Emilee Randall’s brother killed her when she was 10 years old.
The family princess, Emilee was the youngest child and only daughter among four older brothers.
Matthew Randall, her 13-year-old brother, accidentally shot her in the head with their father’s service weapon. Her parents were away on errands and then dinner out. Emilee died instantly.
Craig Randall, a sergeant with the Clark County Sheriff’s department in Washington, lived near Battle Ground, news-hub of the weekly publication I worked for. Randall patrolled the area on roads and on water. Although he was a private man, the small community knew his hands were full with four rambunctious sons and a wife who suffered from multiple sclerosis.
On that fateful night, I worked late. A city officer on patrol saw my office light on and called with the partial news he’d heard on his police radio. All he knew was that a young girl was shot; he didn’t know it was a fellow officer’s child.
Stunned, I found out all I could in the minutes following the shooting. As a follower of Christ, I prayed for them. As a mother, I added tears and compassion. As a journalist, my job was to get the truth as fast as I could and report it without leaving the first two responsibilities behind.
In the days following, media informed the community that Craig Randall was aware of his son Matthew’s fascination with “dry-firing” weapons because he liked the clicking sound. Randall had made a habit of unloading his service weapon and storing it on a high dresser in the master bedroom. On this night, however, he was in a hurry and didn’t unload it. He put it in its usual place, intending to come back to it later.
Press conferences were called over several days. During the first, media from across two states formed a half-circle around a podium where the Sheriff spoke. Television and radio techs with cameras, microphones, and tape recorders, and print journalists poised with pens above paper, met to gather facts and report them.
The Sheriff spoke. He was interrupted. Time and again, he couldn’t finish a sentence. After a few minutes it was clear that media had an axe to grind, an opinion to push, an agenda to uphold: gun control. Astonished, I felt like a tadpole swimming with sharks in a pool of blood.
Hardly anyone focused on reporting the truth behind the tragedy: a father was busy and forgot; he’ll have to live with that forever. He lost his only daughter by the hand of his son, who would now serve four years in an institution. In one day, the parents lost two children. That teenager will live forever with the mental picture of his sister’s head being blown to bits at his hand.
Yet media focused on gun control.
As a follower of Christ, I struggled with pursuing this story. Underneath the banner on the front page of our newspaper is a motto, “news with integrity.” I am pleased to look back at that tempest in January 2003 with satisfaction that duty to God wasn’t compromised, truth was told, integrity upheld, and His compassion was shown to those who hurt.
Several months later I came across Craig Randall at a store. He simply said, “Thank you.”
Other scribes from long ago were reporters/writers commissioned from God. They set a good pattern with balance of truth and concern.
We wouldn’t know about Israel’s fall and banishment from the Promised Land if it weren’t for Isaiah and Jeremiah. How could we rejoice with God’s people when they returned from Babylonian exile if Ezra and Nehemiah hadn’t penned the experience on animal skins in black ink? Moses must have spent a lot of time writing the Pentateuch of creation and the formation of God’s Nation. I wonder if he sat under a tree and wrote furiously as God dictated.
In the New Testament, the angel of God told John, “Write this down,” for the book of Revelation. Jesus’ red-letter words in the first four books of the New Testament would be lost if not for those men who reported what He said and did.
I believe media is an ancient craft--a gift from God that requires integrity and responsibility to Him. A paraphrase of Proverbs 25:11 is a reminder, “A word aptly [written] is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
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