It isn’t clear what type of response WBTV’s Nick Ochsner thought he’d get from the community when he petitioned for the release of Mooresville K9 Officer Jordan Sheldon’s body-cam footage from the night he was shot and killed.
But from the looks of it, the TV news reporter is staying very busy responding to public criticism … and shifting his story.
Dozens of concerned citizens are expected at Iredell County Hall of Justice tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., when a judge should decide which parts – if any – of Officer Sheldon’s body-cam footage to release to Ochsner and WBTV, the only television news station to formally request the footage to date.
The Fraternal Order of Police is fighting the release. So is the Town of Mooresville, which hired the law firm Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog of Charlotte to represent the police department. Assistant Town Attorney Sharon Crawford said the town, through its legal team, will “vigorously oppose the release of any videos related to this tragic event.
“As a town, and certainly on behalf of the police department, we owe it to Officer Sheldon, his family, his fiancee, his friends, and the law enforcement community to do all that we can to try and prevent the hurt and pain that would be caused by releasing any videos related to this tragedy,” Crawford said.
While the community has rallied together against the release of the body-cam footage – even circulating online a change.org petition that topped 18,000 signatures as of 4:15 p.m. today – WBTV’s Ochsner has been defending his request on social media … and at the same time rewriting history a bit on it.
When Ochsner first responded to Scoop questions about his petition – before most people were even aware of the filing – he confidently stated: “As a journalist, it’s my job to ask questions and seek answers, even when they might be tough.”
Facing immediate backlash on social media once the story broke, Ochsner journaled in a “Reporter’s Notebook” a more elaborate, far more personal reason for filing the petition: his dad, a Green Beret, was killed in a roadside bomb in the line of duty in Afghanistan. Ochsner said after that, his instinct as a reporter became to “dig for more information; to help explain to other people what happened, why it happened and how—or if—it could have been avoided.
“What better way to show the bravery and sacrifice of our law enforcement officers than show the moments before Ofc. Sheldon was killed and the response from his fellow officers, who quickly responded to render aid and search for a gunman on the loose. There is no better way to show the public what law enforcement officers face on a daily basis than by showing them the selfless service from this tense and tragic moment.”
I sympathize with Ochsner’s tragic loss of his father. However, I disagree with his stance on this particular situation. And after the feedback I’ve received from the public and police, it’s clear to me that there are far better ways to show the bravery of officers than to share a video of one being gunned down on the side of the road by a madman who later cowardly took his own life.
In the same article in which Ochsner defended his request, he then appears to contradict himself: “At no point has it been my intention to get or publish the actual video of Ofc. Sheldon being shot and dying.”
Ochsner would also have us believe that “there isn’t a lot of room on the form to get into details but it’s clear you have to be broad in your request for video.”
Ochsner said he wants Sheldon’s body-cam footage to determine what happened leading up to the shooting. But he didn’t specify – in all the space remaining on the form he submitted – that he consents for the video to be terminated prior to the footage showing the fatal shots to Officer Sheldon. In fact, he doubled-down, asking for body-cam footage from responding officers who weren’t even on the scene when the shooting occurred.
So what, exactly, does Ochsner want to see and potentially release to the public?
To clear up this double-speak, we look no further than to a recent Twitter response to David Coble, a former Mooresville commissioner. Read the last sentence of his tweet carefully:
“We would ask that the judge not release the part of the video past Ofc. Sheldon being shot.”
“The part past” Officer Sheldon being shot means the shooting would be at the end of the video Ochsner now says he wants.
Therefore, Ochsner wants to see Officer Sheldon being murdered.
In the article I wrote earlier this week, I said maybe – getting into my journalist’s mind – I could understand a reporter requesting footage that leads up to the shots being fired … but stops short of the actual moment when a beloved officer and person was taken from this world in such a brutal, heartless way.
That’s clearly not what Ochsner is after.
Maybe there’s something therapeutic to him about getting all the details and talking all this out, as he wrote in his Reporter’s Notebook.
But not all of us want to hear what you have to say about this, Nick.
My dad didn’t die a national hero like yours (and I endlessly thank your father, and your family, for his service and sacrifice), but my dad did die tragically, on the side of the road, in a trucking accident. Same as your dad: 13 years ago.
Your news station, WBTV, repeatedly aired video footage of my dad’s work truck, with his blood and half his brain smeared and dripping down the driver’s side window and door.
I can, thus, fully understand how your father’s death – and how you grieved it – played a significant role in making you the reporter you are today. My dad’s death – and how the television news reported it – played a critical role in making me into the reporter I am today, too.
I’ll just leave it at that.