Lynchburg Police say they never intended to be insensitive when they released a mug shot photo of murder victim Shawn Moss, and they have apologized for creating that perception. Police say the purpose in releasing his photo was to get information to the public on short notice that would lead them to Shawn Moss’ killer. A different photo is now posted on the department’s Facebook page. Police continue to look for a man described as a “person of interest” in this week’s shooting death at 11th and Polk Streets — 24 year old Dominique Moss.
(Continue reading for the full Lynchburg Police statement.)
LPD response to community concerns regarding the photo of homicide victim Shawn Moss.
First and foremost, Chief Parks Snead and the LPD wish to express their condolences to the family of Shawn Moss whose tragic death occurred near 11th and Polk Streets. on 8-26-14. Anytime a member of the public we serve is the victim of such a terrible crime we all are affected. As a police department we are working hard to solve this crime and prosecute the person or persons involved.
It has come to the attention of the LPD that our release of the mug shot of the victim was insensitive. Anytime our actions are perceived as insensitive it is of concern. We are servants of the citizens and their concerns must be ours. We regret that, as we took action to seek information on this horrible crime, it was perceived as insensitive to the victim and his family. For that we apologize.
In no way is the following information intended to generate debate, it is provided as an explanation of our actions in hopes of better understanding. Our purpose in releasing the photo of the victim is to get information out to the public to generate leads to catch the killer. As tragic as Mr. Moss’ death has been, failing to get information out to the public on our part that could help solve the crime would be even more tragic. The photo was released to the public in a media release just before midnight on 8-26-14. At that time this was the only verified photo the LPD possess of Mr. Moss. We must ensure we get information out to the public, but we must also ensure we get correct information out to the public. We knew this to be Mr. Moss as we possessed the photo and had verification that the person in the photo was Mr. Moss. A number of questions have arisen about why we did not use a photo of Mr. Moss from his Facebook page. We would need permission to use photos in possession of others and verify the person depicted. At that time, it would have been just as insensitive for us to notify the family of Mr. Moss’ death and ask for his photo simultaneously if we already had his photo in our possession. We should never release a photo publicly that has another person depicted that is not part of our investigation, particularly a juvenile child of the victim.
What we find when we release victim identity, including their photo, it will generate leads and information. We have had many occasions when someone might recognize a person’s photo and it generate a recollection that is helpful to the investigation. It’s simply a matter of getting information out to get information back. The police department depends on the citizens we serve to help us and be eyes and ears in the community. We need the help of the public to effectively police in the community and that means information needs to be shared that doesn’t compromise an investigation or prosecution.
We have since been able to secure a photo of Mr. Moss that is not a mug shot and that is posted on our Facebook page. Again, we express our condolences to the family of Mr. Moss and apologize for any perception that our actions may have been insensitive.
Major J.P. Stokes, Acting Chief of Police