An alleged carjacking suspect led police on a high speed chase for more than an hour through Phoenix before pulling off the road and appearing to shoot himself in the head on live television. Now, a lawsuit against Fox News claims the shock suicide that inadvertently aired on live TV has left the man’s sons “severely traumatized.”
JoDon Romero’s three boys — ages 9, 13 and 15 — were horrified to learn the news channel had broadcast the 9/28/12 police pursuit in Arizona and subsequent suicide, their mom said in the suit, reported The NY Daily News.
The attorneys for mom Angela Rodriguez are seeking unspecified damages.
Her sons were at school during the pursuit.
The crude coverage was also uploaded by viewers to YouTube, which two of the boys used to watch the scene — not knowing beforehand that the fleeing suspect was actually their father.
“This psychological trauma is substantial and long term,” says the suit, filed earlier this month in Superior Court in Maricopa County. “Rumor of a suicide broadcast on live television generated considerable buzz among the students at the school, particularly with respect to the two older boys.”
They “realized in horror that they were watching their father,” the suit added.
A psychologist who examined the two oldest boys reported they’ve suffered from “symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.” Neither has returned to school.
Phoenix police identified Romero as a wanted felon who shot at officers and then led them on an hour-long chase Sept. 28, 2012 that ended with his suicide.
Fox News cut to Romero, 32, who had been racing through the Arizona outback for about an hour as cops tailed him. A news helicopter captured the dramatic events. Romero eventually ditched his car and gave chase on foot. In his final act, the wanted felon took a gun to his head and fired.
“Get off, get off, get off,” anchor Shepard Smith repeated as the man was poised to take his own life. “Get off it! Get off it! Get off it!”
The screen cut to a commercial. Upon returning, Smith gave a lengthy apology to the millions of viewers who witnessed the scene: “It is insensitive, it is just wrong. And that was wrong. And that won’t happen again on my watch.”
“We took every precaution to avoid any such live incident by putting the helicopter pictures on a five second delay,” Fox News SVP Michael Clemente said in a statement at the time. “Unfortunately, this mistake was the result of a severe human error and we apologize for what viewers ultimately saw on the screen.”