Friday, September 28, 2012

Unhappy Endings

The crackle, is reminiscent of a strand of fireworks, being sparked by an impatient teenager anxious to literally get the most bang for his buck.  In the end it turns out the echo is that of an eerie blast of gunfire, as a man, Anthony Mayhew, is shot by officers as he stands on a light rail platform, under a mostly full-moon in downtown Salt Lake City.

Mayhew tells police just moments before the shots are fired that he has a bomb and is willing to unleash it's power.  After 2 hours, according to police, Mayhew approaches them aggressively and reaches into his red backpack, officers see that as a threat, and open fire.

Mayhew, it appears, wants to make his upcoming showdown with police very public.  He phones 911, then calls the assignment desk at 2News where I work, to announce he has an explosive strapped to his chest, and he is right outside our studios.  The 2News set backs up to a window that looks out onto the very train stop on which Mayhew is standing.  He is disheveled, like a businessman caught in a unair-conditioned elevator for hours during a hot afternoon.  Mayhew's white, long sleeve dress shirt was likely highlighted with a tie and sport coat earlier in the day, but tonight it is untucked and the sleeves unbuttoned at the wrists and not rolled up.  The image makes for an even more chaotic scene, as Mayhew waves his arms, the sleeves flap and fly wildly, like an untethered tarp on a speeding dump truck, barreling down the highway.

I've heard gunshots before, but it's always striking to me how different real gunfire sound, relative to the blasts you hear in movies.  On film, the discharge of a bullet, is deep and bellowing, enhanced with metallic resonance, and long, extended, ominous echos.  The real thing is usually anti-climactic.  A simple pop, similar the sound of someone stepping on bubble-wrap, or banging closed the lid of a garbage can.

The aftermath of a crime scene is also very different in Hollywood compared to the real, grisly thing.  Movie effects experts often dish up gallons of fake, bright pink blood, splattered indiscriminately across the set.  The reality is far different, far less distinguishable, and to see actual blood will cause you tp furrow your brow, and search your memory bank for anything you've seen similar in the past.  It's color, the way it pools and coagulates is unlike anything you will witness, and at first glance is a mystery, until your mind is able to connect the disconnected fragments of information and you stumble on the truth with a gentle gasp of realization.

The give and take of a high intensity negotiation between police and an unhinged suspect is also very different as you might imagine.  On 2News at 10 last night, our crew, as well as thousands watched the real thing spill out across their TV screen, as police attempt to calm Mayhew, and take him into custody without blood-shed or violence.

His final moments play out publicly, camera's rolling (it's important to note, 2News cameras did watch the shooting, but did not broadcast it live, or show video tape of it after).  It was a surreal scene, Mayhew, alone, on that train platform on a Thursday night, a night that is usually bustling with bar-hoppers darting from the martini bar to the Micro-pub, instead the street was very much like a scene of a movie, swept clean of humanity with the exception of the desperate man and others clad in camouflage, helmets, body armor, and automatic rifles.  What drove him to this desperate spot, alone, untucked, unsure is, for now, unknown.

Some are speculating that Mayhew wanted to die by "suicide by cop,"  and die very much in public, and who knows, maybe he thought this very public temper tantrum would paint his final moment with cinematic heroics.  The reality is, all it did is create anguish for his family, and those destroyed feeling will not play out in the movies.

1 comment:

  1. KUTV2 could have gone to a 5 or 10 second delay in their live shots... but by their not putting any questionable footage on the air, lawyers will have a hard time forcing them to produce it. And you know there will be a "Wrongful Death Law Suit" from family or the ACLU. There were other positions KUTV2 could have placed cameras... they have friends in the Wells Fargo Building as well as near by businesses. The 3rd floor of the Judge building might have been one well worth accessing. Even the Walker Building would have given them a view. But SWAT most likely had those positions covered with snipers. Even the simple white board with erasable markers would have helped from the "Kitchen Studio". Sometimes too close is not a good thing... but you've got to tell the story and TV needs visual aids. Where was a technical director with info to pop up on the screen?... the basic "crawl" at the screens bottom became a joke.