Monday, December 21, 2009

CNN Now Not Quite Sure Plainclothes Officer Drew His Gun -- Despite Photos

At 8:58pm Sunday evening, posted "Police check whether officer drew gun during snowball fight" -- a story where CNN just wasn't sure if the plainclothes officer drew his gun. Here's how it opens:
Washington police were investigating on Sunday whether an off-duty officer drew his gun in the midst of a snowball fight involving a couple hundred people.

The Metropolitan Police Department said video from a local media outlet at the scene Saturday did not show the officer with his weapon drawn. However, authorities have since received "additional images and statements that would seem to support the allegation that the off-duty member did pull a gun," a police statement said.
"Would seem to support the allegation?" Oy.

The CNN story comes more than 29 hours after the images of the detective holding his gun -- and video of him saying he had drawn his gun -- were posted by Washington City Paper. For CNN, it seems, reality isn't reality until the MPD says exactly what reality is.

Oddly enough, the article includes a link to an accompanying CNN video report -- which aired on "CNN Newsroom" during the 10pm hour Saturday evening -- where WJLA's John Gonzalez reported for them in no uncertain terms that the plainclothes officer had drawn his gun ("he jumped out of his truck, with his gun drawn").

By Sunday morning, things got muddled a bit at CNN. From the 6am hour, transcript via Nexis:

MARCIANO: Here's how it went down: Word of the snowball battle spread online. So 200 people gathered. Some carried antiwar signs and were dressed in black with masks, spreading a bit of a message there.

But things took a turn when snowballs starting hitting cars. One hit an SUV with a plainclothes detective inside who reportedly got out of the car and the gun was in his jacket and some of the people saw that. So the crowd -- well, they -- they -- they got a little bit worried.

NGUYEN: Yes, but see, they didn't realize who he was because the police report says there was an armed man at the scene, and that's what that officer was responding to.

Well, a uniformed officer showed up with his gun drawn. But the whole thing was resolved without any shots fired. And despite the panic, police say they did respond in the right way. They didn't arrest anyone.

From a PR standpoint, I have to wonder about MPD's strategy here. Their press release Sunday (still not on their website; available via City Paper) really tries to downplay any wrongdoing. And by doing that, they might be drawing out the story further, rather than putting it to rest by saying clearly that the detective did wrong.

And they're trying to use a straw man: "at this time there is no evidence that they pointed any weapons in the direction of the crowd or at any individuals." Well, but that's not what anyone's saying. But nice try.

More media outlets got on the story by Sunday night (Daily News, WAMU).

Previously: "WashPost Relents on Plainclothes Officer Holding Gun. Turns Out a Post Staffer Had Seen it With Own Eyes." and "WashPost Bit DC Police Claims That Plain-Clothes Officer Never Brandished Gun at Snowfight -- Despite Photos And Admission to Contrary"


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