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Q & A / Warren Wilson

May 12, 1996|Mary Melton

KTLA's general assignment reporter has mediated the televised surrenders of 16 suspects in L.A.-area crimes. Wilson's soft voice and unimposing manner seem to calm the young fugitives who--in every case but one--were later convicted of murder.

* How does someone surrender to you?

That fella who was wanted in connection with the shooting of the teacher recently--the mother wanted him to surrender. The detective told her, 'Why don't you call Warren Wilson?'

* Why you?

I establish trust.

* Describe your first surrender.

I got a call at 1 in the morning from a minister in connection with the Laurel Canyon "Church of Naturalism" murders in '82. When we got there, [the fugitive] was hiding under a table. I talked to her and gained her confidence.

* What was her fear?

That she'd be beaten up or killed.

* By the police?

That's it. They are afraid that if police find them before they surrender, they are likely to be hurt. It's a strong perception in the African American community.

* These people are suspected of serious crimes, so . . .

(Interrupts) Murder. Murder. Murder.

* . . . aren't you afraid?

I'm never afraid of the suspect. I'm afraid of what some officer will do--especially in cases where a policeman has been killed-- if he recognizes the suspect in our van.

* Would you consider crisis negotiation in retirement, like Jimmy Carter? I was given a plaque recently by the California Association of Hostage Negotiators. If it could be effective, I would.

* What's the worst thing about the job?

I interview young kids who are likely to murder someday. They talk tough, what they think the public will want them to say. Once the cameras go off, they point to the cameraman and say 'How can I get a job like that?' That's painful.

* How's the competition?

There was a [fugitive] that I missed because KTLA didn't staff beyond midnight. He surrendered to Larry Carroll at Channel 9.

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