Saturday, December 4, 2021
Dec. 4, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Real-life police drama

By , Columbian Editor
Published:

Monday was a long day, so when the chance came Tuesday to leave a little early in order to catch the 5:30 p.m. rerun of “Adam-12,” I took it.

Pete Malloy and Jim Reed hadn’t even made their first arrest when real police activity supplanted what was happening on my TV screen.

The first message came at 5:33 p.m. from Web Editor Amy Libby, who had stayed late to lay out the pages of our sister paper, the Camas-Washougal Post-Record. She was in the newsroom and listening to the police radio:

“We’ve got gunshots at Alder Creek apartments. Several callers,” she messaged to the editors group.

“This is where the shooting victim lived. (She was referring to Kfin Karuo, who was shot by sheriff’s deputies over the weekend.) …

“Suspect went into a blue building near the playground. Northwest portion of the complex.

“11716 N.E. 49th St. Priority 1.”

Metro Editor Mark Bowder had gone home too, and was already wearing his comfy pants.

“OK. Let me know what you hear,” he messaged back.

Amy: “More shots fired. Possibly inside. … Multiple subjects with guns and baseball bats.

“We don’t know how many patients. They called the ambulance but don’t know for sure.”

Now, I know that first reports of incidents are subject to change once police arrive and investigate. But this sounded potentially really bad, and really big.

We needed to respond quickly.

“Get (Photo Editor) Amanda (Cowan) rolling and replace the A1 center package,” I quickly messaged. “Call (breaking news reporter) Becca (Robbins.)”

Mark: “I will come back to the office just getting my shoes on now.”

We didn’t have much to report yet. But we knew people would be hearing sirens, seeing police, and asking questions. Amy quickly turned to Twitter to get the first word out.

At 5:43 p.m., she wrote “@VancouverPDUSA are responding to reports of shots fired at Alder Creek Apartments on 49th Street just west of the site of a police shooting on Sunday.”

“Multiple people with guns and baseball bats were reported at the apartment complex.”

Sports Editor Micah Rice was also listening in and chimed in on the editors channel: “Any available units are being asked to respond to the scene. Police called for ‘armor.’ ”

I knew a lot of police were on scene. But was it safe for Amanda and Becca?

“Any way to tell if people are still shooting?” I asked.

“No further reports of shots,” Amy responded.

By 6:06 p.m. Amanda was on scene and already posting photos on Twitter. Becca got up from the dinner table and headed out there, too.

It was only a few minutes longer before we found out that a lone suspect was in custody and the danger had passed. As it was too dark to shoot more photos, Amanda went home and filed her pictures into our computer system. Becca stayed until a police officer gave reporters a brief rundown of what had transpired, then called in the quotes before she went home. Luckily, no one had been injured.

By 7:20 p.m. we had a full story with good photos on our website, and a solid plan for our Wednesday front page. Page designer Romana Wood moved the intended A1 centerpiece story to the local cover, then laid out the front page, including a locator map.

Mark ended up writing the final draft of the story and got home for dinner around 9 p.m., he said. The final, polished draft was posted at 10:59 p.m.

Just before 6:30 Wednesday morning, I found my slippers and walked out onto my driveway to retrieve my newspaper. I shook off the raindrops and tore open the bag. There, front and center, was the story: “Police converge, arrest suspect.”

In retrospect, the story turned out to be a lot less terrible than what I had first feared. But I thought our staff’s teamwork was exceptional.

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