By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

In hiding, a suspect reaches out to talk to a journalist


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.

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  1. “Still, it would have been interesting if the police had somehow learned between Sunday and Monday that Bass knew where Outlaw was hiding.”

    What did Bass plan to do if Outlaw had NOT turned himself in on Monday?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: What a great question. I hope Paul will weigh in.

  2. Aaron Read

    Still, it would have been interesting if the police had somehow learned between Sunday and Monday that Bass knew where Outlaw was hiding.
    I assume the unspoken comment is that it’d be interesting if they learned in that timeframe if Bass knew, and chose NOT to pursue Bass for the information because they knew Outlaw was planning on turning himself in anyways, and why make trouble for everyone?

  3. Great question! I don’t know the answer. I was confronted with a whole set of questions over the course of those few days that I hadn’t confronted before, and was taking them as they came.

  4. L.K. Collins

    Would the filming of the arrest and search be any more humiliating to an Hispanic, an Asian, a German, an Iraqi?

    Has Bass been so indoctrinated that he sees a difference?

    I think he needs to address whether or not he should film ANYONE being searched, and, at least, be consistent in his application of his standard.

  5. I agree L.K. In general we never show the face of a person being arrested in the Independent. We also don’t name arrestees until we get their side (or if they’re public figures.)

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