Responding to Matt McKinney

Reader J.R. Frey has written a response to the message from Star Tribune reporter Matt McKinney defending his story — “Armed robber knew the right path, but was unable to follow it” — on one-man crime wave Darren Evanovich, late of Minneapolis. Frey writes:

Mr. McKinney,

I read with interest your response to the criticism levied at your reporting on the incident involving Mr. Evanovich. In your response, you state, “It was only in our attempt to give readers the best, most reliable and clear information that the phrase ['during a confrontation'] was not used [when describing the details of the shooting].”

The original reporting by you reads as follows:

On the evening of Oct. 20, a little more than a week later, a 53-year-old woman was accosted in a supermarket parking lot off E. Lake Street. The stranger was armed with a handgun, and after taking her money, he struck her in the head with his weapon, police said.

A man nearby saw the attack. He had a state permit to carry a pistol, and he had one with him. He chased the robber behind a restaurant and shot him dead. Police say the robber was Darren Evanovich. He was 23.

The police report, as provided by you, reads as follows:

The first call indicated that an elderly female had just been robbed at gunpoint of her purse and pistol whipped in the head…

Officers…were approached by an adult male who stated that he had witnessed the armed robbery/assault of the elderly female and had chased the armed robbery suspect to an area near the Super Grand Buffet. This “Good Samaritan” stated that he had a valid Minnesota Permit to Carry a Handgun and that he had shot the male armed robbery suspect during a confrontation outside of the Super Grand Buffet.

I will trust in your good faith that you intended to give readers “the best, most reliable and clear information.” With that in mind, let me provide some constructive criticism that may help you in your endeavors in the future: (1) When the police report says that the robber took the woman’s purse, you should report that the woman’s purse was stolen, and not that her “money” was stolen. If someone had observed the theft and noted that some quantity of cash was stolen, they probably would not have chased the robber to attempt to recover the purse which also includes identification, credit cards, and other information that could be used for identity theft and fraud. (2) If the police report includes the words “during a confrontation” you should include those words.

Oh, and (3) Don’t write the paragraph describing the confrontation as though there was a vigilante execution. See, because when you wrote that paragraph describing a vigilante execution, you did not “give readers the best, most reliable and clear information” regarding what transpired.

To be specific, by deceptively substituting “money” for “purse” and by omitting the existence of a confrontation prior to the shooting, by substituting “struck her in the head with his weapon” (neutral tone) for “pistol whipped in the head” (accurate description in the police report), and by describing the Good Samaritan’s actions in a single, terse sentence [chased the robber … and shot him dead], you failed to give your readers “the best, most reliable and clear information” that was available to you at the time.

If you would like to pass this on to your editor, you could point out that the robber knew the right path, but chose not to follow it. There is no evidence that you present that suggests the robber was forced into committing the crime.

I trust this criticism will be accepted in the spirit it is given.

Sincerely,

J. R. Frey

UPDATE: Reader Jack Levey comments: “It did not occur to me before reading today’s response, but here’s another difference between stealing a purse and stealing only money. The purse has not only the victim’s ID, but also her house keys. The ID furnishes the victim’s address. At least until she has her locks changed, the victim is now at much greater risk of burglary, home invasion, assault, rape and murder — in her own home, without the criminal having to bother with the noise, spectacle, delay or warning that would accompany a break-in.”

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