The shootout and mountain cabin siege involving fugitive ex-cop Christopher Jordan Dorner unfolded on live television Tuesday afternoon, with reporters caught near the gunfire and the police ordering news helicopters to stay back from the scene.
CBS Channel 2/KCAL Channel 9 reporter Carter Evans was describing the action to anchor Sharon Mitchell via cellphone as police units approached a cabin believed to be occupied by the suspected killer when gunfire broke out.
"I hear some screaming, you heard all that gunfire," a transcript of Evans' call to the station said.
Out of communication for a tense period during which his safety was uncertain, Evans was moved unharmed to a safer location from which he later continued reporting.
Until black smoke began rising from the cabin late in the afternoon, however, actual footage of the standoff was hard to come by as authorities quickly cordoned off the area, asked news helicopters to turn off their cameras and even implored journalists not to give out information on social media.
That request sparked a few complaints online.
"Want to know what government controlled media looks like?" Bianca Lopez tweeted at her Twitter account @blopez91. "Turn on the news and watch the #chris #dorner coverage. Almost a complete blackout"
While TV stations had to content themselves with hours of footage of roadblocks and mountain landscapes this time, earlier shootouts in the Los Angeles area received much more raw, open coverage.
One of the first major televised shootouts was right here in Los Angeles, and it was a doozy.
When the Symbionese Liberation Army, a self-proclaimed radical group that notoriously kidnaped and brainwashed newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, was tracked to a home in South Los Angeles on May 17, 1974, newly developed mobile TV cameras put local reporters with the LAPD in the midst of a massive firefight like little that's been seen since.
Though most of the SLA's members eventually died in the burning house, Hearst, who had escaped with a couple of the radicals, reportedly watched the shootout on television at a motel in Anaheim.
On Feb. 28, 1997, helicopters provided most of the riveting television coverage of a shootout between LAPD and two heavily armed bank robbers in North Hollywood, although ground journalists got close to the action as it spilled out onto streets - including Los Angeles Daily News freelance photographer Gene Blevins, who was shot at by one of the robbers.
For the safety of civilians and their own officers, of course, authorities have gotten better at controlling access to hot sites - and also, as an inevitable byproduct, keeping information from them.
Televised reporting of such events has subsequently become somewhat formulaic.
"The combination of helicopters, cameras and instantaneous information that people can gather around, we've seen for a long time," noted Robert Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University, who spoke by phone while watching feeds of Dorner coverage in New York.
"There is now almost a dramaturgy of this kind of thing, which is so macabre. Part of it is the limitations of the technology and part of it is the limitations of the people with the technology to get past or not get past the barriers that have been set up. Back in that SLA thing, those rules had not been established.
"Now, they've got the roadblock with a lot of vehicles backed up split-screened with somebody talking at a press conference."
And like the SLA shootout and the later Branch Davidian conflagration outside of Waco, Texas, Tuesday's coverage reached its dramatic climax with images of a burning building.
"Of course, that's the reason why the cameras sit on it" no matter from how far a distance, Thompson said. "There is that expectation that that kind of denouement will happen."
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