A Death And An Impossible Story Regurgitated

The headline alone was either the clickiest of clickbait or a testament to the failure of journalism.

Woman shot herself through mouth while handcuffed during traffic-stop suicide, officials say

Next up, Bigfoot attacks cub scout troop? But the story isn’t a joke, and there is a dead human being who can’t be forgotten in the midst of this absurd headline.

A 19-year-old woman whose hands were cuffed behind her back when she committed suicide during a traffic stop in Chesapeake died of a gunshot wound through the mouth, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The woman had a name, Sarah Wilson. And the sheriff told a story about how Sarah Wilson purportedly died.

She was the passenger of a 1996 Lexus driven by her boyfriend, 27-year-old Holden Medlin. The couple were under the surveillance of two CPD officers — one assigned to uniform patrol, and the other to vice narcotics — when they were stopped around 4:24 p.m.

During the stop, the officers approached Wilson and Medlin separately. While one officer handcuffed Wilson with her hands behind her back, the other tried to detain Medlin, CPD Officer Leo Kosinski told WAVY in August.

So far, an uneventful story. That changes fast.

Kosinski said in August that Wilson was handcuffed with her arms behind her back when she got the gun out of the Lexus, “contorted” her body and shot herself in the head.

Not just the head. Oh no.

On Thursday, the OCME of Tidewater confirmed to WAVY that Wilson did commit suicide, and that she died from an “intra-oral gunshot wound.”

For anyone unfamiliar with the lingo, “intra-oral” is the official way of saying she shot herself through her mouth. Go ahead, give it a try. Contort yourself all you want, hands cuffed behind, even assuming she could get a gun from somewhere, and then defy human anatomy to manage to shoot herself through the mouth.

Why she would commit suicide is another mystery, this being a relatively pedestrian bust, and her mother saying that she was hardly despondent or suicidal.

Dawn Wilson said she’s struggling to understand her daughter’s death. She described her daughter as “a ray of sunshine” who loved her two sisters and had their names tattooed on her body.

“She never would have left them. Never,” Wilson said.

Of course, family members are often the last to realize, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that her mother is wrong. But the laws of physics can’t be so easily ignored.

“We clearly ruled that it was a suicide,” Kosinski said.

Wilson’s hands were initially cuffed behind her body, which is standard procedure, he said. Officers typically search people when they’re detained, but Kosinski said he didn’t know if Wilson was patted down before she was handcuffed.

Note the word “initially,” suggesting that maybe that changed. Except there is no assertion that it did, but for the word “initially,” nor any reason why it would, having cuffed her from behind and then immediately gone to assist the fellow officer. While one report states that the gun was retrieved from the car, this suggests she might have hidden a gun on her person and the officer found her sufficiently threatening to cuff but not so much as to pat down.

Well, certainly the body cam will reveal how this magic happened.

One officer was wearing a body camera, but it was “knocked offline” while Medlin was fighting the officer, Kosinski said. If the camera hadn’t gone offline, it still wouldn’t have recorded the shooting, Kosinski said, because the officer was struggling with Medlin.

How terribly unfortunate that apparently only one cop wore a body cam and it was “knocked offline.” It seems as if that would be a problem in itself, since the efficacy of a body cam would be a problem if it fails at exactly the point where it’s most needed. But not this time, as the officer was busy elsewhere while the magical contortion occurred. And a young woman died.

Having been highly critical of “advocacy journalism” designed to omit or twist facts in order to make certain that we dumb consumers of news are lead to the correct conclusion of the “news,” one might suspect that it would be hypocritical to argue that this reportage, the verbatim fantastical story proffered by Officer Kosinski as to this “clearly ruled” suicide, is irresponsible. But then, the alternative isn’t mindless regurgitation of the cop’s tale.

When a reporter is confronted with a story that defies facts and reason, not to mention human physiology, he is not a mouthpiece of the state, to blindly repeat it without raising the possibility that the cops are putting out a tale that’s so ridiculous, so impossible, that it defies possibility. And adding the camera malfunction is icing on the cake.

There are three stories here. The first is of the death of a 19-year-old woman while in the custody of police. The second is of how it’s conceivably possible that a woman, with no indication of suicidal ideation, cuffed behind her back, could manage to not only get her hands on a gun, itself a difficult trick, but then commit suicide by shooting herself in the mouth.

The third story is how putative journalists could repeat this outrageous tripe with a straight face.

Reporters have a symbiotic relationship with the police. The cops feed them stories so they can fill up blank pages, and they report the stories fed them by cops so the public knows what a great job the police are doing to save them from whatever fears the police are promoting at the moment. Sadly, it’s understandable why reporters prefer to maintain a friendly relationship, as they might otherwise be denied these stories and forced to go out on their own and find news, gather facts, commit journalism. So much work.

