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Chief Begs Witnesses To Call 911 Before They Start Filming, Posting Crimes To Social Media

Derwood, MD – A Maryland police chief wrote an op-ed expressing frustration about witnesses who are more concerned about posting images and photos of crime scenes to social media than they are about calling 911 to get help for people in emergency situations.

“If someone has been shot, stabbed or beaten and is fighting for life, the least anyone could do is punch three digits on a phone,” Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones wrote in an opinion piece published by The Washington Post on Feb. 11.

Chief Jones highlighted the Jan. 21 shooting at Magruder High School to emphasize his point.

In that incident, 17-year-old Steven Alston allegedly shot a 15-year-old boy in the school bathroom with a “ghost gun” he’d built from parts he bought online, WJLA reported.

The victim was hit in the pelvic area, leaving him “fighting for his life,” Chief Jones told reporters at the time.

The critically-wounded boy underwent multiple surgeries in the wake of the shooting and is continuing to recover.

Chief Jones noted in January that multiple teens witnessed the attack, but that they posted information to social media platforms instead of calling 911 or alerting school personnel, WJLA reported.

The wounded sophomore was ultimately discovered by a school security officer, prompting the call to law enforcement and emergency medical personnel.

“There is a place for social media, but then there is a time and a place when we need to help our fellow man,” the police chief said at the time. “It is wiser to give people the help and get the help started that they need versus being the superstar on Twitter for the day. And that’s a reality that we have to have a real conversation with our young people about.”

Chief Jones discussed the phenomenon further in his opinion piece for The Washington Post.

“The element of the crime that has the longest-lasting impact and might be the most serious danger to all of us is that there were witnesses to the crime who did nothing to help the victim or try to make sure the person who committed the crime would be caught,” he wrote.

He noted the witnesses did not take a “vow of silence” to avoid getting involved or to “protect themselves from retribution.”

“Just the opposite. They told the whole world, but not the appropriate part of the world,” Chief Jones said. “Rather than notify the school staff or get in touch with 911 by calling or texting, students instead posted about it on Twitter and Snapchat. Their followers knew what had happened at the school, and whoever received the shared or retweeted tweets knew, and perhaps they even sent it further along.”

But none of those actions helped the 15-year-old boy who was bleeding to death on the bathroom floor.

“Social media can cause some of our best citizens to lose focus during a critical moment” and cannot replace social responsibility in real life, Chief Jones wrote.

“This isn’t about betraying friends or snitching. It’s about a responsibility to your neighborhood, your community or simply the health and safety of another person,” he said.

Chief Jones urged young people, teachers, parents, and tech companies to take an honest look at what has happened to humanity with regards to the reluctance to help victims of violent crime, WTOP reported.

“There’s a time and a place for everything, and I think the time to post things on social media comes at a later time, where getting people the help they need needs to be more immediate,” Chief Jones wrote. “There’s an opportunity to educate everyone about good social media protocols that we should all have, particularly when it comes to people who have been injured.”

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin

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