Every Damn Time

Mad Dog Merkel

The Sun-Sentinel is such a trembling leaf of a newspaper it's surprising it hasn't floated to the ground and started to decompose. Once again, it sided with keeping its readers in the dark over reporting the details of a news story.

This time it happened in a story out of Wellington about a high school wrestler who so enraged about a rumor being spread about his girlfriend that he banged down a classmate's door at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night because of it. The father of the classmate shot the six-foot, 215-pound wrestler inside the house.

The wrestler, now recovering from a gunshot wound to his chest in the hospital, is being charged with burglary and criminal mischief. The father who shot him, Ricardo Collier III, isn't being charged for the shooting.

Great story. The Palm Beach Post included a photo with Kelly Wolfe's article of the student charged in the crime, Daniel Scott Merkel, which it apparently got from its TV partner, News 12. Merkel is a big

strapping kid with spiked hair and a pumped-up neck. You can't help but wonder: Would I shoot that guy if he was charging at me at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night after breaking my door down?

The Sun-Sentinel had no such photo with its story by Chrystian Tejedor. The article, in fact, had so few names and clear details that it seemed as if it all might be unreal, like one of those dream sequences in a movie where they put vaseline on the lens to haze up the picture. Why? Because the Sentinel decided that Merkel was too young to have his name published, even though he's 17 and allegedly broke into someone's house in a rage (aka, he's a potential menace to society). Not to mention the fact that his name was already out there on TV and most everybody in Wellington who cared probably already knew his identity.

I agree that 99 percent of the time, it's not proper to name teens who have been charged with a burglary and/or criminal mischief. But this was clearly not one of those times and the withholding of Merkel's name only confirms the suspicion that the Sentinel is run by gutless wonders who have no real instinct for the finer points of journalism. As for the decision by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to charge Merkel and not Collier, well, that's hard to argue with. Wolfe's story delves into Merkel's mother, Mary, and his aunt-attorney, Charlotte Danciu, crying about the Castle Doctrine law, which allows people to kill people in their homes if they have "reasonable fear of imminent peril." I don't think Collier necessarily had to shoot Merkel, but it's hard to blame him for it considering the wild circumstances. Mary Merkel would do better to put her efforts into keeping her son under control than complaining about the Florida Legislature.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman