Was Fenty trying to avoid victims' family members?
Our Washington Post colleague Paul Duggan reports this stand-off Thursday between Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) and the press:
After the story of the 14-year-old wrongly arrested in last month's quadruple homicide broke Thursday morning, the mayor's office sent out an advisory at 4:24 p.m. saying that Fenty, Police Chief Cathy Lanier and Attorney General Peter Nickles would hold a news conference at 5 p.m. at police headquarters. A half-dozen TV news crews arrived and were told to set up outside the building. They hurriedly did so.
Then a group of angry-looking people arrived outside headquarters, including Nardyne Jefferies, mother of 16-year-old Brishell Jones, one of the four victims killed in the March 30 drive-by shooting; and Norman Williams, father of 20-year-old Jordan Howe, whose March 22 fatal shooting touched off the cycle of retaliation that led to the attack. They were fuming, saying they had come to confront the officials about the continuing violence on D.C. streets.
Soon a Fenty staffer appeared at the mayor's podium and announced that the news conference had been moved - it would not be held outside, but inside, on the third floor of the headquarters. The TV crews howled in protest, saying they were on deadline.
The standoff dragged on.
A couple of city workers told the TV crews to remove their microphones from the mayor's podium. Then the workers folded up the podium and carted it away on a dolly. A pastor representing Jefferies, Williams and the other angry-looking people announced that they would hold a press conference of their own - and said they would talk only with reporters who stayed outside the building. The TV crews set up a microphone stand in place of the hauled-away podium. The only news crew to lug its gear up to the third floor were from the D.C. government cable channel.
Fenty, Nickles and Lanier finally emerged from the building about 6 p.m. -- an hour after the scheduled start. Jefferies, Williams and the others stood quietly by while the mayor, chief and attorney general conducted their news conference, allowing the officials to finish explaining why the teenager had been wrongly charged in the drive-by shooting before confronting them. When Fenty, Nickles and Lanier were done, and were turning to leave, a TV reporter began peppering them with questions about their delayed appearance outside.
"Can anyone explain why the press conference was moved inside?"
Fenty tried to shrug it off, giving no clear answer. "As we said in the beginning, we kept you all waiting, and we apologize," the mayor said. "I think we were just trying to let everybody - we didn't know how long we were going to be, so we apologize. ..."
"Why move it inside?" the reporter asked. "Because you didn't want to be around the family members?"
"We just didn't want to keep people waiting," Fenty replied. "We apologize for taking so long." Then he turned again to walk away. "Thank you all very much!"
April 23, 2010; 11:20 AM ET
Categories: Crime and Public Safety , Mayor Fenty
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