Backing Rebecca Aguilar

Inquiring minds: Buzz keeps watching the video of reporter Rebecca Aguilar's interview with James Walton, the West Dallas business owner who, in separate incidents in about the past four weeks, shot and killed two burglars breaking into his machine shop. We watch and watch and still don't get it: Why did KDFW-Channel 4 suspend Aguilar?

You may have missed the report—Channel 4 pulled it from the station's Web site and demanded YouTube remove its copy. You can still find it on the Web if you search, along with about 8 kazillion blog posts vilifying Aguilar, slamming her with ethnic slurs, suggesting that she be shot or calling her a bad word that rhymes with runt.

You know, the usual blog stuff.

Aguilar met Walton outside a sporting goods store, where he was buying a shotgun. (The cops took two other guns from him as evidence while the shootings undergo a pro forma review by a grand jury.) Walton had told her where he'd be, so she didn't ambush him, as some bloggers suggested. He didn't want his face to appear on camera, but Aguilar peppered him with questions anyway, as was, Buzz thought, her job.

Not that we don't feel bad for Walton. He didn't thrust himself before the media. Still, you kill a couple of guys inside a month, you get reporters in your face. Welcome to civilization. But ask yourself this: If a cop killed two suspects in such a short period, wouldn't you want some watchdog sniffing around to make sure we didn't have a trigger-happy lawman on the street? You would if you know what's good for you. And cops are trained. Walton is just a gifted amateur. It behooves us to know whether he might be a little loose with his lead.

That's what Aguilar wanted to know: "Are you a trigger-happy kind of person? Is that what you wanted to do, shoot to kill?" she asked.

Granted those questions are not what you might call tactful, but they're the heart of the story. And if you watch the video, it will seem obvious Aguilar was trying hard to elicit Walton's side. (She does.) That's one trick reporters have: Be shockingly direct, rude even, and see what you get. Reporting can be an ugly business sometimes, which is why you hate us. You still need us, though.

Of course, Aguilar could have been slick and edited out her questions, broadcasting only his responses. Maybe she's too honest. (She's told us she couldn't talk about her suspension. We couldn't reach Walton.) Or maybe she needs backing from an editor, though apparently Channel 4 doesn't have any of those, since we haven't heard of any of Aguilar's supervisors getting suspended.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams