Sunday, August 16, 2009

It's After 5:00PM, TAKE HIM DOWN!

We call it VOSOT patrol.  I don't remember if I've ever explained the term.  I kind of assume most people who read my blog either understand some of the newsroom lingo or more likely, don't really care.

I'd been filling in for our beloved vacationing Chief Photographer.  Being back in the field and running around town to pick up some smaller stories was a good way to decompress and have a light day without actually goofing off.

I covered the opening of a low income apartment complex that's intended to serve the needs of emancipated foster care youth and formerly homeless families.  It was touching to see a tearful tetimonial from one of the new young residents.  I also found out that Councilman Richard Alarcon is pretty funny.  I'm kind of sorry I never voted for him for anything.

Next time.

I was heading back to the station with my video and looking forward to lunch when I got a call to head over to the federal building in Westwood.  Police had chased down a guy who was now barricaded inside his car in the parking lot.

Cool.  I could use a little action to brighten up my mellow news day.

I should have known the day was going to go downhill when I arrived.  I'd heard on the radio that the street on the East side of the federal building was blocked, so I entered from the street that bordered the West side.

Pretty solid plan, but LAPD was stopping vehicles from getting anywhere near the suspect and had also blocked off the West side of the federal building's parking lot.

That didn't bother me too much.  Hey, you know, nutcases sometimes know how to make things go BOOM!

So, we were going to just go live from the far side of the parking lot, but our desk wanted us to find a closer spot where we could get a better view of the action. 

Other stations were going live from the East side of the building.  We were told to break from our current position and try to secure a position where the other crews were set up.

And do it quickly, so we could get our reporter on TV ASAP.

Well, some crews had gotten in on the East side street, but the LAPD weren't allowing any more trucks into that area.  We poked around and found a good close position on Ashton Avenue.

Really close.

Not so close that I felt in any immediate danger as we did a couple live hits, but apparently closer than the LAPD felt was safe.

They eventually booted us out of the area and didn't really give us an alternative spot.

Again, not knowing if the suspect had any explodey materials in his red Volkswagon Beetle (which is about centered in the picture below), I wasn't too upset about moving.

At least I got a shot of the armored vehicle as it trampled some hedges.

Some folks were asking on Facebook why they didn't use the driveway to the left in the picture.  I'm thinking the guy who was driving either didn't particularly like the hedges or he was also being cautious about getting too close to the suspect.

We secured another spot and I was feeling pretty confident that the station was going to simply send me home.  I hadn't had lunch and we don't throw around overtime hours as casually as we've done in the past.

I called the desk.  They told me to make sure I wasn't needed and then come on back to the station.

I surveyed the perimeter, but didn't find anything of interest, so I stopped at a gas station convenience store, snagged an orange Icee and a cookie and was about to hit the freeway.

With any luck I might miss the main surge of rush hour traffic.

Too bad, my luck wasn't working for me very well that day.  A press conference was announced (in the parking lot where we had first set up earlier).  I was directed to cover the presser.  That was about 3:00pm.

We set up and waited. . .

. . .and waited. . .

. . .and waited.  It was funny, because we could see the staging area about fifty feet away.

By the time the public information officer (PIO) for LAPD finally arrived after 6:00pm, the suspect had been tear gassed twice and still had not given up.

That must have been frustrating for the cops.  I know it was sure starting to tick me off.

I'd been updating people about my day on Twitter and I think it clearly showed how my sympathy for the suspect and hopes for a peaceful resolution had eroded.

For instance, the FBI had sent in a robot and I was severely disappointed that it was only the kind that could go in and monitor the situation with a remote camera.  It wasn't the kind that could break the window and haul the suspect out by his nuts.


It was a long day.  Next week when I get paid, I might appreciate the overtime. 

Some of us sometimes just want to go home.
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