Image of Denis Reynoso courtesy of Jessica Spinney
On Thursday, DigBoston ran the following headline on our website: GOVERNOR PATRICK GIVES AWARD TO COPS WHO SHOT AND KILLED VETERAN. It’s not a head we ever expected to write, nor was it a sentence we were happy to assemble. But considering that it happened—in the midst of a heated national discussion about police brutality no less—we found the development newsworthy.
First some background: On September 5, 2013, three Lynn police officers responded to a disturbance report at the King’s Lynne housing complex, where they reportedly found Denis Reynoso, a veteran of the Iraq War suffering from PTSD, “acting irrationally.” What happened from that point forward all depends on whether you believe his friends and family or Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett—a dangerous ignoramus who recently attributed the spate of opiate overdoses in his jurisdiction to marijuana use—who seemingly ignored significant evidence in clearing the parties involved.
But that’s another story. At issue here is that Reynoso’s killers were presented with the state’s highest law enforcement honor, the Trooper George L. Hanna Memorial Awards for Bravery, and that reporters barely blinked.
For Media Farm purposes, we’re mainly curious about why any outlet would ignore the state’s highest elected official, lame duck or not, pinning a medal on cops who killed a veteran—or anyone, really—under questionable circumstances. The story packs every critical element right down to immediate national relevance due to widely observed grand jury deliberations in Ferguson, Missouri, where police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed an unarmed Michael Brown, setting off national protests.
In Mass, however, the Lynn Item picked up the Reynoso angle, though failed to note the pain and outrage the award would cause a lot of people in their readership. The Boston Globe ran a blip, “Officers to be honored for response to Marathon bombings,” which didn’t acknowledge the specific Lynn officers, who were among 25 recipients of 11 Hanna Awards. That coverage mirrored what we heard on WBZ radio. The Danvers Patch broke down the situation that resulted in honors for officers from their town, so good for them, but for the most part it was a typical law enforcement love fest.
Not everyone is sleeping. CommonWealth magazine has watched critically, while the independent Bay State Examiner dug deep into the Reynoso case and continues following developments. Otherwise, your Mass media seems unwilling to report this ill-timed insult to injury, just like they stayed silent last year when the Boston Police Department awarded their own cops who have beat and killed unarmed suspects.
On those notes, and since Governor Deval Patrick and authorities should hear about the pain their actions cause, we reached out to Reynoso’s fiance, Jessica Spinney, for her side of the story, and to give the family affected the last word for a change. Her and Denis were supposed to marry last September 11. That wound up being the day she buried him. Spinney has helped organize five rallies to raise awareness about Reynoso’s case in the past year, and in the wake of the Hanna Award tells DigBoston:
“I woke up [on Thursday] and I had a message from a mutual friend, and she was like, ‘I can’t believe this.’ I kind of left it like that, and while I usually look at the Item first-thing, I didn’t that day, and then around 12 o’clock I had a message from my sister-in-law, and she told me.
“It’s not like I’m going to go crazy, but it really feels like it’s rekindling everything, and right before the holidays. My phone has been going off like it was on the day he passed away.
“The governor must have done this without knowing the facts. There has to be another instance in Lynn that could have gotten rewarded. Maybe they saved someone from overdosing.
“I feel like I’m the only one who doesn’t know what the heck is going on, and it’s my life. I know they’re just trying to cover their asses, but to do something like that is just disgusting.
“I can’t believe he’s being rewarded when he killed an innocent man in front of his five-year-old son.”
[Media Farm is wrangled by DigBoston News+Features Editor Chris Faraone]