[StBernard] Taking aim at Lee Zurik's photograph

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Mar 1 08:23:35 EST 2012

Taking aim at Lee Zurik's photograph

St. Bernard deputies target reporter's photo at range

Reported by: Kim Holden, Anchor Email: kholden at fox8tv.net

Print Story Published: 2/28 7:03 pm Share Updated: 2/28 11:51 pm
A local sheriff is apologizing and promising to change departmental policy
when it comes to target practice.

The developments came after FOX 8 uncovered chilling evidence his deputies
may have been unhappy with a recent Lee Zurik investigation.

Last November, that investigation uncovered a long list of people who voted
in the October 22nd election in St. Bernard Parish, even though they haven't
lived there since Hurricane Katrina. Dozens on the list work for the
Sheriff's office. Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler told us at the
time, if those voters had homestead exemptions in other parishes, voting in
St. Bernard Parish would be against the law.

Schedler launched his own investigation. By that time, the Sheriff's race
was down to two candidates, Wayne Landry and Chief Deputy Jimmy Pohlman.

Landry was outraged by the alleged voter fraud. He said, "We go to war in
foreign countries to make sure elections are fair and free and right here in
the U.S. we have voter fraud like this taking place." Pohlman downplayed the
allegations. Before the runoff election in November, he said, "I don't think
people are going to be scared off by the ridiculous accusations of voter

In the end, the vote challenges came too late, so everyone in question was
allowed to cast a ballot. Pohlman won the Sheriff's race with 60 percent of
the vote.

That race may have gotten downright ugly, but it's what happened at the
Sheriff's Office shooting range in the days and weeks that followed, that
led FOX 8 to dig even more. We wanted to know who's been targeting the

At most shooting ranges, paper targets come in all shapes and sizes. There
are silhouettes, unidentifiable people, animals, or bulls-eyes. Most come
from a company that specializes in law enforcement targets. But FOX 8 found
St. Bernard Deputies using a black and white photo of Lee Zurik's face

"Sometimes when you reach celebrity status, people take shots at you. Of
course in this case it was literal, not figurative," says longtime outgoing
Sheriff Jack Stephens. He admits it happened more than once, but he says
ill-will was not the intent.

"I don't think there was anything sinister about it. I don't think it was
meant to be a threat," says Stephens during a recent interview at the
Sheriff's Office. He goes on to say, "But it points out the responsibility
of people in this line of work and how their actions affect other people.
It's one thing for a civilian to be doing something like that, but it's
totally different for a commissioned officer to be doing something like

Tulane Criminologist Peter Scharf says it's insulting and it undermines the
department's credibility. "It raises all kinds of issues about
professionalism, organizational control and decorum," says Scharf. "If they
target Lee Zurik, what are they doing to other citizens?"

Records show on two of the days when Lee's picture was used in target
practice, some of the officers at the firearms training class were the same
ones at the center of the voting controversy. Stephens claims he never
sensed any hostility among deputies. He also claims this is the first time
in his 28 years as sheriff, something like this has happened.

"I'm sure there's no violation of the law, it doesn't appear to violate the
canon of ethics, and there's no department policy that addresses it, but it
is in poor taste," says Stephens. "With regards to how we handle these
things in the future, there are deputies who have already been admonished
never to use celebrity portraits again as target practice."

FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti explains why it's not illegal. Raspanti
says, "It would fall into the category of flag burning and things like that.
Not in good taste, but under the first amendment, it's freedom of speech. It
is poor judgment though. Even a lay person shouldn't be doing something like

Since journalists rarely become part of the story, FOX 8 turned to Dr. Larry
Lorenz, who taught media ethics for decades at Loyola. He calls this a
matter of public interest. Lorenz says, "You're reporting on the police
activity more than on the reporter, seems to me. You would report it if they
had put the archbishop's picture up there, wouldn't you? I think the police
have some soul searching to do in this respect. Do they really want to make
enemies of those who cover them?" Sheriff Stephens says absolutely not.

He offers a public apology. "Really, I want to apologize to Lee. I never
intended to make him feel uneasy or uncomfortable about this or increase the
state of anxiety he may already live in because of the nature of what he
does," says Stephens. "I hope he accepts the apology of me and the
department because there was never any ill-will or threat intended by it."

Lee Zurik says the first thing that crossed his mind when he saw the picture
of himself being used at target practice was "How my wife, my parents, my
in-laws, and my family would react. I was worried my two little girls would
see the picture."

He admits it's not comfortable for most journalists to be part of the story.
In this case, Zurik says, "The facts in this story won't ever change what we
do. It won't change the way we investigate or ask questions."

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