Clickbait headlines aren’t exactly a new phenomenon, but when they end up creating a false narrative, they (and the news outlets responsible) should get called out.
That’s the case in Texas, where Houston station KTRK ran with a story entitled Father shoots alleged ‘peeping Tom’ outside little girl’s window in NW Harris Co. The headline contains elements of the real story, but makes it sound like the dad shot the creep as he was standing outside the home, which isn’t exactly how it all went down.
According to Harris County sheriff’s deputies, a husband and wife confronted an intoxicated man inappropriately touching himself outside their young daughter’s window after 2 a.m.
The little girl reportedly screamed when she saw the man, and her parents came running.
The parents, both armed with handguns, went outside and attempted to detain the man, according to deputies. Officials noted that both the man and the woman are licensed handgun carriers.
According to the father, both he and the mother demanded the alleged peeping Tom lie down in the yard and wait for police to arrive.
The man did not comply and walked across the street to a Valero gas station.
Okay, so neither parent actually shot the peeping Tom as he was on their property and allegedly peering through their daughter’s window. Instead, they tried and failed to get him to remain there until police arrived, and when he wandered across the street to the gas station, they followed so that they could identify him to officers once they showed up. According to police accounts, that’s when the suspect became violent; grabbing the gun from the woman’s hands and pointing it at her.
In fear that the man was going to start shooting, the dad fired his weapon, shooting the man three times, deputies said.
However, when ABC13 spoke to the father, he said he believed he shot the man four times; twice in the chest, once in the stomach and once in the side.
The man was transported to the hospital in critical but stable condition, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies say the incident will be referred to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for a grand jury review.
The father said his daughter had complained in the past about seeing someone watching her through the window, but when the parents had checked before, they couldn’t find anyone.
Look, I get that “Dad shoots man peeping through little girl’s window” is a pretty compelling headline, but it’s also not true. And while the story itself is accurate, the headline leaves the initial impression that dad was acting as a vigilante and not as a responsible gun owner. In reality, the alleged creeper didn’t pose a lethal threat until he grabbed the woman’s gun, and her husband didn’t treat the suspect as a lethal threat until he actually was one
This is a compelling story even without trying to juice up the headline, but unfortunately KTRK’s narrative has now spread far and wide. Not everyone will end up reading the story itself, and many folks are going to be left with the false impression that a gun owner shot a guy looking through his daughter’s bedroom window as opposed to shooting the man after he’d gotten ahold of a firearm and pointed it at the man’s wife. I’m glad to see local media cover the story, but I really wish they’d simply played their reporting straight instead of trying to embellish their headlines for clicks.