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Covering crime can wear you out

POSTED: August 11, 2017 10:00 a.m.
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Lewis Levine

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Covering crime can be a tiring and frustrating business, and here’s why.

I had just gone to bed like I normally do around midnight Monday after a long day. But I have a habit of keeping my phone by the bed just in case something breaks during the witching hours.

No sooner had I dozed off when I heard the ding my phone makes when I receive a text message. This one came in at 1:04 a.m. Tuesday. The message from an anonymous source simply said: “three shot on Pineland Ave, just happened.”

Fighting the fog of sleep, I looked at the message and muttered to myself. I knew it was going to be a long night.

I texted my source back to get the location. I received the address — 959 Pineland -and a heads up that two helicopters were enroute.

Within minutes, I was dressed, out the door and headed to Pineland not knowing exactly what to expect.  

When I pulled up to the scene of the shooting it was awash with blue lights flashing, an officer interviewing a man who was sitting in a plastic chair, and Hinesville police officers making sure the area was secure.

There was one ambulance with emergency medical personnel busy tending to the victims.  

The Hinesville Fire Department had set up a landing zone for two emergency medical helicopters to land and transport the two worst gunshot victims to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah.

The landing of the helicopters was handled by Lieutenant Gene Long, whose only concern was to land the aircrafts safely and get the patients on their way to be treated.

Once the helicopters took off into the night sky, I made my way back to the shooting scene, which had calmed down.

Crime scene tape was stretched out in front of the house near the street. Family members of the victims showed up and were handed two small children by police, who had carried them gently from the house.

The problem I had was confirming a shooting had actually taken place, even though I saw victims with my own eyes and was told they’d been shot by people who were not able to go on record confirming what had happened.

I’m sure you wonder why I need the confirmation. It’s simple. I don’t want to report erroneous information. The least the public can expect from the media is that we get the facts right.

So, I went down my list of contacts in the detectives’ division of the Hinesville Police Department. I was  able to get through to Kyle Larimore, who wasn’t on scene yet. He couldn’t confirm shootings had taken place and said he wouldn’t be able to comment without the authorization of the city’s chief of detectives, Capt. Chris Reid.

I was able to get hold of Reid, but  he wasn’t able to confirm the shootings occurred either, since he also was enroute to the scene.  

I finally got confirmation with the help of Sgt. Franklin Gallob, who approached Capt. Reid to provide information as one of the first responding officers.

And, let me give credit where credit is due. The Hinesville police department, Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia State Patrol fully support the public’s right to know.

No sooner had I got confirmation of the shootings, I learned a vehicle carrying passengers suspected of being involved in the incident had been detained at the intersection of Glenn Bryant and South Main streets. Five individuals became “persons of interest,” and one was charged in the shootings and another suspect remained at large.

I began to wonder if the night or morning would ever end.

I eventually made it home, where I contacted Coastal Courier Editor Jeff Whitten, who always appreciates an “oh-dark-30” call from me. I gave him the story. (Editor’s note: The call came in at 2:54 am., oh-dark-30 indeed).

And as 1 a.m. turned to 4 a.m., the story was filed with Savannah media markets and I was off to bed to get back up at 6 a.m. and hit my day job.

Shootings are tragic and more so when there is a loss of life, but I later learned from Detective Tracey Howard the shootings on Pineland stemmed from some type of feud.

Settling feuds using a gun is a foolish way to resolve a difference,  but it seems nowadays this is a method of choice.

Levine covers public safety and the occasional president for the Courier and area TV stations. He’s retired Army.

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