Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Regina Brett “lit a fuse with our readers Wednesday that resulted in one of the more explosive reactions we’ve seen in a while,” writes PD reader representative Ted Diadiun. “Brett’s column dealt with Cleveland police officer Jim Simone, who has shot at 12 suspects in a 35-year career, killing five. In it, Brett made a legitimate argument, one that has been expressed by many, for civilian review of police shootings and restraint in handling suspects.
“But in driving home her point in the second paragraph, she wrote: ‘If anyone else gunned down five people, we’d call him a serial killer.’ I’d bet that many readers never made it past that incendiary sentence. It was that line that sparked the anger, resulting in hundreds of calls and e-mails to Brett, dozens to me and others around the newsroom, and 27 subscription cancellations. WTAM radio seized on the column to fuel its daily talk shows, distorting Brett’s words to read that she had called Simone ‘a serial killer with a badge’ – until she called and asked that it be corrected.”