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.