March 9, 2009

About that driver...

One thing I've always hated as a reporter is knowing something that I can't tell readers about.
Today, it seems, I'm cursed with that problem.
With a little help from a friend who doesn't work for the city, I learned who was driving the truck that struck and killed 14-year-old Henry Waye last week. Some records I looked at today made me feel quite comfortable that I'm looking at the right guy.
I knocked on doors, but the only two people I spoke with who live near him told me they didn't know anything. One of them was probably telling me the truth. The other, well, I can understand the reluctance to get involved.
So I went to the police department, hoping to get the name confirmed.
No dice.
Lt. Edward Spyros, who handles most public information for the police, said the investigation is onoing so he can't say anything at all, not even a hint. Not even the teensiest little hint of a hint. Nothing.
His argument is that the police don't want to risk naming a suspect who turns out to be innocent, like U.S. Rep Gary Condit, who had an affair with a young woman in Washington some years ago and got dragged through the mud after she was found murdered. His career went down the drain but he was innocent, or at least innocent of the crime.
But, of course, I'm not asking the police to tell me that the driver was guilty of anything. I'm only asking them to confirm that he was the owner of the white Chevrolet pickup truck impounded on Friday and that he was behind the wheel when the accident occurred.
I suppose that would make him guilty of leaving the scene of an accident and maybe failing to stay in his lane, but the serious charges we can all imagine? They may or may not be justified after an investigation is over.
Providing names of drivers is the sort of thing the police routinely tell us after every accident. Except this one.
So why I don't I just say who the driver was? Because in my business, unlike blogging in general, we have to confirm facts. At this point, I have no confirmation, only a name and a strong circumstantial case. That's not enough. I need a police officer or a neighbor or, even better, multiple officers and neighbors, to tell me that, yes, that's the guy.
Until then, I'm as mum as the police on this one, which is frustrating.
I will say, though, that I'm pretty confident that the person's identity is not being kept hidden because he knows someone. It's just the secretive nature of authority at work here.
Meanwhile, I'll keep pounding the pavement and asking questions until I can write the story. That's what we do, though I truly don't like having to do it on stories involving the police. I prefer politics, where the stakes are at least as high but almost everyone is eager to get in print.
I will say, though, that if anyone out there can confirm the driver's name, feel free to give me a call or drop me an email at scollins@bristolpress.com.

Update: Thanks for all the anonymous messages with the man's name and address. I already knew that. What I need is for someone who knows for sure this is correct to tell me directly, even if you don't want your name used in any story.

*******
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can you give us a hint?

Anonymous said...

Great system: police can't comment, mayor can.

Steve Collins said...

Not quite.
It's more like "police WON'T comment, mayor can."

Anonymous said...

Are we to assume your Gary Condit example has a hint embedded in it? Does the driver have a background in politics? Or is he related to someone with a background in politics or maybe the Bristol Police Department?

Personally, I think this whole identity suppression issue is total BS! I really don't give a crap who the person is or who he knows, but I do care about justice for this young man's Father and Sister! At the very least, they should know who killed their son and brother

Let's summarize: the driver of the white pickup truck drove recklessly; failed to stay right; hit a 14 year old adolescent with his vehicle and ran; left the scene of an accident; was likely driving drunk or under the influence; and caused a homicide with the vehicle; yet (you claim) this putz doesn't know someone. Come on! Give me a break, Steve!

Anonymous said...

Good investigative work. How about the owner of the truck? Aren't DMV records public information? Who lives at the address where the truck was parked? Isn't that public record also?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for at least trying you best Steve. We appreciate being kept informed. I think you are doing the right thing. You may know who the owner of the truck is, but unless you were there then you can't be sure they were actually the driver. Also, if the Police wanted to keep it so secret, why did they even mention if the suspect/driver was a man or woman? They don't make much sense.

Anonymous said...

Well Steve...you have managed to take us all for a swim without getting any of us in the water.

I commend the police for doing their job always, and better yet to make a case that will hold up in court and that will give the prosecutor the upper hand sort of speak.

However there is another nagging side of this tradegy that many people are talking about here and around town.

Please clear the air of what smells strange here.

Assure us their is nothing more then good old fashion police work...being conducted without influence or intervention from ANYONE...that the community and family of our lost child will be served with pure justice.

Anonymous said...

Don't get worked up over it. The fact is that some one hit the kid, killed him, and left. Who the perp is doesn't really matter, as long as he/she is caught and justice is served. The trial and sentencing are what I will want to know about. Meanwhile let's do what we can for the victim's family.

Anonymous said...

