clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Inside the newsroom: 3 pictures, 3 heartbreaking stories

SALT LAKE CITY — Deseret News photographer Kristin Murphy was across the street, under a tree and working to find a safe position with a clear line of sight to the heavily armed SWAT officers issuing demands to two men sequestered in a Salt Lake house.

"I was wishing I had my other lens," she told me, as she recounted the dramatic, heartbreaking morning. But there was no time to retrieve it. She and longtime Deseret News journalist Pat Reavy had raced over from the city's Public Safety Building where they were staked out after learning of a possible pending arrest in the case of missing University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck. When they saw officers in vehicles racing from the building, they realized "something is happening."

They scrambled to Pat's vehicle and headed toward a house on West Temple. Kristin's longest lens was in her car so she settled for a lens extender and found a place across the street from the house. This was no stakeout. This was happening now.

Pat had been working the difficult-to-stomach story throughout the week, ever since the 23-year-old student was reported missing. Surveillance pictures from Salt Lake City International Airport show her retrieving her suitcase after her 1:35 a.m. arrival, then walking through the airport June 17. A Lyft driver dropped her off at Hatch Park in North Salt Lake at 3 a.m. And that was it. While the city slept, she vanished.

This story would not have a happy ending. Now, 11 days later it is one of several stories from the past two weeks that has ended with loss of life. These stories have been told most powerfully through the dramatic pictures captured by journalists.

Kristin's image, shown throughout the country Friday, shows the man suspected of killing Lueck with his hands in the air walking toward six heavily armed SWAT officers. The juxtaposition of the urgency of the officers and the emotionless calm of the bespectacled suspect reveals the senselessness of the crime. He's innocent until proven guilty. Whether it is him or someone else, what selfish reason could her killer have for turning peaceful neighborhood streets into crime scenes? And how do we protect young people from falling prey to bad people?

On June 17 Dallas Morning News photographer Tom Fox was ready for business-as-usual at the federal courthouse in Dallas when he heard the pop-pop-pop of what he first thought was a car backfiring, but quickly realized was gunfire. He was only feet away and crouched behind a wall when he snapped a few frames of a fully armed gunman who had riddled the courthouse with bullets.

"I was just afraid he was going to be running with a gun. He was going to pass me, see me, identify me with the camera and shoot me," he said, as he recounted his experience to a columnist for his own paper. The image shows the risk he and the community faced; the gunman was heavily armed and had a belt full of ammunition clips. The gunman was shot and killed by arriving officers. The photo, more than any other means, showed the potential for much worse damage.

An armed shooter stands near the Earle Cabell Federal Building Monday, June 17, 2019, in downtown Dallas. The shooter was hit and injured in an exchange of gunfire with federal officers outside the courthouse.
An armed shooter stands near the Earle Cabell Federal Building Monday, June 17, 2019, in downtown Dallas. The shooter was hit and injured in an exchange of gunfire with federal officers outside the courthouse.
Tom Fox, The Dallas Morning News

Tom Fox was in real danger. Kristin, our photographer, was at some risk, but not in a similar situation and certainly not fearing for her life. But my conversation inside the newsroom this week with Kristin included whether we should revisit outfitting photographers with protective vests. We've talked about it before. It's required in war zones. Are our streets now that dangerous?

Of the three, the most impactful photo of the week — seen worldwide — is the tragic image of 25-year-old Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter lying dead, face down, on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande River. It was taken by journalist Julia Le Duc and first published in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, before going viral.

Graphic photo below.

The bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter Valeria lie on the bank of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, Monday, June 24, after they drowned trying to cross the river to Brownsville, Texas. Martine
The bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter Valeria lie on the bank of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, Monday, June 24, 2019, after they drowned trying to cross the river to Brownsville, Texas. Martinez' wife, Tania told Mexican authorities she watched her husband and child disappear in the strong current.
Julia Le Duc, AP

As the Los Angeles Times reported, Ramirez and his family left El Salvador on April 3 with his 21-year-old wife, Tania Vanessa Avalos, and their toddler, Valeria. They were headed north to seek economic opportunity and flee violence. The details of the storyhit all the issues of the immigration debate. A Deseret News story titled "Will this photo make a difference" suggests something must be done.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Congress this week passed a $4.6 billion humanitarian aid package, despite partisan criticism that the bill doesn't go far enough toward helping children.

“In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill,” Ms. Pelosi told House Democrats.

Each of the images are different and likely only the image of the father and daughter will affect a change. But spending time resting upon each photo can bring either empathy or anger, and both emotions can move us to say "something must be done."