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Group protests car ad that shows informant being mobbed by crowd

September 16, 1997

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A humorous Nissan television advertisement depicting a mob swarming around the sporty new car of a ``witness protection″ informant has angered mothers of crime victims.

The ad, ``was a knife through my heart,″ said LaWanda Hawkins, whose son, Reginald, was killed in suburban San Pedro in December 1995.

She wrote to the company in protest, but said Monday her objections have been dismissed out of hand. Ms. Hawkins wants the advertisement pulled, but she said the company has failed to respond.

``I need a witness and the police know who did it,″ Ms. Hawkins wrote in a letter to Nissan. ``... witnesses are scared for their lives. Your ad only increases the fear and intimidation.″

The tongue-in-cheek ad shows a couple of government law enforcement agents watching the protected witness drive off in an Altima, only to be mobbed by a group of car enthusiasts.

One officer observed, ``He’s not going to make it, is he?″

His partner responds, ``Ah ... nope.″

``Nissan is attempting to earn a profit from an issue that is not a joke,″ said Sergio Robleto, chairman of the non-profit Witness Protection Foundation and former commander of homicide investigation in the Los Angeles Police Department’s south bureau.

Robleto contends the ad makes ``a mockery of witness protection.″

Hawkins and several other mothers gathered Monday along with witness protection advocates at a South Central Los Angeles site where Georgia Jones, a witness in a murder case, was killed on June 13, 1994, to prevent her testimony.

The protesters then went to Nissan’s regional headquarters in suburban Gardena where they attempted to meet with officials from the company. The group was turned away, said Brian Andelin, executive director of the Witness Protection Foundation.

A call seeking comment from Nissan was not immediately returned.

A written statement provided to KCAL-TV by Nissan said, ``We are sympathetic to the witness protection cause ...″ The statement said the advertisement was not meant to trivialize that cause, but was, rather, intended to emphasize the ``curb appeal″ of the car.

No mention is made of pulling the ad.

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