I am losing respect for you Steve as a journalist. I know you want to get the "scoop" before any of your colleagues and I know you're trying to make yourself look like a hero to your boss and he is trying to sell papers which you need him to do to keep getting a paycheck but, honestly, you're stirring the bees nest for no good reason. What you're doing here, putting the count on your blog was over the top, is nothing more than sensationalism and tabloid journalism which is a big reason why people stopped buying the BP. If you think the police are withholding this guy's name for nefarious reasons then go ahead and say so, hell print a 3 part expose for all I care, but if you can't say that then stop with the innuendos and half-truths.

Anonymous said...

Hit someone on the wrong side of the road and they can't/won't arrest him.

Someone please explain.

Anonymous said...

How did the mayor find out so quickly?

Steve Collins said...

I believe I posted somewhere that I don't think the police are covering up the man's name for any nefarious reason. It's just what they do. They prefer to err on the side of secrecy. I prefer openness.

Steve Collins said...

The mayor didn't find out quickly. I called him Friday morning to see if he'd heard anything. He hadn't, and was a bit irritated at that. When I called him an hour later, he had talked to the police and learned whatever he learned. I quoted what he said. I don't have any idea if he ever heard the driver's name.

Anonymous said...

Steve, is it possible that the police are protecting his identity for HIPAA reasons as well? If he was brought to a hospital at the time that the police were intending to arrest him or if he was re-directed to the hospital on a PEC (Police Emergency Commital) prior to arrest, there could be HIPAA issues involved.

Never the less, this is a fatality of a child, so I would have to say that it is important that we all remain patient in waiting for the police to give us information. If they don't want to risk compromising the investigation then so be it. We have to trust their judgment on this one. Let them do their job. They will come to you when they are able to.

Anonymous said...

They prefer to err on the side of secrecy. I prefer openness.

A little rough of you to call it "secrecy". They are protecting the integrity of the investigation so nothing is compromised that could hinder arrest or prosecution.

They want to make sure that the person responsible for killing this child is held fully responsible and not given a break because of a technicality that the newspaper printed something prematurely.

Sorry Steve, but this isn't about "you" and the "Bristol Press". It's about justice for this young man and his family.

Anonymous said...

Listen... there is a difference between journalistic endeavors and fanning the flames of gossip. Steve is doing a great job. What occurred is a tragedy.

This is NOT the wild west. Naming the owner of the pick up truck is NOT the same thing as naming the driver. Just because you are maybe adult enough to have your curiousity sated by a name of the owner does not mean that your next door neighbor would be. The police are doing the correct thing by not going public with a name AT THIS TIME.

Picture this scenario: Steve names a name... as great an investigative reporter is .. he is human and the name of the owner is say... the father or mother of the driver who was upset and drunk and going to commit suicide over what his son or daughter had done.... the public now has this person's name and the best he or she can hope for is to only be gossiped about online, in the paper, in the bars, in restaurants for the rest of their lives.

Shame on all of you for wanting a tabloid fix vs. to see our system work. The saying is the wheels of justice turn slowly but grind fine. Sit back... bash the mayor some and just wait.

Anonymous said...

5:31 DMV Records are not public to the best of my knowledge. I believe this came to be dove-tailing off a stalker scenario somewhere in the country.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Keep your integrity. Don't leak the name of the driver. The police official is correct. We don't want to make a mistake and ruin an innocent man. The name will come out eventually. This is a tragic situation but we can exhibit a little patience.

Let the police finish their job. We'll find out soon enough.

Anonymous said...

8:39 a.m. post is much better than mine. Excellent!!

Odin said...

For a nation that thrives on crime and reality shows, it's amazing how ignorant you people are of how law enforcement works. Curb your ghoulish enthusiasm, folks. You aren't doing the kid's family any favors.

Steve Collins said...

The police are, in this case, wrong. Fortunately, they aren't the only ones with information.

Mike said...

Steve,
I know you filed an FOI complaint. What is the turn around time on your complaint? I know the PD is wrong in this case and stnad behind you 100%. Anyone who watched the local news coverage was able to figure out who owned the vehicle and who the probable driver was.

Anonymous said...

The media doing the research to find out the owner of the truck and reporting his name is one thing, but the Police not giving out the name is something totally different. They don't want to be the ones to give out the name for the sake of integrity of the investigation and be held liable for it.

What if the owner of the truck wasn't the one driving it? What if the person in the house where the truck owner lives wasn't the actual owner of the truck?

Possible scenario: Truck owner has a live in visitor that borrowed the truck.

Tread lightly. Don't jump to conclusions. Don't ask the police to jepordize the integrity of the investigation. It could hurt the Waye family in the long run.