Over the weekend, ABC, CBS and CNN all hyped the case of a lawsuit filed against a Tennessee police department after body cam audio revealed White County Sheriff Odie Shoupe suggesting that he gave orders to shoot and kill a suspect during a police chase partly to avoid damaging his police cars.
In recalling the story, reporters made it sound like the driver, Michael Dial, had done little more than drive on a suspended license as they failed to inform viewers of his dangerous actions and his criminal history.
ABC's World News Tonight on Friday ran a full report on the events, as did the same night's CBS Evening News and CBS This Morning from Saturday. On CNN, a report of less than a minute ran on New Day Saturday and again later in the morning on CNN Newsroom, followed by a full report that ran twice in the afternoon and again early Sunday morning.
All the reports informed viewers that Dial was being chased primarily because of his suspended license, as they showed dash cam video and recalled that police cars had attempted to get him to pull over by ramming his vehicle -- a pickup truck that was also pulling a loaded trailer. Reporters on both CBS and CNN also downplayed the pursuit as a "low-speed chase" in spite of reports that he had driven as quickly as 75 mph at some point. But there were even more critical pieces of information that the reporters failed to include in their coverage.
According to a report on the incident, Dial had driven very recklessly during the pursuit as he ran red lights, passed other vehicles on double yellow lines, drove into oncoming traffic, and forced vehicles off the road. Additionally, two police cars were "totaled" as they collided with him, sending three deputies to the hospital with injuries.
In the audio of Sheriff Shoupe discussing the event after it was over, between seven and eight minutes into the recording, he can be heard recounting the three injured deputies, at least one of whom was bleeding. He also recalled that the driver had spent time in prison and had been involved with methamphetamines, as he believed that Mr. Dial's aggressive behavior indicated he "meant to kill somebody."
It has also been reported that an autopsy found methamphetamines in Dial's body after the crash.
Additionally, part of the reason they were chasing him was because he was displaying license plates for the wrong vehicle on his truck, which is typically treated as a serious matter by police because it can mean a vehicle is stolen.
ABC and CBS made no mention that two police vehicles had already been totaled in the pursuit, and the CNN report only included a soundbite of Sheriff Shoupe vaguely referring to the two damaged cars without clarification.
One may want to ask ABC, CBS and CNN how many more cars were the police department supposed to lose in the pursuit and how many more officers injured before altering their tactics.