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Opinion

Lack of details on Joliet bank shooting troubling

In the wake of a Feb. 6 bank robbery and subsequent police shooting that left one man dead, Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner recently took the opportunity to lambaste local media coverage of the incident on Facebook.

“Some local media outlets repeated false statements which were given to them by unvetted and uncorroborated sources,” Roechner said.

By “some local media outlets,” Roechner was referring to The Herald-News.

By “unvetted and uncorroborated sources,” Roechner apparently was referring to anyone outside of law enforcement.

“In lieu of responsible reporting, certain media outlets will seek out any information from anyone that will talk to them whether they are credible or not in order to print a story to sell newspapers or gain followers on click media.”

In their eight stories on the incident, reporters Bob Okon and Felix Sarver interviewed “official” law enforcement sources, as well as relatives, neighbors and co-workers of the alleged – albeit deceased – suspect.

Official law enforcement sources – the Joliet Police Department – initially issued a one-paragraph statement on the day of the incident, noting that “as part of a follow-up investigation to a bank robbery ... an officer became engaged with an armed adult male. The officer was forced to defend himself, the armed adult male was shot by the officer. The adult male was taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center, where he later died of his wounds. The officer was taken to Silver Cross Hospital for treatment and observation.”

Police declined to release the name of the victim, or how they determined where he lived. Roechner later directed all further questions to the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force.

The next day, the task force identified the suspect as Bruce Carter, 38, of Joliet, and revealed that Carter “was armed with a box cutter-style razor.”

Contacted again – this time about the bank robbery – Roechner referred questions to the FBI.

The FBI didn’t have much to say either, other than that no one had been charged in the robbery, though their website did list Carter as “wanted” for four days after his death before updating it to “captured” on Feb. 10. As of a few days ago, they removed the post altogether.

Since then, no additional “official” information has been released by the police, task force or FBI.

On the other hand, “unvetted and uncorroborated sources” – Carter’s relatives, friends and neighbors – have had a lot to say. That Carter was a quiet man who liked video games, drawing and writing; that he was a good worker; that he was a good son who took care of his ailing mother. His brother, not surprisingly, maintains police “killed an innocent man.”

Does that prove Carter was innocent? Not by any means. Yet questions still remain, questions that still are not being answered by official police sources:

• Why would a man described as nonviolent who lives three blocks from the Joliet police station suddenly decide to rob a West Side bank?

• How did Carter, who reportedly didn’t own a functioning vehicle, get to and from the robbery?

• Why hasn’t bank video of the robbery – de rigueur in this age of digital security – ever been released?

• Why has the FBI still not identified Carter as a suspect in the robbery?

• What kind of weapon was used in the robbery?

• How much money was stolen?

• Where’s the box cutter used in the assault?

Law enforcement continues to remain silent regarding further details of the case.

Asked about the shooting, Roechner initially said state law prohibited him from answering, and then later directed questions to the task force. The task force, in turn, re-directed questions back to Roechner.

Asked about the bank robbery, Roechner referred questions to the FBI; the FBI has simply declined to answer anything.

On Facebook, Roechner said police “cannot provide detailed information during the course of an investigation.” That’s understandable, especially in cases involving unsolved crimes and suspects on the loose.

But this doesn’t appear to be one of those cases. The bank robbery, apparently, is solved, the alleged robber dead. What remains to be investigated?

We believe the public would be better served by full disclosure on this case, rather than unwarranted diatribes about media abuse.

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