The family of a man whose suicide was broadcast live on national television on Fox News last year is suing Fox's parent company, claiming emotional distress.
According to the lawsuit filed in Maricopa County court by the mother of three of JoDon Romero's five kids, two of the kids heard at school about a suicide being shown on TV, then went home and watched the clip -- and realized it was their father who gave up running from police, and put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
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Back in September, Romero -- who had been out of prison for four months at that point -- stole a car at gunpoint in Phoenix, and it wasn't long before police were on his tail.
Once police determined that continuing to pursue Romero was too dangerous, police went into "surveillance" mode, which included following him with undercover units and a police helicopter.
Near 44th Avenue and Roosevelt, two officers -- one inside an undercover vehicle, the other standing outside a second undercover vehicle -- were parked off to the side of the road. Romero drove at the officers and shot at them before driving his car onto Interstate 10.
At least one car was hit with a bullet, but the officers themselves were not hit.
By the time Romero drove out to around 500th Avenue, he exited the interstate, drove south, and started heading back east.
Romero stopped the car at 491st Avenue, got out, and started running. According to Phoenix police, an officer did fire a single shot at Romero after he got out of the car, but the bullet didn't hit him. Romero shot himself in the head shortly after that, and died right there.
The local Fox affiliate Fox 10 was following the whole scene in their helicopter, and it was being broadcast live across the country on Fox News' Studio B, hosted by Shepard Smith.
The local Fox station, working on a delay, cut out as Romero pulled out a gun, and put it to his head.
Despite Smith's repeated pleas live on the air to "get off" the video, there wasn't enough time, and Romero killed himself in front of a national TV audience.
Romero's two oldest children, one in high school, and the other in middle school, watched the clip on YouTube after getting home from school.
"As they watched, they realized the horror that they were watching their father," the lawsuit states.
Neither boy has been able to return to school since, the lawsuit contends.
According to the lawsuit, a psychologist found that the boys have "approximately equivalent symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder that included flashbacks, repeated thoughts and feelings associated with viewing the video of their father shooting himself in the head, re-experiencing trauma, sleep disturbance, and intrusive thoughts."
The boys will require "long-term psychiatric and/or psychological treatment," the lawsuit claims, and the youngest son is also suffering some emotional distress, despite not being exposed to the video, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and the plaintiff, the boys' mother, is seeking damages.
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