LOUISIANA — Television station KALB is under fire from its community for a live broadcast of a deputy sheriff’s suicide, the Associated Press reported in September.
Paul Broussard, a 38-year-old deputy, shot and killed his estranged wife Andrea after he was suspended from the force. The suspension came after his wife obtained a restraining order against him for beating her.
After the murder, Broussard ran across the street to the courtyard of Security First National Bank, still carrying the murder weapon, and talked with a priest for more than two hours before shooting himself.
Police had cordoned off the downtown area around the bank, but KALB cameras were allowed to enter and broadcast live. Viewers flooded the station with complaints that the station showed too much graphic detail of the suicide and that cameras were close enough to see the bullet holes.
“We did not televise a suicide,” KALB News Director Jack Frost told AP. “The incident we televised was a situation that put the downtown area in danger, and our public needed to be aware of that.”
When Broussard put the gun to his jaw and pulled the trigger, at least 30 bank employees were watching. The bank’s chief executive officer, Tom Fowler, said he believed the television coverage was important to his employees so they would know whether or not Broussard had entered the building.
“We had overwhelming support for what we did,” said Frost. “Many people thought their right to know outweighed their reaction to how it ended. There are some people who think we just did it for the ratings, the sensationalism of it, but that is simply not true.”
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.