Sunday, December 12, 2010

KMOX Edits Eye-Witness Reports Out of Story About UMSL Beating-Updated

Yesterday, I remarked that I was glad that the mainstream media was finally picking up on the story of the beating of UMSL student Brian Massey. I quoted the following text from KMOX:
Massey, who suffers from diabetic neuropathy and says he’s listed as a disabled student by the university, said that police then began punching him and kicking him in the sides. Police agree that they were forced to “apply striking blows to soft tissue areas.”

Witnesses say Massey displayed “amazing calmness” as he was struck, eventually going down on one knee in hopes of avoiding further confrontation. But, he says, that only made him an easier target.

“They then hit me in the side, hit me in the legs again, pushed my head into the wall, and start hitting me in the head.”

It was only when a campus employee stepped between the officers and Massey did the beating come to an end, according to witnesses.
However, today, at the exact same link, all of that text has been removed and the story has been changed to include only the statements of Massey himself as the counterpoint to the official UMSL police account. The reports from witnesses have been entirely removed. I can see why they'd want to update their story after speaking with UMSL, but I don't understand why a news organization would remove eye-witness testimony from their story. I called the KMOX newsroom and spoke with a very nice and helpful woman, but the person who edited the story was not yet at the station. I'm hoping to speak with him later today.

Unfortunately, since it didn't even occur to me that a news station would remove eye-witness testimony, I didn't get a screen shot of the original article. However, I have the next-best thing. I have a screen shot of the google search for terms in the original article that links directly to text from the KMOX article:

Also, here's a screen shot of the story posted yesterday on facebook, where you can see that the original story was framed around the testimony of witnesses:

The new KMOX story also contains some remarkable claims from UMSL spokesperson Bob Samples:
Samples says Massey grabbed the right wrist of an officer and was told he was under arrest.

Police say, as Massey was being handcuffed, he swung around and tried to strike an officer.

Massey was subdued and Samples says one officer was injured. Massey says he was kicked and punched.
This is an absolutely extraordinary claim. In the three and a half weeks since this happened, the UMSL police have discussed the incident on two other occasions, and never said anything about Massey trying to "strike" an officer. Here's one previous description:
During the response, the lead officer observed an individual whose presence elevated the anxiety of the student in crisis. Building and radio station officials asked the individual to leave the area. When he refused, two officers were asked to intercede,” Samples said. “The individual was not cooperative. In the process of determining identification, the individual in question grabbed the arm of an officer. The officer advised the individual that he was under arrest for assault.”

Van Ness said the student complied when asked for identification, providing both a state ID as well as his UM-St. Louis student ID. “But as the officer walked him out he grabbed the officer’s wrist and tried to remove documents from officer’s possession,” Van Ness said. The student was then told he was being placed under arrest.

“There was resistance on part of the student to avoid full incarceration,” Van Ness said. “We used prudent professional techniques that are used to force compliance on part of the noncompliant party. In this instance because everyone was so close to everybody we couldn’t deploy pepper mace. We were forced to put hands on the student to control his behavior, to apply striking blows to soft tissue areas.”
Van Ness also commented on a second story in the UMSl Current, and again said nothing about Massey trying to strike officers or officers being injured (note as well that the articles has several witnesses taking issue with the claim that Massey grabbed the officers arms). So we are now supposed to believe that Massey was beaten because he tried to strike an officer and that an officer had been injured, but that the police had just forgotten to mention those facts for the past three weeks?

At this point, as someone who has been closely following the story, I know of at least five people who have witnessed the arrest. Absolutely none of them have said that Massey tried to "strike" the officer. This is a story for good journalists to dig in to, not run away from, and I hope KMOX steps up to the plate.

Update: I spoke with the editor who said he changed the original story. He said he was "balancing" the original story after speaking with UMSL officials. He also said that they removed the witnesses from the updated story because they had spoken to any of them directly. But, of course, the original articles in the UMSL Current cited at least three witnesses who all disagreed with the official police story.


  1. The eyewitness quotes are included in the article in The Current, the UMSL newspaper. At least they were in the hard copy version...

  2. Good catch Adam. Funny how people think that the truth and the facts can be swept under the digital rug and no one will notice. There is an intense cover up operation going on here.