News 6 explains process behind Mount Dora shootout coverage

Response comes after Lake County sheriff paints ‘the media’ with broad brush on social media

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ORLANDO, Fla. – There’s no doubt News 6 is a media outlet. But “the media” is not a monolith.

We say this because “the media” recently came under fire after Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell voiced his concerns over “a few of the news stations’” recent coverage of an 18-year-old suspect’s shootout with law enforcement in Mount Dora.

[RELATED STORIES: WATCH: Video shows man’s shootout with law enforcement, bloody aftermath in Mount Dora | Deputies ID man, 18, accused of shooting at law enforcement in Mount Dora]

“To paint every news outlet with the broad brush of ‘the media’ is an unproductive form of dialogue,” said Jeff Hoffman, News 6 general manager. “It is similar to opinions voiced by people toward one law enforcement incident and using that to criticize all who wear the badge.”

News 6 covered the story in question after a thoughtful and detailed discussion among news managers, producers and digital team members -- the kind of conversation we aim to have when handling any story that impacts our community.

Especially when it concerns sensitive subject matters like this one, where gunfire was exchanged between a murder suspect and law enforcement officials, a particularly hot-button topic in today’s world.

We talked it through, verified everything we could with local law enforcement agencies and reflected on how best to approach the story we’d been handed, culminating in coverage of which we are proud.

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The story concerns Jonny Santiago, a man deputies said was wanted out of Volusia County in connection to his father’s death. Santiago led law enforcement on a chase throughout several counties before crashing his car into a synagogue and shooting at them Monday afternoon, according to officials. Law enforcement returned fire, injuring the suspect, who was later arrested and booked into Orange County jail early Thursday as a search for his father, since found dead near an Orange County lake, continued.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office released law enforcement body camera and dashcam video of the shootout on Thursday to multiple Central Florida news outlets, News 6 among them, showing the chase leading up to the shootout on Monday, the gunfire and the aftermath as law enforcement provided first aid to the suspect.

We decided to air those videos in multiple newscasts and post the videos unedited and in full, with a word of warning to viewers regarding the graphic nature of the footage, on in the interest of transparency.

To tell the full truth. To show what law enforcement dealt with in that situation. To be accountable and transparent.

Quite simply, to do the jobs we promised our community we’d do.

After multiple stations aired the story, the Lake County sheriff took to social media to address his concerns over how select, unnamed media outlets addressed it.

“Recently, we released law enforcement vehicle dash camera and body camera recorded video to our local media outlets showing the brave and heroic efforts of deputies and police officers apprehending an armed individual suspected of homicide in Volusia County,” Grinnell said in the video. “When the video footage was aired on the different news stations, a few of the news stations, whether intentional or not, omitted or inaccurately narrated what was actually happening in the video.”

News 6 believes that response is harmful, not just to us, but to the community we are covering.

“While the sheriff has every right to share his feelings, his use of the term ‘the media’ is not acceptable and puts my team at risk,” News 6 News Director Allison McGinley said. “Every News 6 report was based in fact and focused on the fact that law enforcement officers’ lives and the lives of those in the public were in danger as the suspect was shooting from his vehicle. We also pointed out that deputies rendered aid to the suspect.”

Ramping up that rhetoric further “puts a target on my team, who are Central Florida community members themselves,” McGinley added.

After Grinnell posted the video on social media, McGinley explained her position directly to Lake County Sheriff’s Office public information Officer John Herrell in an effort to understand if any missteps were made on our end and to continue fostering a positive relationship between Central Florida journalists and law enforcement officials.

“It is our opinion that it would have been more productive for the sheriff to reach out to those individual newsrooms with his concerns instead of painting us all with the all-to-common refrain of ‘the media’ being responsible for inaccuracies and false narratives,” McGinley said. “As I explained to the sheriff office spokesperson, the relationship between local journalists and local law enforcement does not have to be adversarial. It should only be one of accountability on both sides. Continuing to divide our communities is not being of service to our communities.”

After McGinley’s phone conversation with Herrell, the public information officer said he would relay the message to the sheriff, passing along her invitation to open up a dialogue between journalists and law enforcement about the topic.

News 6′s response is not an effort to lambast anyone in particular, but rather to preserve the sanctity of our job, to remain transparent for the sake of our viewers and to continue building and fostering trust within the community we cover.

So you can see how we covered the story, we have listed below every single newscast the shootout videos aired in on Wednesday, July 13. You can also find the original story we wrote after the sheriff’s office released the dashcam and body camera videos here, where we include all five unedited videos with a viewer discretion advisory listed.

6 p.m. newscast

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office released body camera and dashcam video Thursday of a shootout between law enforcement and a man wanted out of Volusia County, according to investigators.

7 p.m. newscast

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office released body camera and dashcam video Thursday of a shootout between law enforcement and a man wanted out of Volusia County, according to investigators.

11 p.m. newscast

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office released body camera and dashcam video Thursday of a shootout between law enforcement and a man wanted out of Volusia County, according to investigators.

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About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.