Perhaps as things calm down, communications will improve. But so far, federal and Aurora officials are making too many mistakes.
A problem that should have been fixed immediately was that local and federal officials both had their own spokespeople. That caused trouble when the locals said Holmes' apartment was booby trapped, but the feds said they found no explosives. There should have been one spokesperson only so there wouldn't be contradictory information. The scene is confusing enough without the agencies adding to it. Early this morning, the number of dead went from 16 to 14 to 12. The number of injured went from 50 - 59.
And third, a news conference with law enforcement was scheduled for 1 p.m. Instead, it didn't start until 1:48. The governor spoke off the cuff and appeared to be shaken. His message was the emotional burden of the shootings.
Then came the mayor of Aurora. He was more composed than the governor. He expressed his sympathy and gave a pep talk about everyone pulling together to get through this catastrophe. He thanked the hospitals and emergency responders. Like the governor, he spoke without notes. That's okay as long as the speakers don't ramble. They didn't, and both came off as sincere by speaking extemporaneously.
Then Police Chief Dan Oates provided details of the shooting, the suspect's arrest, and the problems entering Holmes' apartment with all the trip wires and strange-looking devices. He said the injured were taken to six different hospitals. Fifty victim advocates were available for families and survivors, and a 24-hour counseling hotline had been established. He told what he knew, then turned it over to the district attorney and an FBI agent.
Both only spoke for about a minute. Then it was back to Oates for questions. Here's where they lost it. He said he would take a "modest" number of questions, without defining what he meant. Because he already told them what he knew, most questions were answered with, "That's not something we can discuss," or "I have nothing to say about that," or "We've just begun our investigation." He was able to elaborate on a couple facts he already discussed, but no one learned much from the Q&A. Reporters were shouting their questions all at once.
I guess he reached his "modest" number when he said one more question. He then proceeded to take two more after that. The news conference took place under a canopy, it looked like in the parking lot. There was no escape for Coates, other speakers, or city council members who had gathered there. I imagine the chief and others were accosted by reporters all the way to wherever they were going next.
Another news conference is scheduled at 7 p.m. today at city hall. I would suggest they start on time. More important, they should lay the room out in a way that the dignitaries can leave without passing through the reporters. Plus Coates should say in advance he won't take any questions.