Over the course of a career that spans three decades, New Haven Independent editor Paul Bass has interviewed more than his share of people in trouble with the police. Until Sunday, though, Bass had not had a chance to sit down with someone who was avoiding arrest and contemplating turning himself in.
The interview came about because of a call Bass received last Friday from someone close to the unfortunately named William Outlaw IV, who’d been in hiding and avoiding arrest after speeding away from a police officer the previous week. Would Bass like to interview Outlaw at an undisclosed location so that he could give his side of the story before handing himself over for arrest?
Bass replied that he would, but as an observant Jew he couldn’t do the interview until sometime on Sunday. They met at a location outside of New Haven, where Outlaw — as you will see — defended himself as a “good guy” and twice referred to the officer who arrested him, Robert Hayden, as an “asshole.” As it turns out, Hayden is also a former Independent “Cop of the Week,” a series that highlights good works by city police officers.
Bass told me that he and Outlaw met alone, but that he considered the situation to be far less dangerous than many others in which he’s found himself. Although Outlaw was in big trouble because he was on probation,
he had not been accused of violence, and Bass knew both his father — a prominent community activist — and his lawyer. [See correction below.]
“I can’t explain why I wasn’t nervous going over, but I wasn’t,” Bass said. “I wasn’t nervous about my own safety at all.” Bass said he also felt confident that Outlaw would not commit any crimes and would turn himself in as promised the next day. “It was based on the tenor of our interview,” he said.
On Monday, Bass reconnected with Outlaw and, accompanied by Outlaw’s family, proceeded to court. Bass video-recorded the scene, including Outlaw’s being frisked and handcuffed — which he later edited out at the request of Outlaw’s lawyer, Michael Jefferson.
“‘You know, that’s a very humiliating image for African-American men,’” he quoted Jefferson as telling him, adding: “I hadn’t thought about that.”
Bass posted his story, along with the video interview, only after Outlaw was in custody. He added that the reaction he’s gotten from the police department has been positive. Still, it would have been interesting if the police had somehow learned between Sunday and Monday that Bass knew where Outlaw was hiding.
Correction: Outlaw has been charged with assault, a violent offense, stemming from a contention by police that he tried to run over officers with his car before leaving the scene.