An Indianapolis television station, under fire for giving a media platform to the family of a man suspected of killing a police officer, is defending its actions as being part of a “balanced” covered of “both sides of the story.”
“We have received numerous comments about a story we covered on Sunday involving the family of Major Davis Jr., the accused killer of Officer Renn,” wrote WISH-TV News Director Steve Bray.
“As a news organization, we provide balanced coverage and both sides of the story. Our obligation to you is to cover every angle of a story. That obligation unfortunately, at times, includes uncomfortable subjects or comments that are difficult to hear, or even make you angry.”
The story in question was an interview with family members of Davis. He’s suspected of shooting and killing Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Perry Renn.
The officer died in a shootout allegedly with Davis, who had a long arrest record including charges involving cocaine possession and dealing, marijuana dealing and others.
The station reported Renn and another officer responded to reports of shots being fired late Sunday night, and found two suspects in an alley. The suspect refused to cooperate with officers and walked away. When the officers caught up with him, they found he was armed and the suspect fired, hitting Renn, according to reports.
The controversy erupted, however, when the station carried an interview with several members of Davis’ family.
“You don’t know what he been through with IPD. We do. He’s scarred for life,” said Pam Moornan, who is grandmother to Davis’ children, defending the suspect.
The report noted the suspect’s father had been arrested multiple times, and eventually died of a heart attack while in police custody.
“He wasn’t a bad person, and his father was killed by IPD, and that is enough to hurt a person or scar them for life,” Moornan said. “I imagine he figured they was going to try to kill him. I mean, ’cause look what they did to his father.”
An aunt, Yvonne Moornan, heard shots and suddenly saw “everybody running in the house, and everybody just hit the floor.”
Continued Pam Noornan, “Davis was not a bad person in spite of what happened. Things happen. … I just don’t think it’s fair for them to keep dragging him through the mud.”
The reporter said the family believes the “tragedy would have been avoided if the officer had stayed in his car, since he could see the suspect had a gun.”
The interview with the family:
What followed was a flood of comments blasting the family for its defense of a suspect in a cop killing. And comments about the station’s decision to publicize the statements.
“Kudos to the reporter for being able to tell that story with a straight face and NOT laugh at the idiotic woman she was interviewing,” wrote one commenter.
“The real crime is a news agency giving air time to this BS! WHY???” wrote Cindy Stupavsky. “Why not report the facts and not try to sway the public to sympathize with a cold-blooded murderer? There was no mention of the tragedy the officers’ family is dealing with! A police officer was MURDERED trying to keep others safe!”
Added Ginger Rowland, “This interview aired on Sunday, the same day as the shooting. What a slap in the face to Officer Renn’s family, the IMPD and police officers everywhere. I no longer watch this station …”
Said Adam Forker, “Scr-w this station for giving this family TOO MUCH SPACE in this ordeal, we should have heard from the officer’s family members and other members from the community to get a FAIR report …”
Added Jeff Burger, “Why does a news station even give a voice to these people for this trash? This kid was a thug, his father was a thug …”
Bray said his organization was trying to “get the answer to ‘why someone would do this?’ We wanted to give insight into the mind of the people/family who were involved so there was some context and exposure for you into this world.”
He continued, “For some, maybe it’s a world you are already familiar with; for others it may be something you cannot even comprehend. It was difficult for many of us to watch and understand – mostly for the reporter who did the story. Her father is a veteran of IMPD.”
Police Chief Rick Hite said the department was “not going to demonize a grieving mother or family, but we understand that we may beg to differ in terms of the outcome. … The question becomes, what did we know about (Davis)? His behavior, his skill sets. Of whether or not there are mental health challenges – we know that, we’ve heard there were some substance abuse issues. … The question is, did we as a family or community fail him?”
Public safety director Troy Riggs noted that the question was who else might have been killed had not Renn engaged the shooter.
“Because he was in the way that night, he served this community well. And I don’t want anything or anyone’s comments to tarnish what he did for this community,” he said.