asked what Gaffney hopes comes out of this he told us, “My hope is Mr. Lacy with the Meredith Corp. will intervene and take corrective action. If not our next step is to file a complaint with the FCC against their broadcasting license.”
Loew told TVSpy the station thought it was important to show the video because he said it contradicted the Pinal Count Sheriff’s Department version of what happened. Loew said the PCSO hasn’t mentioned in their interviews or their press release that the suspect had his hands in the air when he was shot.
He also said, rather than having an outside independent agency conduct the investigation, the PCSO is investigating the shooting itself.
Loew added, “We believe the decision to freeze the video roughly one second before the shooting was the right decision.”
Here’s a link to the KPHO story. Click here to view.