In a 911 call, TV news reporter Bryan West told police that he witnessed a man in the act of vandalizing a confederate memorial at the Arizona State Capitol, but he didn't tell that to TV viewers.
The call deepens the mystery of how the Channel 12 (KPNX-TV) got his scoop on August 17 about finding the memorial covered in white paint.
As an article in New Times last week revealed, the broadcast report on August 17 by West conflicts with surveillance videos of the Capitol grounds.
His version of events on the 911 tape conflicts with both the videos and what he reported to the public.
Early that morning, West reported to Channel 12's audience that he arrived at the "Memorial to Arizona Confederate Troops," a stone structure in the shape of the state of Arizona in the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, and discovered it had been vandalized.
As his footage displayed, the monument had been spray-painted white, with a white cross added at the bottom. It was the second Confederate memorial vandalized in Arizona on or about the same night, occurring days after the tumultuous events in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12.
In the 911 call, though, West claimed to have actually witnessed the vandalism:
West was apparently talking to his cameraman after the 911 dispatcher picked up, saying "I'm calling the newsroom really fast, um, just tell them we're out ..."
The operator interrupted him, asking how she could help. He gave his name and the reason they were at the memorial:
"We just got to the Confederate memorial cause we know it's controversial, um, and we pulled up and there was a gentleman on a bike with a hat that was spray-painting it, and he just left," West said. "You'll see the live truck."
His account of what he witnessed differs markedly from what he told TV viewers on the morning of August 17.
"Actually," he told the Channel 12 audience, "when we showed up, there was a man that was on a bicycle that took off from the scene."
Yet if West did see the vandal in action, new questions arise, like why he and the cameraman didn't photograph the crime or interview the offender, and how long West waited to call police about it.
Also unanswered: If West saw the man spray-painting the monument and not just a man leaving on a bicycle, why didn't he tell Channel 12 viewers the whole story?
West's Facebook site was taken down following New Times' article last week, but was put back up three days later. On the site, in a Facebook Live video taken by West the morning of August 17, West "we were just showing up" at the memorial "when we found out this was being vandalized."
Although that implies he might have seen the vandalism occuring, West first told Facebook viewers that, "As soon as we got here, we saw a person that was actually leaving the scene." He added that he could still smell paint fumes.
In reality, as the surveillance cameras show, the suspect arrived near the monument on his bicycle a few minutes before the Channel 12 (KPNX-TV) news crew arrived. But he didn't start painting the monument right away.
The van parked directly in front of the memorial at 4:41 a.m., and the vandal emerged less than a minute later from the parking lot area, walking casually toward the monument about 30 feet away.
The news van's headlights were trained on the monument before, during, and after the suspect spray-painted it white.
As the suspect worked, shadows in the headlights' glare can be seen on the memorial, possibly from West and his cameraman walking in front of the van.
The suspect seemed unconcerned about the presence of the new crew. When he was done painting, just after 4:46 a.m. according to one video, he walked back to the lot, where the van was. A few seconds later, he strolled directly in front of the headlights, as can be seen by shadows on the memorial.
About a minute later, he can be seen in a different surveillance video riding the bicycle on 16th Avenue, which at that location is a small road north of Washington Street between a parking garage and the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy building.
In the call to police, West described the suspect as an "older gentleman, maybe 40s, 50s, black hat, black shirt, cargo shorts, two cans of aerosol on the bicycle. Seen leaving north, from the eastbound — eastbound near Adams and Monroe, along 17th Avenue."
But West didn't quite get the streets right, judging from the video of the man biking away from the scene — 17th Avenue is one block west of 16th.
Less than a minute after a camera recorded the vandal on 16th Avenue, West's cameraman walked in front of the news van to the monument and set up a tripod.
The time of the 911 call was 4:49 a.m., according to the state Department of Public Safety. However, it's unknown whether the clock used by the 911 service matches exactly with the time stamps on the surveillance video.
If they do match, then West called 911 more than a minute after the suspect left the scene.
West didn't return a call on Friday from New Times. His boss, KPNX general manager and president Dean Ditmer, previously said that, "Our crew could not see the vandalism from their vantage point. As surveillance video shows, the vandalism took place on the other side of the monument and their view was obstructed. When our reporter realized what was happening, he immediately contacted the authorities and gave a description of the suspect."
After the New Times article about the videos was published, Channel 12 changed an online article about the scoop to read, "As our 12 News crew was preparing a live report from the State Capitol, a person vandalized a nearby Confederate monument."
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Several media pundits and social-media users have speculated in recent days that Channel 12 somehow manufactured the entire incident.
"They must have been contacted and told to be there to get the story before anyone else," Eric Cashman of Scottsdale wrote on West's Facebook site on Tuesday morning. "Instead of calling the police and passing on the crime, they stood by until it was done and reported on it like no advanced warning was received."
"A camera crew who couldn't get a pic? Weird," Facebook user Jennifer Lillie wrote on West's site.
The Arizona DPS has yet to release its investigative report.