Daily Egyptian

Editorial: A press conference of nothingness

While some headed to church on Easter Sunday, others were recovering from a terrifying night of gunfire and panic.

But because of Carbondale Police Department’s lack of communication, most people who walked into St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church did not know that just hours earlier two men were shot yards away from their place of worship.

During a press conference on Monday, Carbondale police spokesman Sgt. Corey Kemp announced the department made an arrest in the killing of 41-year-old Tim Beaty, who was hit by at least one stray bullet while in his bedroom on Sunday morning. Two men were fighting during a party about 2 a.m. at 402 W. Walnut St., when one pulled a gun and started shooting, multiple witnesses said Sunday morning. Somehow, Beaty was killed in his residence next door. 

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But of course police wouldn’t tell us how many times he was hit or how the bullet entered his home. 

In fact, the police wouldn’t tell us anything.

All we could gather was that Beaty was an innocent bystander in this crime, Kemp said. 

When members of the media gathered at the police department on Monday to finally get a chance to ask questions about the 36-hour-old tragic incident, they were repeatedly hit with “no comment.”

The following questions were asked by reporters and answered by Kemp:

“How many shots were fired?”

“I cannot comment on that at this time.”

“Are the two suspects believed to be students?” 

“I cannot comment on that at this time.”

“Why is the second victim’s name not being released?”

“I cannot comment on that at this time.”

This back-and-forth questioning and not really answering continued for some time — a total of 19 times, by our count. It sounded like something out of a Saturday Night Live skit.

Before all of this, a Daily Egyptian reporter arrived at the crime scene about 2:15 a.m. Sunday. An officer on scene wouldn’t tell our reporter if a shooting occurred at the residence or if anyone was injured.

“I can’t tell you anything,” the officer said before getting in his squad car. 

Six calls to the department yielded no additional information and a story with no official sources.

Then the department published a terse online press release that contained few details, followed by an updated version just before the press conference Monday.

That is, if we can even call it a press conference. Kemp regurgitated the news release in front of cameras and reporters before deflecting any and all questions that would actually inform the public about the shooter or incident. 

Kemp said at the news conference that he works Monday through Friday — so we should understand why some details don’t get out very soon. Thank goodness crime follows Kemp’s schedule. In a college town, that does little service to the public, which deserves to be informed. 

While we understand the investigation has just begun, the department should be able to release more information quicker, especially in what is believed to be the first homicide in Carbondale this year. 

Kemp said the suspects should be considered dangerous, but that seems to be all we know. No age. No physical description. No way of identifying the person or people who shot and killed a witty and beloved local.

Police are still searching for two primary suspects in this case. The only description provided is that the two are “black males.”

How does this help civilians identify the perpetrators? It doesn’t. 

And that’s what the relationship of the media and police is all about — helping the public know what they need to know. But that simply does not happen in Carbondale.

That’s not Kemp’s fault. He admitted all of his statements and releases must be approved by Police Chief Jeff Grubbs. We understand not wanting to jeopardize an investigation, but there are simple questions that can be answered.

Is this residence a common spot for violence? “I cannot comment on that at this time.” Are police aware of the suspect’s identity? “I cannot comment on that at this time.”

How should southern Illinoisans know if their area of town is safe, or if students are free to walk around town at night without risk? 

This lack of transparency has led to more concern and less sense of security. That is the opposite of the department’s duty.

The people of Carbondale deserve better. 

Help us help you, Carbondale Police Department. Return our calls. Answer simple questions. Stop leaving the public in the dark. 

The Daily Egyptian’s editorial board can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3397.

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