After Drunken Road Romp, Channel 12's Bryan West Acknowledges Alcohol Abuse

Bryan West (seen here in August 2017 reporting on vandalism at the State Capitol's confederate memorial) was sentenced last month for extreme DUI and evading police. He admits he had a severe booze problem.
Bryan West (seen here in August 2017 reporting on vandalism at the State Capitol's confederate memorial) was sentenced last month for extreme DUI and evading police. He admits he had a severe booze problem. Channel 12 Screenshot
Channel 12 TV reporter Bryan West has admitted a problem with alcohol.

The admission comes after a nine-day sentence for nearly running people over during a drunken road romp in August. And it comes after his questionable broadcast report from 2017 about discovering vandalism at the State Capitol's confederate memorial.

Admitting the problem is the first step to recovery, as they say, and West's confession can be found on his resuscitated public Facebook page in the form of a 3,200-word essay published on February 17.

However, West, who apparently still works for Channel 12, writes that he's taking a break from journalism for a while — which is probably a good thing, since the tale suggests West's reporting could have been affected by his addiction to booze.

The long piece, which West indicates is the beginning of his writing career, contains several elements worth reading, including his tragic struggle with addiction as well as a somewhat humorous depiction of life in the Maricopa County Jail. It's garnered more than 700 comments from well-wishers, colleagues, and fellow journalists.

"Thank you for sharing this. Wishing you the best on your journey ahead," wrote Nicole Carroll, the former Arizona Republic editor who's now the editor of USA Today.

Brahm Resnik, Channel 12 reporter and host of Sunday Square Off, responded, "Bryan is a very dear friend. I stand behind him every step of the way. I hope you'll read this. It's worth your time — or the time of someone you love ..."

West writes in his essay he's been sober for six months now.

The incident that kicked off his new life without alcohol began on the rainy evening of August 8, 2018, three days after his 30th birthday. After ramming a car in the McDonald's drive-through at Seventh Avenue and Van Buren Street, cursing at employees, and refusing to leave, he sped off when approaching cops yelled at him to stop, court records show. He flew through a stop sign in a residential neighborhood at 50 mph with a cop car on his tail, cruising into an apartment complex parking lot, where he almost hit a pedestrian and another car before finally stopping.

The reporter blew a .239 BAC in a preliminary breath test. He later pleaded guilty to extreme DUI and failing to obey police commands. He finished the nine-day sentence in Durango Jail on January 31, as Phoenix New Times previously reported. He'll have to serve an additional 21 days in jail if he blows off his probation terms in the next two years, and has agreed to participate on a MADD Victim Impact Panel.

West's mug shot following his August 8 arrest. - MCSO VIA FTV LIVE
West's mug shot following his August 8 arrest.
He remembers nothing of the incident that landed him in jail, he wrote: "The only recollection I had was sitting on my couch finishing my second bottle of wine, blinking and then sitting in the back of a cop car."

West wrote that he saw red and blue lights flashing off his forehead, which must have been sort of difficult without a mirror. An officer sat in the passenger seat of the patrol car, and West presumably was in the back of the car. Yet he claims that somehow, just moments after emerging from a blackout, he was able to see and comprehend that the officer was writing down his breathalyzer result, that he tried to evade police, and that he "got a DUI."

An admission of  memory lapse for a night in a questionable narrative could be seen as problematic for any journalist. But West relates that similar drunken blackouts were common for him before the arrest. He's lived in a "web of lies," depression, and hardcore drinking for the past five years.

"This may surprise some, because I was so happy on-air and did fun stories. What viewers never saw was the person who couldn’t shake depression and drank alone at home," he wrote.

It's true that West mostly serves up light fare at Channel 12, where's he's worked since 2015. His clips include mornings with high school bands, trips to the zoo, and a story on how to make a better school lunch. It seems safe to say he doesn't mean his "web of lies" included any lies in his journalistic reports. But what about what may be his biggest scoop  — his discovery of spray-paint vandalism on the state's Confederate memorial?

That happened on on August 17, 2017, just days after the divisive and deadly Charlottesville rally, and activists were lashing out at symbols of past oppression. Confederate memorials in several states became the targets of vandals. As West reported, the memorial was spray-painted about the same time he showed up at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza on the Capitol grounds.

"We found that this monument has been vandalized," West reported in the piece that aired later that morning. "Actually, when we showed up, there was a man that was on a bicycle that took off from the scene. That's why we were talking with police just a couple moments ago."

Surveillance video obtained by Phoenix New Times told a different story. It showed the news team and bicycle-riding vandal both arrived at the memorial within seconds of each other, at about 4:40 a.m., that the vandal went near the news truck both before and after his act, and that the truck kept its headlights on the memorial before, during, and after the vandal spray-painted it.

The video made it clear that West likely knew more than he told viewers. West deleted his Facebook page temporarily after it was inundated with insinuations and outright accusations that West or Channel 12 had conspired with the vandal to create fake news. Channel 12 changed its online story after the New Times report, but it still doesn't tell all the details.

There is no evidence of collusion between West and the vandal. As New Times learned, West told the state Department of Public Safety that he and cameraman Mike Brannock were ordered by the station at about 3 a.m. that day to go to the memorial. But even if the timing wasn't coordinated, West's reporting was less than competent.

West told TV viewers a man left the scene when he arrived. Yet he told a 911 operator that when he pulled up, he saw a man spray-painting the memorial who had just left. Finally, he told a DPS investigator that Brannock talked to the vandal before the man began spray-painting, that he heard the man's paint cans hissing while the painting went on, and that he called police while the suspect was still painting.

West didn't respond to a request for comment back then, nor last week.

In November 2017, Phoenix resident Tim Coomer met with New Times and confessed to the vandalism. He denied any coordination with Channel 12. Coomer, a local political agitator who has frequent run-ins with the law, said he was inspired to vandalize the memorial after staying up all night with a friend. He said he recalled that he'd seen white spray cans in an abandoned pile of equipment near the Capitol and biked over to retrieve them before heading to the memorial. But he said he talked to the news team briefly before starting to spray paint, and found West's report inaccurate.

West needs to get his life together — he's made that clear. We wish him the best in his recovery, and heartily acknowledge that sometimes drinking and writing go together. (TV reporting, we're not sure about. And repeated drinking to black-outs? Damn, dude.) With luck, he'll kick the demon alcohol and never produce another report like his one of the Confederate memorial vandalism.

Below, a link to West's essay:

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern