Riccardo McCray Photo

29 Aug

During yesterday’s press conference announcing that the Buffalo Police had arrested Riccardo McCray in connection with the murder of four people at Buffalo’s City Grill restaurant on August 14th, Police Commissioner Dan Derenda requested that the media not publish photos of the suspect.

Photo Courtesy of The Buffalo News, Photographer John Hickey

While he released the name and address of the suspect, Derenda claimed that publication of a photo would compromise identification of the suspect in a witness lineup.  Earlier today, community activist Darnell Jackson claimed that a photo of McCray had been posted in the Ferry-Grider projects, where McCray lives, as well as in other parts of the surrounding community.  He showed the media a copy of the photo for confirmation.

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Buffalo Police spokesman Mike DeGeorge said, “This is absolutely incorrect.  The Buffalo Police Department never posted photos of McCray in the neighborhood.  Officers were issued ‘Be On The Look Out’ (BOLO) photos to aid in the search, but those photos were police confidential and not for distribution to the public.  If those pictures were on the street, the Buffalo Police Department did not have anything to do with it.”

It’s quite possible that lineup identification has already been compromised due to the photo being widely available in the community.  “Posting McCray’s photo in the neighborhood was reckless, I mean, there was a street contract on him.  Posting it in the streets, but not for the whole community to see in the media just encourages street justice”, said one neighborhood activist who requested anonymity.

Like most media outlets, WNYMedia had been in possession of McCray’s BOLO photo since late last week and had refrained from publishing the photo so as not to interfere with an ongoing investigation.  The official line from the BPD was that McCray was  a “person of interest” who was “sought for questioning”.  However, our sources in the police department and in the community had told us he was being sought as the shooting suspect. We made the decision to err on the side of discretion until we had more details.

We were unaware that the photo was already available in multiple locations of the city.  If we had known, we would have posted the photo to advance the story and inform the public writ large about the identity of the suspect.

Perhaps media publication of the photo prior to McCray’s surrender would have more quickly led to an arrest.  It certainly would have alerted people in the community to the presence of an allegedly “armed and dangerous” criminal who could have been walking the streets.  In his interview with WIVB’s Rich Newberg, McCray claims that he did not turn himself in because he didn’t see his name or face in the media.  McCray had only heard from others on the street that he was being sought, he didn’t believe he was really being sought for questioning.

At this point, media outlets are still cooperating with police requests to not publish this photo.  Why?  McCray has surrendered, been formally charged and arraigned  for the crime.  People have a right to see the alleged face of the most heinous crime in Buffalo’s recent history.  What other criminal, after being formally charged with a crime has continued to have his identity protected by the media?  What other criminal has surrendered to a media outlet?  The media and our actions thus far are absolutely central to the larger story.

It’s not just about the photo, it’s about the role of media in this new era of information dissemination.  An era in which the Buffalo Police pays a former reporter to manage media relations and construct a narrative for the reporters to follow.

At what point does the media morph from being a watchdog for transparency and oversight of government agencies into an arm of the public relations operation of the Buffalo Police Department?  Certainly, journalists have to balance the need of the public’s right to know with public safety, but has the local media overextended courtesy in this instance?  We live in one of the most racially divided cities in America, it seems to me that the disconnect between the media, the police and what actually happens on the streets of Buffalo has never been more obvious.

We’ve spent the better part of 24 hours having an internal debate with our staff as well as with members of the establishment media whom we consider to be mentors.  I want to publish the photo as I believe people have the right to know.  Marc Odien does not.  We established a compromise to let the community have input into what we should do with the photo and also gather feedback on how you feel the story has been handled thus far.  The era of informational decisions made in a closed editorial board room are over, information deserves to be free.

Are we doing the right thing complying with police requests to withhold his photo or do people have a right to know?

You tell us.

18 Responses to “Riccardo McCray Photo”

  1. PFinan August 26, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    Publish the photo. 

  2. John August 26, 2010 at 7:43 pm #

    I would’ve published the photo upon receipt, the public should have known if there was a mass murderer on the streets of Buffalo.

  3. Mike in WNY August 26, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    The photo was published briefly yesterday on your site. Apparently you yanked it after the police requested to not publish it. So, the question is, should you publish the photo again?

  4. Matt Bova August 26, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    If the photo had been published during a police search for him, it would have helped locate a person of interest.

    Publishing the photo at this point won’t accomplish anything. If he is innocent (as he is until proven guilty) all you would have accomplished is further muddling an already complex situation.

  5. Pauldub August 26, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

    Publishing now would serve no purpose. Matt pretty much nails it.

  6. BobbyCat August 26, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    As I understand the Buf PD rationale, any witness who ID’s McCray in a lineup can later be asked on cross examination if he/she had also seen his face published somewhere else. If the answer is “yes, I saw his face published” then that witness might reasonable have confused his positive lineup identification with a recently published photo. I suppose that a published photo might taint the witness pool and maybe the jury pool. I suspect his friends will plaster his face all over the hood, trying to help.

    I want to hear a more knowledgeable legal opinion.

