Friday, August 25, 2006

The Essex shooting spree

Everyone's shocked by the tragedy that unfolded yesterday afternoon in Essex. A 26-year-old man, scheduled to be arraigned on murder and attempted murder charges in about ten minutes, is accused of going on a shooting spree, killing two and wounding two others. The shootings, police said, happened in homes and the town elementary school. This, four days before the start of a new school year.

And it's been rather stunning to see the narrative unfold, largely online in the last 24 hours, with the Burlington Free Press's coverage. The daily paper has posted over a dozen updates today and over 30 since first reports of the shootings started trickling in on the police scanner. The latest mini-update says that the suspect, Christopher Williams, 26, of Essex has a "rather extensive” criminal record in Massachusetts. I don't know about anyone else, but this is the first time I've seen the Free Press or any other paper for that matter post so many updates on a single story over the course of a day.

Certainly, it's a big deal and the paper seems to have thrown at least seven reporters at it, contributing in some way.

Meantime, this paper is — as I'm sure are others — trying to think of appropriate ways of localizing the story. It's the question that pops into most of our minds when something like this happens: Could it happen here, and if so, what would we do about it?

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