We don’t know what led to the death of Barry Washington Jr. last week in downtown Bend. We do need to know.
We do need to know for him and for justice.
We don’t want to watch videos of shootings. They are painful. They can be graphic. It can feel unfair that your only real time seeing a person is in their last moments.
Central Oregon Daily news ran on its newscast and has on its website a video, apparently of Washington’s last moments. It was provided by the fiancee of Ian Mackenzie Cranston, of Redmond. Cranston was arrested at the scene on suspicion of second -degree manslaughter in connection with the shooting.
The video is about a minute long. It doesn’t clear up much of anything. It’s blurred. It’s like looking through binoculars but they are often pointed the wrong way. There are pieces of what happened. The article and the newscast did not have any comments from Washington’s family.
Does it appear that there was a scuffle before the shooting? Yes. Beyond that, to be meaningful, the video would need to be pieced together with other evidence from the scene. Is there more to the video? Are there other recordings? What do witnesses say?
Central Oregon Daily news has faced criticism for publishing the video. Is it insensitive to the victim’s family? Does it present such a distorted and fragmentary picture of what happened that it isn’t worth it? Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel called it cherry-picked evidence and reminded us all it was provided by the suspect’s girlfriend. Was the TV station being used to bolster Cranston’s case? Does the news value of the video outweigh those concerns? And what if the TV station had the video and declined to air it? Would it likely have faced criticism?
These are questions for journalists and for the community. This newspaper, in its news coverage, chose not to link to the video. Was that the right thing to do? We think so.
The video does need to be watched for what it does tell us. But by itself it can ensnare us in a false vision of Washington’s death.