The St. Louis Post-Dispatch found itself under fire after sharing a graphic photo of a police officer’s death even before his next of kin could be notified.
When confronted with angry protests, the newspaper brought up old official misconduct allegations that the officer had been cleared on.
The newspaper eventually issued an apology, but not before the damage was done.
What are the details?
The incident took place last week after North County Police Cooperative Officer Michael Langsdorf responded to a call at a market reporting a person attempting to cash bad checks.
When Langsdorf arrived on the scene, he engaged the suspect. The suspect reportedly fatally shot Langsdorf.
According to LEO Affairs, a witness described the scene as chaotic.
Witness Kashina Harper, who shared video of the incident on social media, said, “He was wrestling with the man, and the man just turned around and shot him.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch shared the video, which featured footage of Langsdorf face-down on the ground and bleeding out. According to reports, the officer’s next of kin had not even been notified of their loved one’s death before the outlet published the video on their digital media platform.
Emergency responders transported Langsdorf to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Authorities took the suspect into custody without incident.
After much outcry from its readers about the photo, the publication resurfaced 2017 allegations in which Langsdorf was accused of “overtime theft” and falsifying time sheets.
The charges related to the 2017 incident were ultimately dropped, and LEO Affairs reports that the “overtime theft” was “a lawfully ordered affair,” as Langsdorf was reportedly working for a covert drug task force at the time.
The outlet reported that the late officer is a 17-year veteran of law enforcement who also served as a firefighter with the Springdale Fire Protection District. He was also a 40-year-old father of two children.
The Associated Press reported that a “man with a violent criminal history in North Carolina was charged Monday in the shooting death of a Missouri police officer.” The suspect, 26-year-old Bonette Kymbrelle Meeks, was charged Monday with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, unlawful possession of a firearm, and resisting arrest.
You can read more on the background of the incident here.
What is the outlet saying now?
In a Monday Facebook post, the newspaper wrote:
An important note to our readers: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch apologizes for posting a link to a Facebook Live video of Officer Michael Langsdorf of The North County Police Cooperative after he was fatally shot Sunday afternoon. The link to the livestream video taken by a store clerk was deleted Sunday afternoon after it briefly appeared in a story on STLtoday.com. Posting the link was bad news judgment and the newspaper apologizes to the Langsdorf family and our readers.
The newspaper’s Facebook page later shared a follow-up apology on the social networking site.
The post read:
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch made a serious error in judgment Sunday in its online coverage of the fatal shooting of North County Police Cooperative Officer Michael Langsdorf. Our newspaper apologizes to the Langsdorf family, members of law enforcement and our readers for making a major mistake in covering a tragedy.
Harper, the woman who witnessed the incident and shared the video on social media, said that she regretted taking part in the incident.
“I regret it,” Harper said, according to the Associated Press. “I didn’t know he was going to die.”
Harper told the Post-Dispatch, “I don’t know why I went to Facebook. I don’t know.”
“I’m the one who tried to save that man,” she said. “I went to his walkie-talkie. I said, ‘A police is down. Somebody shot him. 6250 Page. Can you please hurry up?’ I was calling for help. I held his hands.”
Harper said she is receiving death threats as a result of the incident and her decision to share the video on social media.
On Tuesday, the publication shared a follow-up apology:
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch made a serious error in judgment Sunday in its online coverage of the fatal shooting of North County Police Cooperative Officer Michael Langsdorf.
Our newspaper apologizes to the Langsdorf family, members of law enforcement and our readers for making a major mistake in covering a tragedy.
A store clerk at Clay’s Wellston Food Market Restaurant recorded the aftermath of the fatal shooting in which an armed suspect struggled with Officer Langsdorf. The clerk posted that video of the graphic shooting aftermath to Facebook Live and called police for help.
The Post-Dispatch had multiple reporters and photographers covering the shooting Sunday in Wellston. An editor, not a reporter, briefly posted a link to the Facebook Live video in an online story on STLtoday.com, then deleted it a short time later. The clerk later deleted the Facebook Live video.
The online link to the video should not have been shared on STLtoday.com.
The Post-Dispatch embraces ethical standards set by the Society of Professional Journalists, which include to “minimize harm” and “show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage.” Linking to that Facebook Live video violated those standards.
The Post-Dispatch newsroom demands its journalists follow high ethical standards. Although done without malice, this judgment error failed to meet our ethical standards.
The Post-Dispatch editors are reviewing and re-emphasizing ethical standards that we must use when linking and sharing online content.
The slaying of Officer Langsdorf was a terrible tragedy. The Post-Dispatch regrets and apologizes for causing pain to the Langsdorf family and law enforcement officers.