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FBI Invesigating Agent's Death

The fatal gun shot that killed an FBI agent Thursday, while attempting to apprehend three bank robbery suspects, may have been the result of “friendly fire.�

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Rebecca Santana. The story reported that Agent Barry Lee Bush died Thursday while trying to apprehend suspects in a ring of bank robberies in New Jersey. Of all the information reported about Agent Bush’s death I thought the lead was one of the most interesting.

If an FBI agent fatally shot while investigating a string of bank robberies died by another agent's bullet, it would mark just the second time in the agency's nearly century long history that one agent killed another, the FBI said.

I felt that this type of lead was misplaced in a story that should have been about why this agent died. The story wasn’t that the FBI has been very good about keeping their agents safe from “friendly fire� but that an agent was shot and killed, then you should talk about how the death occurred. I felt that the death should have been the most important piece of information in the lead and with the lead the way it ran I felt the main point of the lead was that the FBI is really good at keeping agents safe.

The story reported that the FBI is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death and is still trying to determine why the shot was fired. The story said that the FBI was unwilling to release information about how the agent died, where he was shot, if he was wearing body armor and other key chronological information.

I think that the biggest issue with this story, for the writer, was dealing with the FBI which tends to be a very secretive organization that doesn’t divulge information very freely. I felt like the writer did what she could to get information from the FBI and did an excellent job using sources close to the FBI that were much more willing to talk about the death and the FBI’s history.

A second story ran in the San Francisco Chronicle and was written by David Porter of the Associated Press. This story also used a very interesting and slightly confusing tactic to open the story in the lead and the second graph.

The bank robbery investigation had gained intensity because of the increasingly brazen and violent nature of the crimes, with shots fired inside at least three of the institutions.
But when three of the suspects were confronted by FBI agents, authorities say the armed men didn't fire a shot. Instead, the FBI says it appears that one of their own, a veteran of major investigations, was killed when a fellow agent's weapon accidentally discharged.

This story took a very different angle on the story and spent much of the story telling about the history of the bank robberies in New Jersey. I was interesting to note that both of these stories used the same Los Angeles based security consultant as a source. This story’s focus on the bank robberies led to the reporting of the arrested suspects’ names.

On Thursday, FBI agents confronted three men outside a PNC Bank in Readington Township. Wilfredo Berrios, 28, and Michael Cruz, 21, were arrested and agents confiscated two assault rifles and a handgun. A third man, Francisco Herrera-Genao, 22, fled on foot and was captured Friday morning after spending the night in nearby woods.

This story buried the information about Agent Bush until the very end of the story. This placement of the information about Agent Bush made his death seem like an afterthought. Almost like, “oh well, an agent died, but they arrested people.� I personally feel like this story was totally in appropriate with regards to what part of the story were newsworthy.

Due to the fact that I found the Porter version to be focused on the wrong aspect of the story, I would have to say that the Santana version was more enjoyable to read and much more appropriate. I didn’t like either of these stories particularly well but the Santana version was the only version to focus on the right part of the story, Agent Bush’s death. Overall, I thought that both of these stories had things that they should have improved, but that is usually true of every story.

The most common corrections to newspaper printings by the New York Times were minor factual errors that in some cases were not even the fault of the paper. In some cases, like the school case of Greeenwich, Conn., were erroneous because the source that was quoted was wrong and there was no real fault of the writer who in most cases should be able to assume that a source close to a story should be able to speak about the story with an educated and proper gauge of the story itself. Other errors were merely misquotations about the nature of events in the past and about dates that were properly 1868 and not 1968. This error could have simply been a number that was struck on a keyboard that was not intended but that nobody question because it looked like it belonged in the story. Most errors appeared to be minor and the volume of errors was not an amazingly high number which is very professional for an organization such as the Times.