Wednesday, July 25, 2007

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Local TV closes in on killing

When it comes to local TV news, they say if it bleeds, it leads.

One of the Little Rock television stations didn’t disappoint fans of TV violence when its cameraman zoomed in on a Jacksonville man as he lay dead in the Wal-Mart parking lot in North Little Rock Sunday afternoon.

Shoppers and relatives wept nearby until the police arrived. Reporters interviewed grieving relatives, in-cluding the victim’s daughter, until the coroner was called more than an hour later.

The victim, Dean Worden, 40, lay in the parking lot for a couple of hours, giving reporters and photographers plenty of time to get their story and pictures.

Only one TV station showed the bloody sheet over Worden’s body, but the station quit airing the scene after 10 p.m. Sunday when police complained about the footage.

The shooting occurred around 2 p.m. as the Worden family went shopping at Wal-Mart.

Police arrested Joshua Leallen Lofton, 17, just 13 hours after the shooting, thanks to surveillance cameras and tips from witnesses who saw him snatch a purse from Linda Garner. Then, in an act of total depravity, he fired several shots from a getaway car, hitting Worden in the neck.

Lofton has been charged with capital murder and was denied bail during his arraignment Tuesday. The police arrived quickly at the crime scene and cordoned off the area, but the coroner’s office wasn’t notified until 3:36 p.m.

Coroner Mark Malcolm arrived at the murder scene eight minutes later, he told us Tuesday.

“Sometimes it takes longer to notify the coroner,” he said, explaining that the Wal-Mart parking lot was a huge crime scene and the police were going over the entire area after they taped off the parking lot and then called him.

The coroner then worked with police in their investigation and left with the body about a half an hour later — a long time after the shooting, but that’s just how it is sometimes, Malcolm said.

He had a busy day Sunday: Later that evening, a Tulsa Drillers first-base coach was hit by a line drive at Dickey-Stephens Park, which is just a couple of miles from Wal-Mart.

Malcolm was called to the hospital, where the coach was pronounced dead and then the state medical examiner performed an autopsy.

“It was a sad day,” Malcolm told us.

The Worden family are members of Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church in Sherwood, which has set up a memorial fund at Metropolitan National Bank.

The family is reluctant to talk to the press but issued a statement through the church, thanking North Little Rock police “for their treatment of the family and their efforts to bring the guilty party to justice.

“We would also like to thank the many witnesses who have come forward to assist the police and the public for their outpouring of sympathy. We appreciate the continued prayers and respect for our need for privacy.”

Although Worden’s family is in shock, their Christian faith is helping them get through this difficult time. His obituary on p. 5A mentions 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, where love triumphs over adversity:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Lofton’s mother, Diane, had a similar message for her son in court: “I would like to say, Joshua, our prayers are with you, and I hope that you will continue to pray and look to the Lord.”