Monday, November 20, 2006

Early Rise=No Photos; Lumix FZ30 Shoot: Murder Suspects

I plan on posting the media clips from today's assignment; the clips right now are stuck in another location, so I'm attempting a direct link, which is a popup script. We'll see if the links to the clips (below) work, meanwhile. If they do, just follow them from here.

Police release details of arrest
Kyneita talks about what happened

My first day (I had hoped) of starting at 7AM in order to begin shooting some footage for the paper's website! The task: Meet with Paul, who works for the state, who cruises through the DC metro area (Maryland side), helping starnded motorists and accident scenes. It was a reshoot of an assignment that had to be postponed from the original shoot intended for last Friday. Calling him on my cell as asked, the call went directly to his voice mail.

Red flag number one.

Perhaps he's in the middle of helping with an emergency scene, I thought. Oh well. I left a message as I started driving south on I-95 to meet him just inside the Capital Beltway at 8am. Traffic crawled by the MD-216 exit near Laurel, but I was happy enough, gloating about the latest win for the home team in NFL football, being doubly happy that the team near Washington had lost again (sorry, 'Skins fans). Reaching the destination with a few minutes to spare, Paul's orange roadside assistance van was nowhere to be found among the parked cars and vans at the Park & Ride. A call to his cell went directly to his voicemail again. Leaving a message, I waited, finally feeling a little impatient after 30 minutes had elapsed with no return call. Since the shoot was for a daily story, I waited some more, firing up my PowerBook to copy some images from a recent shoot onto the desktop.

Finally, I'd had enough. At 9am, I called the picture desk and Jeff said to pull the plug. On the way back to Baltimore, I made a detour to Clarksville to grab a quick photo of a high school athlete of the week, then rolled straight to city police headquarters for some kind of presser. The time wound up being pretty tight as I parked the buggy on the sidewalk across from HQ behind some TV trucks. It was Lumix Day, I figured. Any press conference would be ideal to try shooting some video for the web. Since the accessories - especially the 100GB recording drive -- hadn't come in, I figured I'd use just the FZ30 to capture stills and video during the announcement.

Baltimore Police announce the arrests of 2 children,
charged as adults
in the stabbing death of Nicole
"Nikki" Edmonds, 17.

Five minutes after arrival and the press conference began. The police made an announcement that two suspects - both children - were being detained, charged as adults for the murder of 17-year-old Nicole Edmonds, who had gotten stabbed to death after getting off at a light rail stop with her brother. The two were returning from Anne Arundel County, where they worked until midnight, and I understand that officials have accused at least 4 people of taking part in an ambush in order to take a cell phone. The FZ30 silently captured footage as they gave their accounts of how the boy and girl were found and arrested, and I switched over to the still mode to shoot some frames for print publication after feeling that enough footage had been recorded.

By 11:30am, a CD of the raw clips were taken to Steve, who started editing for a web post. Meanwhile Gus, who had been working on the story took me along as we tried to find the families of the ones accused of the crime. Striking out at our first location, we tried another 2 homes north of downtown. The door opened and then shut for several minutes as we waited outside as those within the home made up their minds. Eventually, we were allowed to come in.

The glum faces told the story as loved ones struggled to cope with the fresh news that someone they knew and loved had been named a murderer by the police. The family opened up slowly as we started to learn more as Kyneita began sharing more about her sister, 16-year-old Lataye.

The toughest part a journalist has is having to document the survivors dealing with the loss of an untimely death. But that's one of the aspects of being a journalist. And Kyneita refused to have her picture taken when I first asked.

Letting the interview continue, I listened to every word, because the job remains to exhaust every possibility to complete the story. Eventually, I asked again, expecting "no" for an answer. And that's when I had to tell her about what we had to go with if "no" was her final answer.

The only thing that anyone would know about her little sister is that Lataye was charged as an adult. The only thing people would see are images of a police mug shot. The only thing that people would hear would be what the police accused her of. Gus pulled out a photocopy of her mugshot, which was a hard dose of reality for them, as each family member wept when they saw an image of someone that they all loved, reduced to the label of an accused murderer.

Kyneita, 19, weighed her options and finally agreed to be photographed.

Kyneita, 19, pauses while talking about her younger
sister, Lataye, 16 following
Lataye's arrest, charged
in connection with Nikki's murder

Responsible journalism means trying to understand the whole story, and not just what any one party says. It was only a day since the boy and girl were charged, but some, like Lataye's family, wanted to let people know that it's not her nature to do the crime that she's been accused of. A big piece of the puzzle is missing, they said, saying that the adults said to have been part of the crime may very well be that big missing piece.

Taking her to a window near the kitchen, the FZ30 silently captured photos as Kyneita pondered about her little sister. Finally as we ended the interview outside, Kyneita shared some of her own thoughts in digital footage that she wanted to say to those who can't grasp why anyone had to be murdered at all.

Returning to the office, I burned another CD with the new footage to add to the short package and I edited the photos of Kyneita and the copies of her sister, who had posed while 12 years old, in images frozen in time as she had pictures taken of her in her cheerleading outfit, proud and outwardly happy and at peace for that moment in her life.
Lataye cheerleading at 12 years old.

As I was about to leave the office for the day, Chuck finally told me what had happened with Paul, the roadside assistance guy that never returned my calls. "It turns out that he was on vacation," Chuck said.

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