PHOENIX >> A man fatally shot himself in the head on live national television today at the end of a high-speed carjacking chase that began in Phoenix and ended about 90 minutes later within 80 miles of the California border.
Fox News was covering the chase that began about midday 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 and hasn’t yet been identified, 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 the shots hit the police vehicle and the officers escaped injury.
The suspect headed west on Interstate 10, then pulled onto a dirt road that Thompson said was “70 to 80 miles east of the California line.”
“He got out of the car and shot himself,” Thompson said. “Efforts to revive him were not successful and he was dead at the scene. 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.
Shepard 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.”
The video showed the man running erratically in a field before putting the gun to his head and firing. He fell to the ground.
Fox’s picture quickly cut to Smith, who was shouting “get off, get off, get off, get off.”
After the commercial break, Smith apologized repeatedly.
“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.