    • Christopher Smith August 27, 2010 at 12:31 am #

      As I understand the Buf PD rationale, any witness who ID’s McCray in a lineup can later be asked on cross examination if he/she had also seen his face published somewhere else. If the answer is “yes, I saw his face published” then that witness might reasonable have confused his positive lineup identification with a recently published photo.

      If all that is true, why is it routine to publish the photo of an alleged bank robber, murderer or other felon on TV or in the newspaper after the suspect is arrested and arraigned? Aren’t jury pools “tampered” with or tainted in every other crime following that logic? There’s more to this story…

      • BobbyCat August 27, 2010 at 8:14 am #

        Speculation is fun, but these are good questions for the media to pursue. . Who made the decision to ban photos and why? I suspect that the D.A, decided to ban photos, or maybe it was newly installed chief Derenda who might have overreacted under the pressure of a big investigation. Interesting that Mr.Hochul took the initiative and said ‘thanks’ to black leaders and not D.A. Sedita – who tends to hiss and snarl at the cameras. I think the media should ask some prominent legal eagles their opinions, although the TV media rarely, if ever, defends the Bill of Rights and the people’s right to know.

  7. Brad August 26, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

    Publishing the suspect’s photo at this point serves no purpose. All it will do is give the defense attorneys something to work with. (i.e. my client was mistakenly identified in a prejudicial lineup because of these photos claiming he is the shooter.) Why create a reasonable doubt?

  8. Matthew Ricchiazzi August 27, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    If you do, then yo ass is gonna get shot

  9. Alan Bedenko August 27, 2010 at 6:29 am #

    The cops were looking for Riccardo McCray for over a week because witnesses already identified him any one of a number of ways.  Most likely, someone saw who was shooting and identified him.  Perhaps someone knew  that McCray had a beef with the victims, or McCray was barred from the restaurant earlier.  But they weren’t looking for random black guy with certain physical features – they were looking for Riccardo McCray.  The ID issue seems to me to be all set. 

    So, if witnesses are ordered to pick him up from a lineup – something that’s sort of moot now that he’s already been charged with 4 counts of 2nd degree murder, and under arrest – posting his photo isn’t going to affect much.  

    Frankly, it should have been publicized during the manhunt and it seems very counterintuitive for the police to be frantically looking for a guy and prohibiting the public from helping out.  I think a lot of it has to do with the whole “controversy” over whether Darnell Jackson is getting too much/too little credit from the community and whatever inferiority complex psychobabble is going on among Jackson, Pridgen, etc. 

    Unless the police give a reasonable, legal rationale behind not publicizing this person’s image, it should be shown.  It’s obviously newsworthy to show the image of a person charged with a quadruple homicide. 

    I guess the summary of this comment is, “I don’t exactly get what the cops are up to, here.” 

    • BobbyCat August 27, 2010 at 10:46 am #

      By the time this reaches a jury, a defense attorney would likely try to discredit eye witnesses on the grounds that eye witness identification has proven to be notoriously unreliable, compounded by the fact that the witnesses saw McCray’s picture published as “the killer”. Now, could they conflate their positive identification with the (later) confirmation of his guilt-by-picture??

      You might think that an intelligent jury wouldn’t buy that. Maybe, but maybe not. More and more “intelligent” Americans believe that the President is a Mulsim and can’t find Mexico on a map.
      Never under estimate the intelligence of the American redneck.

  10. Colin Eager August 27, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Always publish everything.

  11. RaChaCha August 27, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    I wonder if anyone, on hearing Jackson claim that BOLO fliers were posted around Ferry/Fillmore, ran over there with a camera to check it out. If someone publishes a photo of a flier posted in a public place (presumably by police) then isn’t that a horse of a different ball game–?

    Or no–?

    Also, this reminds me somewhat of the situation with publishing the name and photo of the woman who was the target of Collins’ “lap dance” comment. Pundit nailed that one: other media outlets didn’t publish because they didn’t want to offend the sensibilities of powerful people in the community who have advertising dollars, whose cooperation might be needed in the future, and who might be socially connected with executive-level folks at the media outlet. So it’s not unheard of in deciding these issues that the reality of the decision and the given justifications don’t jibe.

    Along those lines, it seems to me in this case that, all given justifications and reasoning aside (by media and police), the photo is not published simply because the police said no — and the knowledge that going against that would result in a severe deep freeze-out of that reporter or media outlet in any future attempts to cover police-related matters.

    Or no–?

  12. kris August 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    Publish the photo.

  13. King James August 28, 2010 at 8:12 pm #

    Post it.

  14. isthismyAmerica? September 1, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.  THIS IS AMERICA ISN’T IT? This is simply a case of a LAZY do nothing police dept and a grade D media market’s attempt to be relevant. Rather than continuing the search, they’ve stopped.  That picture may be the reason an innocent man goes to jail.  I love this city but I hate the people who live here.

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  1. If You Take a Photo of Riccardo McCray, You Steal His Soul | WNYmedia.net - August 27, 2010

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