Los Angeles police shot and killed a robbery suspect on live TV at the end of a 90-minute car chase early Monday, firing into a rear windshield as the driver slowly backed his car toward officers in front of Santa Monica High School.
Nicholas Killinger, 23, died an hour after three Los Angeles police officers, “fearing for their lives,” fired into the back window of his Ford Tempo, said Lt. Art Miller.
Killinger’s family, including some who saw the 5:54 a.m. shooting on TV as it happened, questioned the deadly police response. Five local TV stations aired the chase and shooting, reported the Los Angeles Times.
L.A. Police Chief William J. Bratton said investigators will review the shooting to determine whether it conformed to department guidelines. Police can use deadly force to protect themselves or others “from immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm.”
The shooting revisited a long-standing debate on the live broadcast of police pursuits. In April 1998, local TV stations drew criticism for broadcasting a man as he shot himself on a Century Freeway overpass.
KTLA Channel 5 news director Jeff Wald said the station now has a policy of switching to a wide angle shot if the helicopter pilots anticipate a pursuit is about to end. The station broadcast Monday’s shooting because “I’m sure they didn’t know … what was going on at the time.”
KABC-TV’s news helicopter was hovering above the passenger side of the suspect’s vehicle and puffs of smoke could be seen as officers fired their weapons. When the suspect was hit, their camera began zooming out.
Said KABC news director Cheryl Fair, “We’re very conscious of the potential and try as best we can to handle this situation in a sensitive fashion. But it is live television.”