Phoenix police have identified the man who shot himself in the head live on the Fox News Channel last week as 33-year-old Jodon Romero, who had run into trouble with the law in the past.
The Arizona Republic reported that Romero led law enforcement on a 90-minute car chase, shooting at police and a police helicopter during the pursuit. Police spokesman Tommy Thompson told the newspaper that a felony warrant was out on Romero for a parole violation on a weapons charge and “a criminal record involving numerous violent crimes.”
The chase began when someone called 911 Friday morning to report that a man – who would later turn out to be Romero - on foot ran into their car.
“As officers were responding to the scene, a man believed to be the same suspect stole a 2008 Dodge Caliber at gunpoint from two people at a restaurant … several blocks away,” a police official told the Arizona Republic. “He fled the scene in the stolen vehicle.
“After the suspect ran red lights and the driving was considered too dangerous, the pursuit transformed into a surveillance, and undercover plainclothes officers, with assistance from the police helicopter took over,” police said.
As police pulled back from Romero for safety concerns, Fox News helicopters broadcast the action for audiences at home. The network, which tuned in and out of the pursuit when there were developments throughout the afternoon, would come to regret the decision.
Romero eventually pulled off the highway into a dusty field about 80 miles from the California state line. He exited his vehicle as Fox cameras zoomed in.
“Looks like he’s a little disoriented or something,” Fox anchor Shepard Smith said as the man pulled a gun out of his pants and seemed to point it toward his head. “Get off, get off, get off, get off it,” he commanded to producers.
Smith, in particular, has been a target for critics that don’t appreciate his tendency to air live car chases. His broadcasting style as the events unfold has been compared to a sports announcer calling play-by-play.
Normally, news stations that cover live chases do so with a five- or 10-second delay to make sure nothing too disturbing is broadcast, a plan that didn’t pan out Friday. Smith was visibly shaken after the network showed Romero taking his own life.
“We really messed up. And we're all very sorry. That didn't belong on TV. We took every precaution we knew how to take to keep that from being on TV. And I personally apologize to you that happened,” Smith said when his show came back from a commercial break. “Sometimes we see a lot of things we don't let get to you because it is not time-appropriate, it is insensitive, it is just wrong. And that was wrong. And that won't happen again on my watch. And I'm sorry.”