Did Reality TV Help Kill This 7-Year-Old Girl?

realitytv_death_225.jpgHere's something you probably never thought about while watching Cops: Does being followed around by a camera crew affect the way police officers do their jobs? That's the question being posed by the family of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. The 7-year-old Detroit girl was shot and killed in her bedroom by a stray bullet last Sunday while police searched for a murder suspect with a camera crew for the A&E series The First 48 in tow.

Details on the shooting are unclear -- as in, the cops aren't sure who was responsible for the fatal shot -- but one fact is indisputable: The offending officers fired a "flash-bang grenade" into Jones's residence, a no-no since it was known to house children. The entire scene sounds like something out of a horror movie. From the Times:

"Soon as they hit the window, I hit the floor and went to reach for my granddaughter," said a distraught Mertilla Jones at a news conference after Aiyana's death. "I seen the light leave out her eyes. I knew she was dead. She had blood coming out of her mouth. Lord Jesus, I ain't never seen nothing like that in my life."

The Detroit police department has contradicted the family's details of the shooting, but no one seems to deny that the flash-bang grenade was used. And therein lies the problem: "Those cameras can influence the behavior of what's already a very dangerous and unpredictable job," said Brian Willingham, a former Flint, Michigan, police officer. Adds defense attorney Thomas Loeb: "I think they're showboating for the camera."

So did the mere presence of the camera crew cause the police officers to act a tad more reckless than usual? And did that recklessness and resulting chaos cause the death of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones? That those questions even need to be asked is probably as indicting as their answers.

· Tragedy in Detroit, With Reality TV Crew in Tow [New York Times]


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