By now, just about everyone admits that the Fox31 story of the cab driver fingering an Italian businessman with the Perazzi gun company as a terrorist was a fake, including the station, grudgingly. We know how it happened (9News has done a good job of dissecting the original story), but we don't know why. Maybe the only one who does is the woman who set this fiasco in motion: Walsenberg's Korrin Aguirre, 27, who told Fox31 she was an attorney representing the detained Italian. But she is not an attorney, and there was no detained Italian businessman.
Yesterday, after 9News ran a story pointing out problems on the Fox31 piece, the Perazzi company put out a statement denying everything and Transportation on Patrol founder Larry Stevenson appeared on Peter Boyles's show to do the same.
Finally, KDVR tweeted this statement:
We believe we were intentionally misled by someone who misrepresented herself not only to the news media but to two of our sources on the story, an NRA board member from Colorado and a nationally-recognized Second Amendment attorney, both of whom as recently as yesterday were standing by the story. These sources now tell us they believe they were misled by the woman. We are working on a follow-up story that will thoroughly explain what happened.
The original piece, which aired Saturday, reported that Daniele Perazzi, president of the Italian gun manufacturer and the grandson of its founder, had come to town for the Colorado Gun Collectors Association show at the Merchandise Mart, bringing seven expensive guns with him, when a cab driver who was part of the Taxis on Patrol program called the cops, alerting them that the man might be a terrorist.
The original Fox31 story, by Hendrik Sybrandy, used some file footage of Stevenson, the former Denver police officer who founded Taxis on Patrol (now Transportation on Patrol) in 2011, but no fresh interview with Stevenson, who would have told them that no cabbie made such a call, and that any drivers in the TOP program are trained not to make idle accusations. "I am shocked and disappointed that Fox31 nor Sybrandy has not had the professional decency to reach out to me AT ALL!!!" says Stevenson.
The original Fox31 report also said Perazzi had been detained by Adams County law enforcement, then released. But yesterday, Sergeant Paul Gregory of the Adams County Sheriff's Office, which oversees the Merchandise Mart, sent out an unusually strong response to the Fox31 broadcast.
Here's the Adams County statement:
When the story aired on May 18, the Sheriff's Office was shocked to see their agency having any involvement with this event. Fox 31's Hendrik Sybrandy wrote, "Perazzi was taken in for questioning by the Adams County Sheriff's Department, but was released a short time later." Contrary to Sybrandy's report, CEO Roberta Perazzi released, "...we state that the incident is devoid of any foundation and the news is completely fabricated."
The Sheriff's Office immediately investigated the allegations of their reported involvement. During the course of their extensive investigation several people were contacted; to include numerous deputies and investigators, the Adams County Communication Center, personnel from the Denver Mart, personnel from Fox 31 Denver, various reporters/journalists, personnel from the Gun Collector's Association, a representative from the TOPS program, and even someone from Perazzi. The investigation revealed that the Adams County Sheriff's Office had no involvement with detaining, arresting, questioning, or being in contact with any person from the Perazzi Corporation or any other person at the Denver Mart regarding this alleged incident.
The Sheriff's Office asked Hendrik Sybrandy whom he received the news tip from, but Sybrandy would not give that information to them. The Sheriff's Office also attempted to contact the Fox 31 News Director, Ed Kosowski, for additional information but he did not respond to their phone call.
The Sheriff's Office feels that it is unfortunate for Fox 31 Denver to have released a report that claimed the Adams County Sheriff's Office involvement in an event without verifying it first. It is also unfortunate and disturbing for Fox 31 Denver to have released such a bold report before doing their due diligence by thoroughly investigating the tips prior to broadcasting.
The Sheriff's Office applauds the efforts of 9 News Denver by setting the record straight during a broadcast on May 21 which stated, "Serious questions are emerging about a recent report on FOX31 claiming a gun company executive was wrongly flagged as a terrorist and "interrogated" by Adams County Sheriff's deputies."
The Sheriff's Office was hoping Fox 31 Denver and/or Hendrik Sybrandy would broadcast a follow up story or issue a retraction/correction regarding the Adams County Sheriff's Office alleged involvement with this. As of May 22 at 1200 pm, neither Fox 31 Denver nor Sybrandy had done so.
