The dead suspect has been identified as 33-year-old Jodon Romero, a multiple felon who led police on an hour-long chase after at firing at cops following the car-jacking.
The fact that Romero killed himself — and Fox aired the suicide on live TV — is unfortunate. The fact that Romero’s kids watched the footage is what makes it tragic.
Our sources in Phoenix, Arizona, confirm to the Voice what’s been reported in local media outlets: Romero’s kids watched their father shoot himself in the head. They didn’t watch it live, but they found the footage on the Internet.
Buzzfeed was the first to publish footage of Fox’s screw up. Buzzfeed’s video was also published by Gawker, the Phoenix New Times — a Voice sister publication — and various other online publications, including us.
Fox’s SNAFU — and its distribution by web-based publications — has sparked a debate over whether police chases should be broadcast live.
Police chases have little-to-no news value — we watch because there’s the possibility that something tragic will happen. Then, when something tragic happens, we act stunned and outraged that it was aired on live TV. But we still watch — every time.
Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini penned a column about Fox’s decision to make a police chase in Phoenix national news.
From Montini’s column:
I know that we as a society are obsessed with technology. I understand that we are even MORE obsessed with the grotesque, macabre and tragic possibilities of “reality” television.
But, come on.
In what universe is a carjacking in Phoenix national news?
That is, unless you’re hoping to capture something just this grotesque.
I’d hoped we’d learned our lesson in 2007, when helicopters from Channel 3 (KTVK) and Channel 15 (KNXV) were covering a police chase when they collided above Steele Indian School Park. Pilot Scott Bowerbank and photographer Jim Cox of Channel 3 and pilot Craig Smith and photographer Rick Krolak of Channel 15 died in the accident.
Maybe this is one of those lessons we’ll never learn.
Common sense and common decency lose to ratings every time.
That said, others have defended the the broad distribution of the video because — in the words of Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan “it is news.” And Farhad Manjoo, of Slate, defended Buzzfeed’s decision to publish the video, tweeting that “I’m with @BuzzFeed. People are talking about a thing on Twitter. Posting stuff people are talking about is what BF does. This is their job.”
We want to know what you think: are police chases “news” worth redistributing on the web once they turn tragic?
Cast your vote below.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 1, 2012