Consuming Journalism: Los Angeles sheriff's deputies shoot and kill man
This post is about the preliminary coverage of a fatal shooting of a black man (some articles identify him as Dijon Kizzee) in Los Angeles by L.A. sheriff's deputies. I saw that both the L.A. Times and Fox News covered the shooting, so I decided to compare them. The shooting was yesterday, 31 August 2020. That means it will be a while before all the details come out. (Mental health is a fragile thing these days. If you're struggling with the news cycle, skip this post and read a more informative look at this man's death in your paper of choice.)
As usual, I'm looking at Who What Where Why When How.
My biases. I suspect that the L.A. Times coverage will be more extensive. It's local, and it's a newspaper vs. a media television behemoth with short, fast online articles. I also believe that Fox News is biased in favor of law enforcement, so I need to keep my biases in mind.
L.A. Times article by Matthew Ormseth.
Fatal shooting of Black man by L.A. sheriff’s deputies sparks protests, questions
Ormseth covers the basic details in the opening paragraph.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies on Monday shot and killed a Black man in an incident that is sparking concern and outrage in the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Westmont.
The man who was shot and killed remains unidentified throughout the article. Ormseth points out that neither the sheriff's office nor the police released the identity of the man.
What happened and why? Here we're relying primarily on the sheriff's account.
Sheriff’s Lt. Brandon Dean said Monday evening that two deputies from the South Los Angeles station were driving on Budlong Avenue when they spotted a man riding his bicycle in violation of vehicle codes. Dean said he didn’t know which vehicle codes the man allegedly broke.
According to Dean, the incident started when two deputies "spotted a man riding his bicycle in violation of vehicle codes." Dean did not elaborate on the vehicle codes.
How and why does an unspecified violation of vehicle codes lead to the fatal shooting of a person? The article provides Dean's account.
When the deputies attempted to contact the man, he dropped the bicycle and ran north on Budlong for one block with deputies in pursuit, Dean said. In the 1200 block of West 109th Place, deputies again tried to make contact with the man, and he punched one of them in the face, Dean said.
In doing so, the man dropped a bundle of clothing he had been carrying. The deputies spotted a black handgun in the bundle, Dean said, and both opened fire, killing the man.
Let me see if I can recap. According to Dean, the man dropped the bike and fled. The officers pursued the man, who was carrying a bundle of clothing. The police caught up to the man. The man punched one of the officers and dropped the bundle of clothing. The deputies saw a handgun in the dropped bundle. The deputies shot and killed the man.
Ormseth's article then turns to witnesses, who are able to provide fragments of information and observations, many of which lead to questions.
When Arlander Givens, 68, saw the cruisers streaming by his home on West 109th Place, he knew by the number of cars that someone had been shot by law enforcement.
Givens questioned why the deputies opened fire, if as a sheriff’s official has said, the man wasn’t holding a weapon.
“If he reached down to grab it, that’s different,” Givens said. “But if it’s on the ground, why shoot? That means he was unarmed.”
The article ends by mentioning the next steps in the investigation.
The article on the Fox News site is by Joe Tacopino and carries a New York Post byline.
Protests erupt in Southern Los Angeles after Black man killed by deputies, report says
Tacopino's article focuses first on the protests related to the fatal shooting. I'm not implying an editorial bias or decision there. The New York Post may have covered the shooting somewhere else, and Tacopino's assignment may have been the ensuing protests.
Tacopino cites CBSLA in relaying details about the shooting.
A demonstration took place at the scene of the shooting earlier on Monday afternoon when sheriff’s deputies opened fire on a suspect during a foot chase in the area of Westmont, according to CBSLA.
The man who was killed, identified by a local Black Lives Matters group as Dijon Kizzee, was riding his bike when the deputies tried to stop him for “code violations related to his bike riding.”
Tacopino's wording about the chase and the events just before the shooting gets a little ambiguous. (I've added the bold/emphasis.)
The sheriff’s department said the man fled the scene and a fight ensued when the deputies caught up to him.
The man allegedly punched a cop in the face, dropping the clothes he was holding along with the firearm.
In Tacopino's description, it's not explicitly clear if the man was holding the firearm or if the firearm was mixed in with the clothes. If you read this before the L.A. Times article, how would you imagine the scene?
Tacopino expands on the details in subsequent paragraphs, following a large 2015 stock photo of a sheriff's vehicle in Hollywood. (I've added the bold.)
The deputies then opened fire, striking the man. He was declared dead at the scene. The sheriff’s department said a handgun was recovered at the scene.
“Our suspect was holding some items of clothing in his hands, punched one of the officers in the face and then dropped the items in his hands,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Brandon Dean said at a press conference.
“The deputies noticed that inside the clothing items he dropped was a black semiautomatic handgun. At which time a deputy-involved shooting occurred.”
I read the CBSLA account. Here's the headline.
Large Crowd Gathers In South LA After LASD Deputies Shoot, Kill Black Man Who Allegedly ‘Produced A Handgun’
The headline uses the phrase 'produced a handgun'. I searched on 'produced' and didn't see it in the body of the article.
Both Ormseth's and Tacopino's articles cover the basics, but Tacopino's "dropping the clothes he was holding along with the firearm" wording is ambiguous. Tacopino also uses the word handgun several times before explaining that the handgun was inside the dropped clothing items.
I listened to Dean's statement to the press at KTLA. Careful choice in wording. They've been here before. They've laid the foundation for the possibility that the deputies believed the man intended to use the firearm.
...he was in possession of a firearm and did assault a deputy...
Dean cautions that it is early in the investigation, and that it is too early to draw conclusions. Despite that cautionary note, he slipped in some interesting speculation.
...to see exactly what happened and transpired during the deputy-involved shooting, but if this individual was reaching for a semi-automatic handgun, I would suggest that you know they that's probably why deadly force was employed.
Later in KTLA's video (I don't know how they sequenced the different cuts).
...as far as the 20 rounds in the back I think that is inaccurate at this point...but again we still have to conduct our scene investigation.
Over the next few weeks we can expect to see a slow roll-out of videos. If the man who was killed had any previous interactions with police, descriptions of those interactions will be leaked.