But when the story they’re told is so absurd, so fantastical, as this, the reporting of the death of poor Sarah Wilson as the cops would have it is where the constitutional right to freedom of the press devolves to organ of the state. Perhaps there is some magical way this actually happened, in defiance of all reason and the usual understanding of how the human body works, but how this could be reported without even the recognition of it being a little bit unlikely is an outrageous failure of journalism. Then again, it must have pleased the cops to no end.

37 thoughts on “A Death And An Impossible Story Regurgitated

  1. Steve Brecher

    I can’t imagine — and I allow for possible failure of my imagination — what you think the reporter should have added to “report” on the reporter’s own skepticism, or on the reporter’s reasonable belief that the cops were lying. Wouldn’t most any news organization consider such skepticism or belief to be appropriate to an editorial rather than a news story? The reporter seemed careful to state as facts only the assertions of the cops and related officials. Even the “clickbait or testament” headline reports “officials say.”

    [Ed. Note: Balance deleted as off topic.]

    1. SHG Post author

      You don’t allow for the failure of your imagination. The reporting could have questioned Kosinksi as to how an apparent anatomical impossibility occurred, even asked him to demonstrate this miracle. The reporter could have called a physician for comment as to the physiology of such a oddity. No doubt others can think of myriad ways in which factual and logical reporting could have challenged the cops’ story. This ain’t hard stuff.

      1. Roy Barnes

        There are many ways to bring more certainty or doubt to the reported version of events. It is not at all impossible to shoot ones self in the mouth when handcuffed. Unless done out of compulsive anger it is very unlikely a cop would kill someone like this. Then you have not only the one cop but all involved covering it up.

        1. SHG Post author

          Indeed, it would mean they were all involved in covering it up. As has been the case quite a few times before. Sharp as a tack, you are.

        2. Bill in ILL

          You are kidding right? Cops kill over 1000 people per year, many of them completely innocent and unarmed, and get away with it. It IS impossible for you to shoot yourself in the mouth when handcuffed behind your back. You might manage to hit your nose or your cheek, but from the article she put the gun in her mouth and fired so the discharge went out the back of her head, you, sir, are not too bright.

    2. ShootingHipster

      “If you’re wondering how it is possible for someone with hands cuffed behind her back to shoot herself through the mouth, you’re probably not alone” might be too much editorializing for some people to stomach, but I’d let it pass.

  2. Hunting Guy

    Mark Twain.

    “Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media, for they will steal your honor. That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse.”

    1. Edward

      I doubt Mark Twain used the term “the media”

      “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” — Abraham Lincoln.

      1. Hunting Guy

        Absolutely true.

        But if modern day journalists, rich parents trying to get their offspring into state schools and some lawyers can be fast and lose with the truth, I figure I can as well.

  3. Karl Kolchak

    There might be even more at work here than just trying to maintaining good relations with the police. Newsrooms have been decimated with layoffs, and those reporters lucky enough to still have their jobs are no doubt terrified of being next. A friend of my wife covers the Pentagon, and basically just regurgitates the ridiculous press releases put out by the brass even when they are so at odds with reality as to make your head hurt.

    One angry call from the chief of police to the publisher of the paper might be enough to get this reporter fired, and there are probably a dozen journalism majors working as Starbucks baristas who will be all too happy to stand there like idiots and parrot whatever crazy story they’re told unquestioningly. That’s the sad state of the news business these days, which is no doubt a big part of the reason why so few people trust it anymore.

  4. Guitardave

    I’m foggy on this, as it was a long time ago,..but didn’t Mr Warren show us that magic bullets really DO exist?…i’m sorry… what was the question, again…?

    1. SHG Post author

      But it requires a Lincoln with suicide doors to happen, duh.

      [Ed. Note: To all of you commenting about other instances where factually impossible things are alleged, stop. All such comments have been and will be trashed. FOCUS.]

      1. Guitardave

        Maybe they were suicide handcuffs..?
        ( i think we just found the name for our post-punk gangsta-folk band..)

          1. Guitardave

            that one i can understand…rock on Ricky!…and everyone in the band gets a bongo just for showing up!… no doubt, RR was way ahead of his time.

          2. Guitardave

            Here’s a Latin expression from a cat i dig….goes great with that 4th cup of coffee..

  5. TheFourthEstateIsDead

    I think it was already said: This “story” is clearly a case of regurgitating a police report rather than committing investigative journalism. Any reporter worth his salt would ask questions of the officer and follow up with the ME and other physicians if there was any doubt at the voracity of the story. Investigative journalism is not relegated to the opinion column. Granted, journalism education and standards are not preparing reporters for the jobs necessary in this day and age. How many front-page stories are actually editorials? How is it that the editorial board controls how the news is presented?
    At best, this was lazy journalism. At worst, the paper has become a mouthpiece of the state.

