Surveillance Videos Contradict Channel 12 News Report on Confederate Memorial Vandalism

(UPDATE: Channel 12 Changes Tale on Confederate Memorial Vandalism After New Times Story)

Surveillance videos obtained by the Phoenix New Times contradict a Channel 12 news reporter's broadcast last week about a vandalized Confederate memorial at the Arizona State Capitol.

The videos, obtained from the Arizona Department of Administration following a public records request, make it clear that reporter Bryan West could have, or should have, seen much more than he reported.

The "Memorial to Arizona Confederate Troops," a stone structure in the shape of the state of Arizona, was installed at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza on the Capitol grounds in 1961. On August 17, someone spray-painted the memorial white and added a scrawled white cross.

It was the second Confederate memorial vandalized in Arizona on or about the same night, following in the aftermath of national strife over the violent clashes between protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, and outrage over President Trump's response to them. A monument of the president of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, was tarred and feathered on Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway near Apache Junction in the early morning on August 17, or during the previous night.

West, who declined comment for this article, showed up at the plaza on August 17 to use it as a backdrop for a report about the controversies.

Dean Ditmer, president and general manager of Channel 12, (KPNX-TV), claimed that West could not see the vandalism taking place in front of the van.

Yet as one of the videos shows, the news van's headlights were pointed at the memorial before, during, and after the incident, illuminating it as the suspect spray-painted the monument.

Channel 12's team arrived in the parking lot of Wesley Bolin Plaza just after 4:40 a.m., the video shows, seconds after the vandalism suspect rode up on a bicycle.

The suspect appears to have ridden or walked near the van before and after the incident, which is still being investigated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

In contrast, West reported on the morning news, and also in a live video on his Facebook site, that when he and a cameraman arrived, he saw a man on a bicycle leaving the scene.

West indicates in the August 17 broadcast that his arrival at the memorial at roughly the same time it was vandalized was a coincidence.

"We showed up to this monument originally doing a story about the controversy, and taking these down, we've seen it happen all across the nation," West reported that morning. "And this is what we found. We found that this monument has been vandalized. Actually, when we showed up, there was a man that was on a bicycle that took off from the scene. That's why we were talking with police just a couple moments ago."

West ran with a similar version of his news story on Facebook Live: "We were coming out to the State Capitol to do a live shot about certain monuments or memorials for the Arizona confederacy or the troops. ... As soon as we got here, we saw a person that was actually leaving the scene."

An article without a byline by Channel 12 later that day also states, "When 12 News arrived at the scene, a man took off on a bike."

In contrast to the reports, a 10-minute surveillance video of the memorial shows that at 4:40 a.m., the suspect rolled past the memorial on his bicycle and continues out of frame. Seconds later, the headlights of the van can be seen in the parking lot. They settled directly on the Confederate memorial, which is a six-foot-tall structure built of rocks and shaped like the state of Arizona.

Additional surveillance videos show the Channel 12 van passing 15th Avenue and Washington Street, then turning in and parking. No other vehicle can be seen at that time in the videos.

A minute and a half later, the suspect comes into the scene again, walking his bike from the source of the headlights, near where the news van parked. Lit up by the van's headlights, he puts the kickstand down on the bike and lets it fall to the ground. He's still illuminated partially when he begins spray-painting the memorial.

For most of his spray-painting, the suspect is in the dark — except for the glow of aerosol wafting all around the memorial. But he emerges at times into the light.

At 4:43 a.m. and 30 seconds, he walks all the way around the structure.

A little after 4:46 a.m., he retrieves his bike and appears to walk it back toward the parking lot. Shadows of the man and the bike can be seen on the memorial as he apparently walks in front of the headlights.

At 4:48 a.m., the video shows the cameraman walk toward the memorial, on its left side, taking the same route that the suspect had taken when walking to the parking lot. He sets up a camera on a tripod. Soon after, West walks toward the memorial to prepare for his live broadcast.

As West explains in the piece aired on Channel 12 that morning, he called police after realizing the memorial had been vandalized.

"Our crew could not see the vandalism from their vantage point. As surveillance video shows, the vandalism took place on the other side of the monument and their view was obstructed," Ditmer explained in a statement released to New Times.

"When our reporter realized what was happening, he immediately contacted the authorities and gave a description of the suspect. Our reporter told viewers that he called police when he saw the vandalism. We will continue to cooperate with authorities during their investigation."

Ditmer denied that the news crew coordinated in any way with the suspect, or interacted with him during the incident.

"Our folks didn’t know what he was doing there," he wrote.

West reported that the suspect was a "white middle-aged man wearing a black cap and black shirt."

Kameron Lee, a spokesman for the state DPS, said that the case is an "open and active investigation," and that the agency was not ready to make a statement about it.

The paint on the memorial has since been removed.

See below for more surveillance videos related to the incident:

Bike entering area at about 4:29:36 a.m.

Bike near area of Capitol lawn at about 4:33 a.m.

News van recorded passing 15th Avenue and Washington Street at about 4:40 a.m.

Bike and van enter Bolin Plaza, recorded by this camera at about 4:40:48 to 4:42 a.m.

Bike leaving area at about 4:47:30 a.m.

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