Phone calls to gunman
Carr stayed free by staying invisible
"To call the gas station at the height of the crisis is totally unjustified and unethical," Bob Steele, director of media ethics at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, told the Associated Press. Poynter is a non-profit journalism center that owns the Times.
At WTVT-Ch. 13, protocols prohibit such contact: "We do not call into hostage situations," said general manager David Boylan.
The station did, however, join others in replaying the conversation for viewers and sent its news helicopter jockeying for position above the gas station with five others. At one point it filmed SWAT team members, their rifles aimed, lying in a ditch opposite the store. Should we be showing that? anchor John Wilson asked.
It was later learned that there was no television in the store to show Carr the positioning of the officers.
"My first rule is, do no harm," Richards said. "And if they (police) needed that phone line, we would have lost it very quickly. They can cut in."
"I'm proud of him," said WFLA-AM general manager Dave Reinhart. "First of all, he thought to do it. Then he handled it in a very admirable manner. And I believe he was instrumental in the hostage coming to no harm."
Richards' tone during the talk with Carr was measured and non-threatening. He asked Carr to release the hostage and come out of the building unarmed. About four hours later the woman left the store and Carr fatally shot himself. Carr also killed a Florida Highway Patrol officer and is implicated in the death of his girlfriend's 4-year-old son the same day, officers said.
Tampa police spokesman Steve Cole said officers were "disappointed" by the phone calls to the suspect. Some drive-time DJs took a swipe at the "inappropriate" phone interview, placed by a competing station.
"It is a very sensitive situation," Times executive editor Paul Tash said of a reporter's trying to contact Carr. "Our basic purpose is to get the news and to do that in a way that doesn't interfere with authorities."