When Breaking News Breaks 100 Feet From Your Front Door
When you work in the field of journalism you never know when breaking news is going to occur and, in an instant, you have to shift gears and whatever you were doing before he has to go in a different direction. Sometimes it happens when you’re on the job and other times it happens when you are off the clock. But, after you’ve been at this for a while–in my case, I am now entering my 34th year as a TV news cameraman–it gets in your blood and you just know on instinct and automatic to go with it.
A week ago, just a few minutes past midnight into the new day of Sunday, June 4, 2017, I was in my undershorts, getting ready for bed–when the air suddenly roared with six rapid-fire, large caliber gun shots. On instinct I went to the front windows of my house and looked out, hearing the gunning of a car engine, then saw a white SUV go tearing down my street, obviously trying to speed away from whatever just happened.
I have been on enough police and civilian shooting ranges to know very distinctly what 9mm or 45-calibre automatic handguns sound like.
This is the footage that I shot and fed back to KCRA once I got back to my house.
NOTE: I have not included here the long shot footage of the EMTs—Emergency Medical Technicians—wheeling the victim to the EMT ambulance van, since the victim did not survive.
I rushed outside to see if someone might be lying on the ground or pavement. It was dark, but I could not see anyone wounded or injured. Very soon my other neighbors started joining me outside and we were all looking around to see what might have happened. I was starting to think that perhaps someone had just been showing off, firing a pistol into the night sky, hoping that was all that it was.
Then one of my neighbors went up to the corner and pointed down the street and said, “Oh my God, look at all that smoke.” Two blocks down from our street was a grey cloud of smoke rising up from some trees on the side of the road and a crowd of other neighbors was starting to form in the street.
Then I knew that someone had done more than fire their gun into the night sky.
My neighbors started to head down that 24th Street while I turned and started to rush back to my house—I was still only in my underwear and barefoot. Then I saw a Sacramento Police Department squad car coming down 24th Street the street, shooting its searchlight beams around. I waved my arms and flagged him down and told him what we heard and that I had seen a car speeding away down my street. He took my name and information, then went down the street in pursuit.
I dashed back into my house, threw on some pants and shirt and shoes, grabbed my press credentials and my Canon 7D and went back outside.
Once I got back to the corner I saw that the smoke bursting into a rush of flames that was sweeping up into the branches of a tree and police squad cars were pulling up with red lights spinning and sirens wailing and the crowd of neighbors had grown.
I had the 7D on and was setting it to video mode and automatic and started rolling as I was heading up to the scene as squad cars and fire trucks were arriving. It only been minutes and already emergency vehicles were pouring in. A very impressive fast response by emergency vehicles.
I later learned that the victim was a young man of around thirty with four children, who he was raising.
Around 6:30 AM the next morning, I received a text message from KCRA morning reporter Kristen Simoes that she was two blocks away doing live shots at the scene, which was still an active crime investigation scene. I went over and was enlisted into doing a live debrief of what I heard and saw. The first time I had been interviewed live at the scene of a news story. Kind of different being on the other side of things.
Later that day, when out walking my dogs past a street a little further down 24th Street from where the van had crashed through the trunk of a tree, overturned and caught fire . . . there is a gated apartment complex and inside I could see a large group of grieving people. Two women I was passing told me that they were family and friends of the man who had been killed the night before.
I told them that I was very sorry to hear this. They said it was all on Channel 3 News.
“I know,” I told them, “I’m the guy who shot it. I work at KCRA and I live around the corner.”
“You shot that? Oh, bless you, bless you! We love Channel 3. Thank you for being there. That’s the family over there. I know they would love to talk to you.”
I told the women that I did not want to intrude on their grief, but I gave them a handful of my KCRA business cards to give to the family if they would like to call me later and I’d be happy to talk to them about what I saw.
A few days later a young man from the family did call me to ask what I had seen, which I told him, and that rushed out with my camera to document what I could see, which was what we do.
“Bless you. Bless you, man. Thank you for that. Thank you for what you do.”
He told me that the young man had died and that he was an organ donor and that his organs had been harvested to try to save other people who were suffering and in need to continue their lives.
I told him that I was very sorry for his loss, and that if it was any small comfort it was a very noble thing that the young man had done in volunteering to be a donor to help to save the lives of others and that he should be proud of that.
He thanked me for telling him what I could and concluded by saying, “Thank you, man. Keep doing what you’re doing.”