This is truly an unfortunate instance where Fox 31 dropped the ball and alleged our involvement when we had none. It is stunning to us that they have not stepped up and said they were wrong. We dedicated a number of hours by three different Divisions in our agency to investigate the Fox 31 report. I believe Fox 31 Denver and Hendrik Sybrandy had a responsibility to fact check and extensively verify information prior to going on the air and making claims that were false. Additionally, I would like to thank 9 News Denver for taking the time and making an effort to set the record straight. Responsible reporting is appreciated by citizens and law enforcement alike.
Although Fox31 has not run a followup to its original story on the air, it has posted these words under the original story on the web: "EDITORS NOTE: FOX31 Denver has since learned that the source in the story below fabricated her story. No Perazzi executive was in Denver, nor questioned by authorities." And there's a link to an updated story on the website.
Keep reading for the Fox31 explanation. Here's last night's followup story on the Fox31 website, including the revelation that the Independence Institute's David Kopel initially reached out to the station on the topic:
DENVER -- Two trusted sources who told FOX31 Denver that an Italian gun company executive was questioned by local law enforcement after a Denver cab driver thought he might be a terrorist now say they were misled.
David Kopel, a nationally-recognized Second Amendment attorney with the Independence Institute in Denver, first told FOX31 Denver about the alleged incident Saturday. He referred us to Korrine Aguirre, who, it now appears, concocted an elaborate but false story.
Aguirre told FOX31 Denver, and another media organization, Examiner.com, that an executive with the Perazzi gun manufacturing company was on his way to the Colorado Gun Collectors Association show, to display a half-million dollars worth of prototype guns.
In a series of conversations with FOX31 Denver, Aguirre claimed a taxi driver picked up the executive at a downtown Denver hotel and called police because he was worried about guns the executive was carrying. Aguirre also told us the executive was questioned and then released by authorities.
Steve Schreiner, a Colorado board member of the National Rifle Association, told us he was at the gun show. He said Aguirre told him about the alleged questioning of Perazzi by police.
Schreiner also said Aguirre told other exhibitors the Perazzi executive was scheduled to display guns at the show.
Schreiner said a table was set aside for the display and Aguirre was there with well-known exhibitors at Colorado gun shows.
Schreiner said Aguirre let him listen in on a phone call involving Aguirre and a person she claimed was a Perazzi lawyer. In the conversation, it appeared to Schreiner that Aguirre was speaking with the executive's attorney as he was being questioned by police.
Throughout Saturday afternoon and evening, Aguirre, who claimed to be a lawyer herself, told FOX31 Denver she was in contact with the gun executive. She claimed he was too upset and shaken to do an on-camera interview.
Aguirre's online resume states that she graduated from the University of Denver's Strum College of Law in 2011. A DU spokesperson said they did not find her on a register. Aguirre does not appear in the state's database of attorneys.
FOX31 Denver has seen a series of emails shared between Aguirre and with an Examiner.com reporter. In the emails, she maintains the same story.
On Monday, Perrazi denied either their guns or their executive had been in Denver for the show.
FOX31 Denver attempted to contact Aguirre again, but she hung up and has not returned our calls.
Kopel and Schreiner say they now believe Aguirre was lying from the beginning and duped them.
There is no indication what Aguirre's motive might be.
In our original report, FOX31 Denver incorrectly identified the Adams County Sheriff's Department as the law enforcement agency that investigated the incident and questioned Perazzi.
Wednesday, the Adams County Sheriff's Office released a statement saying they "had no involvement with detaining, arresting, questioning, or being in contact with any person from the Perazzi Corporation or any other person at the Denver Mart regarding this alleged incident."
FOX31 Denver News Director Ed Kosowski said , "More steps should have been taken to corroborate Aguirre's story and verify information provided by Kopel and Schreiner. KDVR is committed to fair, accurate and balanced reporting and we are reviewing policies and procedures to ensure our content meets those standards."
Aguirre is no longer answering calls. If she were, she might be able to explain why, exactly, she set out to hoax reporters and hoodwinked two usually reliable sources in the process. (Westword just ran a lengthy interview with David Kopel on the sheriffs' suit against Colorado gun laws.) Was it to screw with the Perazzi company? The Adams County Sheriff's Office? Transportation on Patrol? Was the goal to stir up trouble with gun owners? With those who don't like gun owners?
Or was it simply to show how easy it can be to fool reporters who fail to make a few critical phone calls?
More from the Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Union Station developers give beloved model train layout the boot."
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