About Saturday night’s wee hours shoot ‘em up in Westport…
Naturally local TV news and the Kansas City Star were quick to pounce on the story, dramatize it then milk it for all it’s worth.
In the case of the Star, that translated into back-to-back stories on Monday – with the second a front page rehash on Tuesday – garnished with sensational, dog whistle words like “melee” and “mayhem” stitched together after-the-fact by reporters who were not even on the scene.
Add to the above breathless “reporting” on the commonplace practice of police using pepper spray and a headline designed to titillate.
“Amid shots, pepper spray, police acted to close Westport early,” shouted the newspaper’s front page headline Tuesday for a largely regurgitated story from page four in Monday’s Star (in case somebody missed it).
Unfortunately the newspaper did what it does all too often and failed to drill down to come up with easily obtainable answers that might have provided a more balanced perspective.
Of course that might have diluted the Star’s sensational headline.
For example, the closing wasn’t a broad based decision by police, according to sources. It was largely a knee jerk decision by a single, police sergeant with limited experience in the party zone.
What’s more according bar owners (Remember them? They’re the ones nobody talks to when they’re being written about), closing an hour early was a foolhardy decision that exposed patrons to needless risks during the peak of the disruption.
‘It was a mistake,” says Westport businessman Bill Nigro. “It was just the decision of one guy. I mean, if there’s a problem outside, why would I send my customers out into it? Most of those problems happened early, then (the police) forced the crowd out into the area. That’s just not good for our customers. For example, the shooting happened at quarter to three, a half hour after they forced everybody outside.”
As for the black dude shooting wildly into the crowd, “It’s unfortunate that people who don’t wine or dine in Westport come down here late at night to wreak havoc,” Nigro says. “But that’s just the reality of being in the urban core.”
Said bad guy got taken out by KC Police almost immediately.
A big part of Westport’s problems with the late night bad guys stem from the vast majority of 3 a.m. bars in the inner city having been reverted back to 1:30 a.m. closing times, Nigro says.
Which is one of the main reasons Westport wants to privatize the streets so they can keep guns out of the party zone on weekend nights.
“With the new gun laws everybody can carry a gun today,” Nigro says. “It’s the wild, wild west. But if we make the streets private we can wand people and take their guns away.”
As for the arbitrary 2 a.m. police closing, “I said the the police, if there were bombs going off outside, would you order the public into the streets,” Nigro adds. “There was a fight in front of ∫ and someone punched a policeman and that’s what they did.
Fake news controversy, anyone?
How about the tarted up reporting about police using pepper spray to subdue the crowd.
“That’s normal,” Nigro says. “That’s the best way to break up a crowd or a fight. You spray a little on the ground or by a fight and it immediately gets in the air and the crowd backs up and leaves.”
As for the dude shooting into the crowd that was killed by police, “That guy must have been on drugs, he can’t have been that stupid,” Nigro says. “He was standing right in front of the Westport Coffee House with four or five police officers within 25 yards of him. So the minute he started shooting, they shot him.”
The bottom line:
“I can’t imagine this happening again since we have police all over the place,” Nigro says. “And if they close us at 1:30 a.m. they’ll still come down – just earlier.”