I sat in the far corner of the local café sipping my hot cup of coffee with hazelnut creamer. I double checked to make sure I had my recorder so I could get everything on tape for later recall. I looked at the ticking clock on the wall behind the busy barista at the counter. My interviewee was 45 minutes late, and I was worried he had changed his mind.
I had received a tip from a mutual friend of a friend, who is now most likely deceased, about the misappropriation of funds from our city’s government. I had a file filled with evidence in my possession of where the funds were taken, and into what personal bank accounts they were put into. I now needed names, witnesses and a bit more information before I could send the whole thing to print and expose the truth.
My mind initially went back to the City of Bell scandal in 2010 where the same thing went down in the small section of Los Angeles County. LA Times reporters, Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives, wrote an investigative journalism article about the insane amount of public tax dollars that were lining the pockets of Bell city officials.
As they continued their investigation they found high property tax rates, suspicions of voter fraud in municipal elections among other misdeeds. They called the malpractice of the city of Bell’s officials to the attention of the nation with a pen in their hand meeting the clean sheets of notepad paper, and I was hoping to do just the same. However, these officials I was up against may have learned from the mistakes of the Southern Californian city and have put in place precautions to stop their misdoings to hit the press.
I waited another 15 minutes sending emails off from my phone to the failed interviewee before calling it quits and grabbed my things so I could leave. I left the ceramic coffee cup on the table that I had been sitting at and made my way out of the small café.
I heard yelling as soon as I opened the front door of the café and stepped outside. At the end of the street was an ambulance, a few police cars and a fire truck that was parked in a way so that it was covering something on the sidewalk. A small crowd was beginning to form around the spectacle. I quickly rushed over to the scene while fiddling around for my press pass.
“Excuse me officer,” I said jogging up to one of the policemen attempting to control the crowd. “I’m with the local newspaper and was wondering if you could tell me what happened here.” I flashed my press pass with a winded smile.
“I need you to back up just like everyone else right now,” he said, “but I’ll do my best to answer a few questions after our initial assessment of the crime scene.”
I had managed to make my way up to the front of the crowd and I kept getting pushed around in the excitement. However, the exhilaration from my face had worn off when I saw the bloody mess on the pavement.
My interviewee had been found face-first on the pavement lying in his own blood before the coroner and other investigators documented evidence and flipped over the body. Someone had gone through the trouble of shooting one of my only sources of information in the back on his way to answer questions. This news story was getting out of hand and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue poking the gunman with a stick. I nervously looked around at the people standing in the crowd, and in the midst of great panic, I quickly rushed off toward my car in the café parking lot.