A nonprofit organization that supports police agencies has slammed WLOS reporter Emma Wright’s real-time reporting via Twitter of a stand-off last week between Asheville police and a local man. In reaction to the criticism, WLOS issued a statement regarding its policy of reporting in such circumstances, and Wright has reduced the public visibility of her Twitter account.
Asheville police who responded to emergency calls about a man firing a gun in a residential neighborhood near downtown on Friday ended up in a stand-off with the man, who refused to communicate with police. Taking up station on a front porch of a nearby home in the bitter cold, Wright and her photographer began covering the story.
Wright began tweeting what she was seeing. She also reported this:
police just told us suspect is on internet inside house…looking for info about what’s happening outside.
Wright continued posting updates to Twitter, updates that included the fact that police were deploying a robot and that a SWAT team was organizing for a possible assault. The stand-off ended Saturday morning with police peacefully taking a man into custody.
The nonprofit organizations Last Alarm, with more than 15,000 fans, and 53 Hours picked up the incident and posted the following to their Facebook pages (along with the above graphic). 53 Hours, which has more than 8,000 followers, posted:
SEVERAL have asked about the television station’s (WLOS 13) involvement in reporter Emma Wright tweeting the positions, strengths and tactics in real-time of the responding Asheville, NC SWAT team in a standoff with an armed subject on Jan. 2nd-3rd.
The station and her producers were fully aware that she was compromising the mission by publicizing tactical information which was potentially being seen by the subject who had internet access. Wright had even tweeted early-on that she knew the suspect was seeking information about what was going on outside on the net. HER TWEETS EVEN BECAME MORE DETAILED ONCE SHE KNEW THE SUBJECT WAS POSSIBLY SEEING THEM.
So yes, WLOS ABC 13 was complicit and the station was directing viewers towards her reporting during the incident after being advised that this coverage was endangering the SWAT team and even to a greater extent, the public. I know this because I personally made a call myself.
Of course, no amount of ratings is worth the life of a single law enforcement officer and this is why the reporter and the station itself must be held fully accountable.
The 53 Hours group received a response from WLOS, which it posted:
RESPONSE FROM WLOS ABC 13:
“It is not our policy to reveal tactical police information during a standoff situation. It is our position to avoid divulging information that could compromise the tactics or positions of SWAT team members. The tweet in question was removed as soon as station management was made aware of the information. Coverage of this ongoing impasse was important to the community, which was greatly impacted while it was happening. However, the safety of officers, people in the neighborhood and our own reporters and photographers is paramount to the dissemination of any information.” -WLOS ABC 13
Of course this in an utter and complete fabrication and we have the screen captures to prove that these tweets remained after the station was notified. The reporter in question has now set her account to private so they may not be seen.
This station’s licensing needs to be reviewed and advertising support should be pulled. Cover-ups and falsifications will not benefit their cause. As a community who supports law enforcement we need keep the pressure up and put them out of business.
Wright has since changed the status of her Twitter account from public to “protected,” which means that she decides who is allowed to view her tweets. She has about 900 followers.
Here’s a sample of some of Wright’s tweets during the stand-off:
Neighbors say heard shots again this a.m. then police showed up & standoff began
Things have been quiet for past 10 mins. Police not using megaphone to talk to suspect.
Just heard 6 loud bangs coming from house where standoff is happening.
APD talking over megaphone again. Telling suspect he’s under arrest & to open the door.
Thanks to friendly neighbor who is letting us use porch as mobile newsroom.
Armored van & SWAT team in riot gear just went up driveway towards house.
Just heard 4 more loud bangs coming from house. Sounds like more tear gas.
Bomb squad robot back out & headed towards house where standoff is happening.
Sounds like 3 more rounds of tear gas were just fired into house.
Live report on #avlstandoff coming up in about 10 min on @WLOS_13
Another 8 rounds of year gas just fired into home.
Armored SWAT car on the move again.