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Former Laramie Police chief blasts slanted 20/20 piece on Shepard

Now more of the truth trickles out about the biased reporting of Elizabeth Vargas and the 20/20 crew on the revisionist history of the Matthew Shepard piece. And it’s not some lefty blogger like me doing the criticism this time, but the former Laramie police chief, Dave O’Malley, who was interviewed for the show. He’s pissed. I’m excerpting a great deal of this here, because it is an extremely effective rebuttal to the naysayers that insisted 20/20 was doing straight journalism on this topic. From the Laramie Boomerang:

“Only three people know what really happened that night,” retired Laramie Police Chief Dave O’Malley said. “One of them is dead and the other two are known liars and convicted felons — murderers.”

O’Malley was a detective with the Laramie Police when 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered six years ago.

He was one of several people interviewed for ABC’s 20/20 that aired Nov. 26. He said that the interview and the way the show was ultimately put together has left him angry.

…The people interviewed for the show did not surprise him. He was, however, surprised that “a production as popular as 20/20 would hinge all of their support for their theory on meth addicts, Doc O’Connor and two convicted murderers … it did not surprise me the way the thing came out.”

O’Malley said that he did find out what the focus of the show was shortly after the interview was over and the crew left Laramie. Someone with the crew had left copies of e-mails on his dining room table — 10 pages of information discussing the overall focus of the program and “their pre-conceived focus that this was not a hate crime. This was a drug crime. That’s what they went with,” he said.

When he was approached by the producers of this particular segment, O’Malley said he had a weird feeling. “After 30 years, you learn to trust your gut instinct. I asked them specifically if they were coming to do something from a particular angle … I wanted to be able to answer intelligently, think things out.”

In the conversation with the producers, O’Malley was assured that the report would be objective, six years after the actual event.

Prior to the arrival of the 20/20 crew, he had heard that the show might be more about the methamphetamine issue. When they arrived at his home, O’Malley asked a few questions of his own.

“I was trying to be comfortable … and I felt comfortable. But when Elizabeth Vargas got into the methamphetamine portion of it, it surprised me,” he said. “Actually, it made me extremely angry and, in my opinion, these guys lied to me.”

O’Malley said that if the 20/20 crew had been objective, they would have learned that a lot of what was said by Kristen Price early in the investigation was corroborated. Price also told authorities that McKinney and Henderson had not used any methamphetamines for several days because there was no money.

“That night (Oct. 6), they bought two pitchers of beer with pennies, nickels and dimes,” he said. “Also, after they were arrested, they exhibited no withdrawal symptoms whatsoever. A person who has been on a meth binge, there will be withdrawal symptoms apparent.”

20/20 did not discuss the expertise of the arresting officer.

“Flint Waters is a trained narcotics officer. … in controled substances,” O’Malley said.

Waters reported that Henderson exhibited no signs of being under the influence of meth, just an odor of alcohol.

O’Malley said that 20/20 failed to report on the jailhouse letters that McKinney had written — letters that added information that this could have been a gay-hate crime.

The 20/20 segment with McKinney indicated that he, along with his lawyers, had concocted this gay panic issue, but, according to O’Malley, police interviews with McKinney showed that he had already started that (the gay panic issue) without the benefit of council.

The statements he made, the fact that after he was sentenced he was high-fiving other inmates and signing autographs in the jail — if it wasn’t motivated by bias, he was sure eating that up.” O’Malley said.

Shepard was struck between 19 and 21 times, all to the face and head area.

It was a concentrated effort to destroy somebody,” O’Malley said. “I believe it was triggered because Matt was gay. I’ll go to my grave believing that.”

My earlier post on the 20/20 smear is here.

Thanks to House Blend reader Fredda for forwarding this one.

Reader Patrick also recommends the excellent analysis of this story at Orcinus

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding