Fox News sued over airing suicide of chase suspect
PHOENIX (AP) — A woman sued Fox News Network for airing live footage last fall of a carjacking suspect in a police chase committing suicide in the Arizona desert and not using a time delay that would have prevented the death from being broadcast on national television.
The lawsuit alleges the children of 33-year-old suspect JoDon Romero have suffered emotional distress from having seen the video of their father fatally shooting himself on Sept. 28 at the end of an 80-mile car chase.
The lawsuit seeking unspecified damages was filed June 6 in county court in metro Phoenix by Angela Rodriguez, the mother of Romero’s three sons, ages 15, 13 and 9. It was also filed against Fox Entertainment Group Inc. and Fox’s parent company, News Corp.
The network issued a statement saying it couldn’t comment because of the pending litigation.
Fox News was covering the chase using a live helicopter shot from Phoenix affiliate KSAZ-TV. Anchor Shepard Smith told viewers that the video was supposed to be on a delay so it could be cut off if something went awry and that the footage didn’t belong on TV and apologized for it. “Get off it,” Smith said repeatedly immediately after the suicide was aired.
The lawsuit said the Phoenix affiliate succeeded in using its time delay.
The chase began in Phoenix when police say Romero had a minor incident in which he apparently hit a passing car with his hand, leading to a call to police. As officers were heading to the scene, police say Romero stole a car at gunpoint and police began an hour-long pursuit on an interstate west of Phoenix. Authorities say Romero opened fire and eventually drove off into the desert, got out of the car, began walking down a dirt road and eventually killed himself.
The lawsuit said a rumor at the school of Romero’s sons had generated buzz among students about a televised suicide, so the two older boys went home and viewed the footage on YouTube. “As they watched, they realized in horror that they were watching their father,” Rodriguez’s attorney, Joel Robbins, said in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said Romero’s two oldest boys haven’t returned to school since seeing the video and have suffered emotional distress, including experiencing flashbacks.
Romero’s youngest son hasn’t been fully evaluated but has still experienced considerable emotional distress, the lawsuit said.