    1. SHG Post author

      Presumably, with every possible tweak, a person with exceptional shoulder flexibility, exceptionally loose cuffs, that’s the best they could do after 100 attempts. And still it’s not quite there.

      1. Bill in ILL

        And, he didn’t even try to shoot himself in the mouth, he was lucky to get it close to the rear-side of his head. EPIC FAIL Pynchon, or should I call you cop sucker?

  6. Skink

    No big deal–I did this twice. I’ll do it again later today. Maybe I’ll get it right this time.

    At least the article was in something approaching paragraphs. Most reporting is done in sentence-paragraphs. The writer put some effort in the writin’, even if not the substance.

    1. SHG Post author

      I hate those single sentence grafs. It drives me crazy when I block quote. I want to put the sentences into a single paragraph, but then I feel as if I’m erasing the writer’s voice.

      Oh, and pics on the next try please.

    1. SHG Post author

      Usually, this would get trashed since you were too scared to give a real email, but I posted it anyway because you went through all this trouble and I didn’t want you to cry.

      1. Sgt. Schultz

        Let me guess, another cop shill trying to back up his lying brothers with this bullshit. Damn, those scumbags do so love to show up here and try to sell their lies.

        I have to give them credit, they’re tenacious scum.

      2. Joe

        I’m not law enforcement, and what does it matter if I used a fake email? I value my anonymity on the internet. Doesn’t change the substance of what I’ve posted, which you declined to address. Frankly I agree with your proposition that this is sloppy journalism, but to say that shooting yourself while cuffed “defies human anatomy” is plain wrong.

        1. SHG Post author

          My first reaction was to trash this comment, because it doesn’t deserve to see the light of day. Are you law enforcement? You say no, as if what you say means anything. But since I’m in a generous mood, I posted it and will explain a couple of things.

          First, you can value your anonymity on the internet all you like. You just can’t dictate the rules here. You don’t want to reveal your email address? That’s fine, even though everyone else here complies with my rules, but then you don’t get to comment. Or, if I allow you to, you don’t get to claim to be anything. You may be special to yourself, but not to me, not here. Play by whatever rules you like, but no more comments from you will see the light of day without an email. Just like all the other nice people here who aren’t you.

          Second, there are always anomalies, but they do not, as you seem to believe, prove much of anything. It happens regularly when the question of sex is discussed, where the issue is male or female. Some asshole will invariable chime in, but what about intersex people?!? Sure they exist, but they’re an anomaly. Their existence doesn’t disprove binary gender. Now, should you wish to comment again, use a real email and try not to be an asshole. Or don’t comment. I’m good either way.

    2. Robert

      That series of pics strikes me as suspect.
      Notice how close the guy’s hands are together in the first two pics, while in the 3rd his left hand is nowhere to be seen.

      The most likely explanation is that his hands were uncuffed from each other in order to strike the pose in the 3rd pic.
      Is that you in the pic, Joe, or a friend of yours, trying to pull off a lie?

  7. tk

    Actually, it is physiologically possibly, at least for someone who has the right body proportions. Roll on your back, pull your knees up tight, slide your cuffed hands down the back of your thighs, reverse grip the gun, and stick it between your legs. Bend over to line up the barrel with your mouth. Yuck.

    Now, is it likely? That’s another matter. This is not simple. Are we to believe that Wilson planned this out in advance?

    But as a journalist with 30 years in the business, you’ve hit the nail on the head: Why would anyone take this story at face value? And why wouldn’t you address it for the reader? Ask Kosinski to explain how it happened? Then you can explain it to the reader.

    — What position was the body in?
    — Did they see it happen? If not, how do they know that’s what happened?
    — Was there any indication she was suicidal?
    — Were there any drugs in her system?
    — Where did the flipping’ gun come from? Who was it registered to?

    This is basic stuff. KK’s point is well taken, but it raises an even more troubling question: Don’t they have editors anymore? Editors are supposed to make sure that this dreck doesn’t get into the paper. Editors are supposed to ask these questions of reporters, who are expected to pick up phones and get the answers for their readers (after removing their editor’s foot from their posterior, of course). Editors who don’t do that used to get fired.

    Cries of “fake news” not withstanding, journalism is important. The electorate can’t make informed decisions if they aren’t “informed.”

    1. SHG Post author

      There is almost always an exception which proves the rule, but as your correctly note, that’s not the point anyway. When something happens that’s well outside the norm (at best), the journalist doesn’t just blindly repeat what the cops tell him, but questions it.

  8. Konrad

    If you need convincing, go to to your local bsdm club and ask for a demonstration. They’re the experts on women in handcuffs, not a medical examiner.

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