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Honesty took a nap after Zina Linnik’s murder

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on April 23, 2011 at 6:06 pm with 7 Comments »
April 22, 2011 6:09 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Almost four years after the fact, the public has learned why the Tacoma Police Department took so long to put out an Amber Alert for a missing and murdered Tacoma girl: The officer asked to do it fell asleep.

The outrage isn’t the 12 hours it took to issue the alert after 12-year-old Zina Linnik was abducted on July 4, 2007. It’s the more than three years the police department took to acknowledge what happened – a coverup that deliberately misled the public and is still being soft-pedaled by City Manager Eric Anderson.

The original delay didn’t cost Zina her life: She was apparently murdered minutes after being kidnapped by Terapon Adhahn, who received a life sentence for the crime.

And the delay was excusable. At the time, the department’s policy prevented anyone but its official spokesman from ordering an Amber Alert. That spokesman, Mark Fulghum, was off-duty and asleep after a very long shift and a dose of sleep medicine. Everything depended on the human factor – one man’s fatigue derailed the entire warning system.

But what happened after is inexcusable.

Instead of forthrightly admitting what happened, Police Chief Don Ramsdell and Fulghum gave the public what amounted to a cover story – that the Amber Alert had been delayed only by necessary police work.

Neither mentioned Fulghum’s lapse. Nor did a later report on the department’s supposedly comprehensive review of the incident. The truth came out only recently in the course of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Zina’s family and after hard questioning by this newspaper’s reporters.

It is disappointing that Ramsdell – an honorable man – chose to protect an officer by deceiving the public. While that’s sometimes an impulse within police departments, Ramsdell works for the citizens of Tacoma, not his fellow officers.

But Ramsdell at least has apologized and acknowledged that what he did was wrong. Not so his boss, City Manager Eric Anderson, who continues to find no fault with Ramsdell’s action, refuses to reprimand him – and even insists that the public wasn’t misled in the first place.

On Thursday, he said he didn’t consider Ramsdell’s public statements to be lies. “He didn’t include all the information … Is this man a liar? No. Not by omission or commission.”

That itself is a misleading statement. One deceit under pressure doesn’t define an otherwise honest man as a liar. But it is blindingly obvious that the truth was suppressed – for many months – by Ramsdell’s self-serving omission.

Ramsdell and Fulghum have probably learned their lesson all too painfully at this point. But Anderson appears to have learned nothing at all about what the public deserves to be told.

Given that’s he’s their boss – the chief executive of city government – we’re more concerned about his attitude toward the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. Disappointing!!

  2. PumainTacoma says:

    Are you kidding me? After ther Brame fiasco City coverup we give another chief of police a pass? Hello Bueller? citizens expect more, If the CEO of my corporation LIED to the board of directors he’d be fired! We should not be protecting people who were negligent and then lie to cover up not doing their Job!!!

    This pattern of protecting police who lie is abuse of our intelligence and borderline criminal. For if I lied to a police officer it is a crime, if they do it it is a mistake! Ramsdell and Fulghman should resign!

  3. Don’t expect either Ramsdell or Fulghum to resign or for anything to come out of their misleading the Public.Tacomans can expect Anderson to continue to deny any responsible for any ones actions and not taking any action.For this group I see it will be Business as Usual.Apparenty this is what the voters will have to get used to in the future.The good old Boy syndrome is alive and well in Tacoma!

  4. tree_guy says:

    “The original delay didn’t cost Zina her life”

    Read more:

    That’s not a fact, just an unverifiable claim. By claiming that Zina was killed within minutes of her abduction it serves to marginalize the Tacoma Police Department goof ups.

  5. commoncents says:

    tree_guy – you can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to assert that you can’t say that it didn’t cost her her life then you can’t claim the alternative position as true either. Statistics (75% of all similar abductions result in death to the victim within 4 hours) combined with the perps own admission lend credence to that claim. The hope that she might have been one of the statistical anomalies is the only thing on the other side. Unfortunately 75% is pretty high odds. Not high enough to win anything though.

    Which gets us back to this…the process failed. They fixed the process. Hopefully we never have to use it again but we all know better.

    Focusing on whether it did or did not cost her life is what keeps the attention off of Ramsdell and the disclosure of the time line of events that evening.

  6. The story said “the original delay didn’t cause Zina her life.”

    My comment concerned that statement (which is preposterous and unverifiable) and the facts in the Zina Linnik abduction in specific. I was not commenting on child abduction statistics which may or may not have relevance in the Linnik situation. Just because children abducted by strangers are frequently killed in the first few hours and just because Linnik’s killer claimed this doesn’t mean it’s true. We don’t know, he may have been lying so he could get better living conditions at the penitentiary.

    Conclusions are not facts.

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