Covering a Manhunt

Not to make light of what happened, but I felt like something was about to happen last week.

In the newsroom, we had a gut feeling because things had “gotten quiet” over the last several weeks.

I didn’t think this week would turn out like this. I’m not really sure where to start, but I know I need to write about this.

It was a normal Tuesday. I was off deadline and getting my things ready to leave. I was going to try to go to a meeting that night. I don’t know what kept me in the newsroom. I shouldn’t have been there when the call came in. I should have been on my way home.

I got a text from WFSB Channel 3 and immediately ran over to an editor and told them what was going on. An officer had been shot in Willimantic. I didn’t have a location and I quickly checked Twitter and didn’t find much. Channel 3 had a street and I told my editors about that. I elected not to call Willimantic Police’s dispatch because, if true, they would hang up on me for asking them anything.

I called the police’s administration line and quickly realized that every officer was at the scene or, at least, on their way there.

The person I spoke with said it was bad, but couldn’t give me any information. There was no one available to confirm anything.

I told Mike I should go and he told me to leave. I ran to my car and made my way to the scene.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Our photographer pulled up behind me on South Street just as I had parked.

I have to say I didn’t get a drink of water for over four hours. If Tuesday wasn’t the hottest day of the year, I’d be surprised. It was exhaustively hot. I was afraid for myself and our photographer. I was surprised there weren’t any officers who suffered from heat stroke like symptoms. It was just a crazy day.

I immediately ran up to Oxbow Drive and spoke to an officer who told me they didn’t know where the suspect, Andrew Samuolis, was. That set off some “red lights” in my head, but I went back down the street to talk to some residents who were sitting on their front porch on South Street.

Keep in mind that as all of this is happening, unmarked and marked police cars were flying up and down South Street. Afterwards, I told my editors and fellow reporters that it was the most police officers I had ever seen in my life.

Not long after I spoke to the resident did the state police helicopter come over my head. I knew then they really had called on everyone to come and help find the suspect.

I called Mike periodically when I had information and he transcribed it for me and threw it up on the web site. I did that probably five or 6 times because we were getting information that no one else had.

I ended up staying at the intersection for awhile and confirming scanner reports with the same officer as before. It was, in a word, chaos.

Tactical teams were gearing up on South Street and racing in all over the area. Tires were screeching and K-9 dogs were barking endlessly.

I didn’t hear the second exchange of gunfire, but heard it all over the scanner. The officer was nice enough to confirm mostly everything that I asked him. Thankfully, I was able to relay that to Mike as it became available to me.

The photographer and I were stuck where we were. We had gotten there so early that it would have been impossible for us to have left. For almost a half-hour, before Samuolis was taken into custody, officers had each intersection at South Street blocked off. It was impossible for anyone to have gotten anywhere.

As soon as an all clear was heard on the scanner, the photographer and I rushed through Lebanon to get to Route 32, where Samuolis had been apprehended by police dogs.

We were able to get pretty close and get a sense of the scene. We definitely pushed the buttons of state police at the scene, but we left soon after, once we realized everything was pretty much over.

I stayed at the scene for a bit. I didn’t want to leave right away. I ended up walking around, trying to find witnesses, but there weren’t many.

That was frustrating, but, under the circumstances, it all made sense. I wouldn’t have been outside either.

I was able to talk to some people, which made for a great eyewitness story the next day.

Before I left South Street, I ran into a close source, where I was tipped off to a state police presser happening in a bit.

I immediately ran to that location, but, soon after, realized the public information office had changed their mind.

I went to get gas and something to eat and drink, before stopping at the office to collect myself. I drank a whole bottle of Gatorade and two egg salad sandwiches (gross, I know) before heading to the state police presser.

I had coordinated with a different photographer to come and meet me at the presser, since it was the night shift for us by the time the press conference was going to take place.

The press conference went fine, we received some additional information, but nothing that we didn’t already know.

And that was it. I had to pack myself up, go home and try to think about what just happened.

I made the decision to write everything that I knew as soon as I got home and showered. I didn’t want to lose anything in my head. I wanted the best possible story, too. I knew I was going to be exhausted on Wednesday, so I was glad that I took the time to write at home. It worked out great and really made a difference with what I had to do Wednesday morning.

But that’s for another post.

Jonathan

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One Response to Covering a Manhunt

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