By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Initial media reports about April 22's improbable double killing at a ritzy Laguna Beach resort didn't mention who did the killing.
Call me jaded, but that's odd. Always pause when journalists fail to provide answers to the basics: Who? What? When? Where? How? In this case, the Who? and the How? were missing or wrong.
Based on Laguna Beach police spokesman Sergeant Jason Kravetz's early reports, The Orange County Register first suggested that a "wild . . . crazy" married couple may have perished by murder-suicide in a $2,200-per-night bungalow at Montage Resort & Spa about an hour after sunrise that Sunday.
That false version about the fate of Kevin and Joni Park—a Mission Viejo couple who owned a real-estate firm—lasted for half a day.
By late Sunday afternoon, the police story had changed. In her 4 p.m. Coastline Pilot story, Barbara Diamond wrote that "a middle-aged couple died Sunday in a room at the Montage Resort & Spa after gunshots were fired."
Note the Mayflower moving-truck-sized room for ambiguity in Diamond's sentence. You have to wonder if she'd cover a highway-road-rage killing by writing, "A couple died after getting into a car."
But the murder-suicide ruse slowly faded. Kravetz told Diamond, "At this time, I cannot confirm who shot who, or even if the man and woman are dead from gunshot wounds."
Kravetz made that statement knowing precisely who shot who and with what, and the local media played along with the deceit.
Crafty Montage officials enhanced the misleading B.S. through late Sunday night. They issued a press releaseclaiming, "There was a fatal domestic dispute involving two guests." And what role did the cops play in the incident? According to the statement, it was simple: "The officers quickly secured the guest room and the surrounding area."
See? It's safe again. Come back and check out our Epicurean Adventure room specials! Starting price for the three-night package is just $25,000!
In the Monday-morning Register version of the story, Kravetz finally identified the shooters: cops in his own department.
And he added, "Fearing for their own lives and the lives of other visitors and hotel guests, the officers ordered the person [the woman] to drop the weapon and only fired after the person failed to do so."
If the truth was otherwise, surely the police can be counted on to tell us.
Ponder this: you could fly from California to the other side of the planet in the time it took the officers to drip bits of the truth about how their colleagues allegedly killed the couple.
For all I know, the shooting was righteous. But why did they kill the man, too?
Back to the Kravetz: "Apparently, he had it [the gun] at some point, too, and pointed it at the officers."
In a Monday press conference, the story evolved further. The police released one-sided information damning the couple. The dead couple had had the audacity to possess a weapon and—I quote here from the Reg—"a box of documents," although Kravetz "would not say what type of documents were found."
Holy shit, Batman. Documents. In a box. Shoot to kill!
More to the point, Laguna Beach police also claimed "the couple took turns aiming" the gun at officers before they were shot, according to an LA Times report.
I've covered crime for two decades, and that's a new one.
Perhaps the woman pointed the gun at officers, got shot, and on the way to death, tossed the weapon to her husband, who grabbed it, aimed it back at officers and was gunned down before he could shoot.
You know, like how Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt performed a similar stunt in Mr. & Mrs. Smith?