Texas Station Defends Use of Police Shooting Video

KSAT in San Antonio got their hands on a video showing sheriff's deputies in Bexar County, Texas, shooting and killing a man.

The video it appears to show deputies shooting the man while he has his hands up. The video recorded by a viewer that then in turn sold it to the station.

There is no question that the video raising questions in both the suspect and the police actions before the shooting.

KSAT decided to run the raw video on their website. The Bexar Sheriff's office says that in doing so, they put other cops lives in danger.

The police took to social media to condemn the station for posting the video and urged viewers to email and call the station to complain. 

"Certainly what's in the video is a cause for concern," Bexar County Sheriff Pamerleau said. "But it's important to let the investigation go through its course so we can ensure a thorough and complete review of all that occurred."

So, one would argue that KSAT made the right call in posting the video in what is surely a questionable shooting.

But, with the police taking on the station and saying that they are putting police in danger, KSAT is now answering some of their own tough questions.

KSAT GM Phil Lane is aswering viewer's emails as to why the station made the decision to post the video.

Here is the email that he is sending to viewers that write with concerns: 

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: "Lane, Phil" <plane@ksat.com>
To: ********@*********
Sent: Tuesday, September 1, 2015 4:27 PM
Subject: RE: once-loyal viewer feedback

Ms. ********

After much thoughtful discussion and in the pursuit of true journalistic transparency, KSAT 12 News has decided to provide a full account of -- and insight into -- our decision to publish the video of the shooting death of Gilbert Flores.

We were approached on Friday afternoon by University of the Incarnate Word student Michael Thomas, who claimed to have video showing the altercation between Flores and two Bexar County Sheriff's deputies that lead to Flores' death.

Thomas first reached out to us over Twitter, then sent us a clip verifying that he was, in fact, in possession of the video. Thomas said he was in the area of the shooting making a business delivery when he noticed the deputies chasing Flores and began recording from his car with his cellphone.

Before sharing the video with us, Thomas asked for payment. While most viewers share video with us at no charge, we agreed to pay Thomas a $100 licensing fee for the video. It is not uncommon for news organizations to pay for video from freelancers or citizen journalists. 

We then invited him to our station, where a group of senior newsroom managers viewed his footage. The video, while shot at a distance, is graphic in its depiction of a man's death; however, we felt that it was clear enough to raise the question of whether the fatal shooting was justified.

When we first aired the story on our 10 p.m. newscast Friday, we decided to halt the footage at the moment prior to the shooting, while allowing the audio of the gunfire to continue playing. We felt that broadcasting video of the moment of Flores' death would not allow the viewer enough time to decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to see it.

In following the story that evening, we reached out to the Bexar County Sheriff's Office to inform them of the existence of the footage, and we provided the entire video to them for their review. We also indicated that we were planning on airing it at 10 p.m., and gave them the opportunity to respond to the shooting and address the video.

Sheriff Susan Pamerleau held a press conference at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, stating that the video was "cause for concern," and that deputies tried to use "non-lethal force weapons" before shooting Flores. On Monday, the sheriff's office released the names of the deputies involved and the medical examiner's office confirmed Flores' identity.

People ask the media to be transparent and serve the best interests of the public. We take that responsibility seriously, and commit significant thought and discussion into decisions that affect our viewers.

During our Monday morning editorial meeting, and after much further discussion on how to best serve the community, we decided to publish the full video in its entirety, save for two instances of audible profanity from the photographer which we edited out. We made the choice to make the video available on our website, putting the option to watch the full incident in our viewers' hands.

When weighing whether to share the graphic video or withhold it, this was the option that we feel best serves the community.

Nowhere in our reporting have we editorialized or come to conclusions about whether the deputies were in the right or in the wrong. We're also not under the assumption that the video will tell the entire story. There is no rush to judgment, only an obligation as journalists to share information in the public interest. We believe that judgment should and will come ultimately from the District Attorney's Office and the FBI.

KSAT 12 respects the difficult decisions law enforcement officers are forced to make daily and recognize that they are often put in dangerous and unpredictable situations. At the same time, they are public servants whose actions and behavior are not beyond scrutiny. It is within this context that we chose to publish the video.

KSAT 12 Management

So now you're the News Director and you make the call. Did KSAT handle this the correct way? Would you air or post the video if you had it?

Sometimes TV news is all about judgement calls.