Man fatally shoots self on TV after Arizona chase

Associated Press
Map shows Tonopah Arizona, where a suspected car-jacker appears to shoot himself on live television.
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Map shows Tonopah Arizona, where a suspected car-jacker appears to shoot himself on live television.

PHOENIX (AP) — Authorities still haven't released the identity of a man who fatally shot himself in the head on live national television at the end of a high-speed carjacking chase that began in Phoenix and ended close to the California border.

Fox News was covering the chase that began about midday Friday using a live helicopter shot from Phoenix affiliate KSAZ-TV. The man driving a copper-colored four-door sedan stopped, ran into the desert and placed a handgun to his head and fired.

The man was declared dead at the scene, according to Sgt. Tommy Thompson, a Phoenix police spokesman.

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith told viewers that the video was supposed to be on a 10-second delay so it could be cut off from airing if something went awry.

"We really messed up, and we're all very sorry," Smith said.

Fox apologized for showing the violence on air.

"We took every precaution to avoid any such live incident by putting the helicopter pictures on a five second delay," said Michael Clemente, executive vice president of news editorial. "Unfortunately, this mistake was the result of a severe human error and we apologize for what viewers ultimately saw on the screen."

More frequently than its rivals, Fox News Channel picks up car chases from its local affiliates and airs them live. It's gripping television, a live mystery with no clear resolution, and often provides a short-term ratings boost as viewers tune in to see how it ends. Critics say the chases themselves rarely rise to the level of national news. The Phoenix station was not airing the chase live when it ended.

Thompson said the man allegedly stole a car from a couple at gunpoint outside a Phoenix restaurant just before 11 a.m. MST.

Police officers located the vehicle and began a pursuit and the man fired several shots, Thompson said. He said at least one shot hit the police vehicle but the officers escaped injury.

The suspect headed west on Interstate 10, then pulled onto a dirt road near the town of Tonopah that Thompson said was "70 to 80 miles east of the California line."

TV footage showed the man exiting the vehicle and running erratically in a field before putting the gun to his head and firing. He then fell to the ground.

"Efforts to revive him were not successful and he was dead at the scene," Thompson said. "We don't have an ID yet."

Fox returned repeatedly to shots showing the car passing big-rig trucks that typically travel at about 70 mph as if they were standing still.

Police cars did not appear to be immediately behind the car during most of the chase.

Smith was narrating the video and clearly had his doubts about what was being shown from the moment the man stopped the car. "This scares me," he said.

"You wait for the end of these things and you worry about how they may end up," he said. "This makes me a little nervous, I got to tell you. A little nervous."

After the man shot himself, Fox's picture quickly cut to Smith, who was shouting "get off, get off, get off, get off."

Smith apologized repeatedly following the commercial break.

"That didn't belong on TV. We took every precaution we knew how to take to keep that from being on TV and I personally apologize to you that that happened," he said.

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AP television writer David Bauder reported from New York. Associated Press writer Walter Berry in Phoenix also contributed to this report.

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