Saying “No Threat To The Community” Is A Reflex, Not An Honest Assessment From Law Enforcement

by Travis Mateer

It’s a hard sell to tell a community there’s no threat when a homicide occurs and the person responsible hasn’t been apprehended.

In Idaho, where four college students were recently stabbed to death, the tweet our Missoulian reporter highlighted indicates local authorities are NO LONGER saying there isn’t a threat to the community.

Here is the rationale given for pulling back on the NO THREAT reflex usually handed out to media:

“We cannot say that there is no threat to the community,” Fry said at news conference attended by more than 40 local and national media members Wednesday afternoon. “We still believe it is a targeted attack. But there is still a person out there who committed four very horrible, horrible crimes.”

Yes, I totally agree with this rationale, but guess which local law enforcement agency in Missoula doesn’t? If you guessed the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, you’re correct!

At the end of September, an 88 year old woman was found beaten to death east of Missoula, in Clinton. Has a suspect been apprehended? No, but don’t worry, there’s no risk to the public (emphasis mine):

An 88-year-old woman was found dead along Donovan Creek Road on Sunday.

The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office is not releasing any additional details and the woman’s family has declined to comment.

Deputies arriving at the scene of a reported assault found Delphine A. Farmer unresponsive.

She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Sheriff’s Office reports that “there is no public safety risk as a result of this incident.”

Unlike Missoula County’s outgoing Sheriff, T.J. McDermott, the Moscow Police Chief, James Fry, is capable of acknowledging his missteps. I find this admission refreshing (emphasis mine):

University of Idaho students and families of the victims expressed frustration Tuesday at the lack of information released to the public. Many students left Moscow early for Thanksgiving break. 

“The reality is I probably should have been standing here a day or so ago,” Fry said. “But I’m here now. We’re going to continue to be here.”

If it wasn’t for the publicity of national media, would James Fry be making this mea culpa? I don’t know, but I do know members of our own City Council are paying attention because they took time on Monday to make comments about it, and those comments were covered by the Missoula Current.

The coverage from MC is actually pretty disgusting because Martin “Gomer” Kidston makes it sound like all 7 deaths over the weekend were the result of gun violence. Here’s the manipulative reporting (emphasis mine):

With the murder of at least seven university students over the weekend, including four in Idaho, several members of the Missoula City Council on Monday expressed thoughts and concerns about campus safety.

Council member Jennifer Savage, who works at the University of Montana, said the shooting of five University of Virginia Students and four in Moscow, Idaho, have campus members talking about safety in an era where gun violence has become common.

Further down in the article, the gun control agenda is on full display:

“Having a child away at college and having one on her way, it’s a sad day for the universities,” said council member Amber Sherrill. “It makes me think a lot about mental health, mental health funding and gun control.”

A number of gun incidents have occurred at the University of Montana over the years. Most recently, a student brought a gun into Aber Hall and fired the weapon several times from his dorm window.

Yes, if we’re talking about gun incidents, then some student firing a gun from his dorm window is the most recent. But if we’re talking about the tragedy of young people going to college, struggling with mental health issues, then ending up dead, UM’s campus had a recent tragedy, but that sad situation was almost completely swept under the rug.

I hope our local institutions take note of James Fry admitting he should have been more open with the public from the get-go because the institutional reflex to say NO WORRIES is not a good one.

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Thanks for reading!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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