Is Press Coverage Fair?

There was an officer involved shooting in my Town. The man who was shot was an illegal immigrant with a rap sheet and a permanent restraining order from the mother of his two children. She was in the car with him at the time of the shooting, has already hired a lawyer (2 days after the shooting,) and is demanding justice because he was a “good” man.

I skipped all those facts in this essay because I hoped the media would print it if I did. They refused, arguing that they’re being responsible by not printing anything that could affect the outcome of an investigation or trial. They could be responsible by printing both sides, inflammatory or not, and letting people choose which one they agree with instead of printing a constant barrage, however subtle, of one view.

I find it hard to believe that reporters will put together a story that doesn’t include the facts that I used in my piece.

The one thing they will leave out is that the officer did his job correctly. To a civilian, that is an objective statement. To a cop, that is a fact, able to be proven by countless manuals and policies and procedures amassed from years and years of trial and error on the street.

It will be okay for the reporters to quote the man’s friends, saying he was a great man and a great father but it won’t be okay for reporters to quote the police who will say that Officer Van Ness is a great man and a great father. The DA will not release Van Ness’ record of commendations, his lack of any disciplinary problems, or his previous life-saving incidents. Those will have to be dug up by people who are actually interested in a truly unbiased account.

Meanwhile, the woman who had a permanent restraining order against Martins has free rein in the media with her cute face and sad eyes, telling the world that he was brutally murdered. People are raising money for her and her kids. The world doesn’t know that Officer Van Ness had to pack up his little family and drag them out of the state for their safety because people will go to his house and harass him and his family members. He can’t answer his phone, or open his mail without being exposed to hateful things. His house could be vandalized. His wife is terrified, for him, for herself and for her children. No one is setting up a college fund for her kids. It all seems a little unfair to me.

I don’t mind that this won’t be published as much as I am troubled by why it won’t be published.

On August 1st, I marked the anniversary of the line of duty death of a great cop and a cherished friend ( I am thankful that I will not have to mourn Officer Van Ness, too.

Please share this in support of Officer Christopher Van Ness.
One officer’s view…

By Jill Wragg
[email protected]

In a tragic course of events, in the dark hours of Sunday morning, a man died at another man’s hands, in our little town of Yarmouth Massachusetts.

I am sorry that Andre Martins had to be killed. I would be more sorry if Martins had killed Officer Van Ness.

The two could have met under different circumstances that very same night. Martins and his girlfriend could have been injured when their car was rammed by another motorist who didn’t care about following the rules of the road, who didn’t care about injuring other people. Officer Van Ness would have been there to provide life saving first aid or CPR. Or Martins could have been the victim of a crime, attacked by another man or threatened by someone racing a car at him. Officer Van Ness was on duty, waiting to respond without hesitation and ready to risk his life to protect Martins’ life.

Instead, they came together when Martins threatened the lives of his girlfriend and countless innocent civilians by careening through a quiet neighborhood at the wheel of a 3000 lb steel weapon.

In this unfortunate scenario, Officer Van Ness was there to protect that quiet neighborhood, to prevent Martins’ heavy Lincoln from catapulting through the wall of a home where children were sleeping in their princess and race car beds, or where you were sitting watching TV in your living room with your feet up. Officer Van Ness was there to stop Martins from continuing a rampage through town, perhaps even hurtling through the neighborhood where Martins’ own children lay sleeping. And Officer Van Ness was there when the decision to use deadly force had to be made. Everyone else was home safe in bed, home safe in bed because Van Ness was there.

Van Ness and his colleagues were awake at that hour of the morning to protect us. They work throughout the night while we sleep, ready to rush to our aid if we need them, on the hunt for anyone who might be lurking in the dark intending to do us harm. They work Christmas, Thanksgiving, on their religious holidays and during their kids’ birthday parties. Yes, they chose the job. They chose the job that you rejected in order to stay home watching TV in your living room with your feet up. They stepped up to the plate to stand between good and evil. They took a side in a fight that’s getting ever more difficult. The people who didn’t have the conviction to take a side seem to be the ones who complain the most. The people who fear the dark are the first to judge those who defy it. The people who have never had three quarters of a second to make a life or death decision are the first to complain that they’d have handled it differently.

Reports from his friends say that Martins was a “good” man. Perhaps he was. Or perhaps we now live in a world where “good” can describe Martins’ lifestyle and his actions that night. My definition, the “old fashioned” definition, of “good” defines Van Ness, his lifestyle and his actions that night.

In a perfect world, Martins’ and Van Ness’ children might have played together at a Yarmouth playground under the watch of two young fathers who adored their kids and who worked hard to provide the best life for their families. In this imperfect world, Martins forced Van Ness to take an action that no cop wants to take. One young family has lost its father. Another young family, a family with small children who routinely watch Daddy walk out of the house to confront and take down the evils of society, got its father back.

Van Ness did his job that night, and he did it correctly, right down to the part where he went home alive.

Jill Wragg is a retired Yarmouth Police Officer.
Her views do not represent the views of the police department or its staff

Previous Post

Chicago cop in Iowa prison while drunk is on the loose

Next Post

Goofy Police Memos


    • ekzept
    • August 14, 2008

    Those “3000 lb steel weapons” careen down that street, Baxter Avenue, regularly, piloting by “law abiding citizens”, threatening the neighborhood. Where are the officers then?

    Or was Van Ness simply peeved that Martins disregarded his presence at Bay View by accelerating quickly? Remember, the limits are on speed, not acceleration.

    Also, who estimated speeds of 80-90 mph? That’s 120-135 feet per second. It’s not possible to drive Harbor Road at such speeds. It may be possible on Baxter Avenue, but unlikely.

    This sounds a lot like officials building a case of plausibility in defense of the officer in the media. I mean, the officer could not possibly know Martins was smoking a joint.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *