Nat Geo agrees to pull ‘Wild Justice’ episode about fatal shooting
A nationa television network went out of its way to do Plumas County a big favor last week.
In a gesture extremely rare for the television industry, National Geographic Channel agreed to pull a segment from the Sunday, March 11, season premiere of “Wild Justice.”
The segment featured events at the scene of a fatal shooting July 2, 2011, near Antelope Lake.
Reno man Gregory Chad Wallin-Reed is scheduled to stand trial Sept. 10 on charges of shooting and killing a 20-year-old Susanville man and wounding two other men after a car chase.
Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense told the network’s executives that airing the episode would make it “difficult, if not impossible” to seat an unbiased jury in the county. Moving the trial to another venue could cost the county up to $100,000.
Plumas County District Attorney David Hollister said he was “exceptionally grateful” that National Geographic agreed to wait until after the trial to air the episode.
“Needless to say, the pulling of the episode at, literally, the eleventh hour was virtually unprecedented,” Hollister said. “I know it was expensive for the network to do this. It was a tremendous act of good faith by the National Geographic Channel.”
Hollister joined defense attorneys Richard Young and John Ohlson in a series of conversations with National Geographic’s vice president of business and legal affairs, Franklin Walker, and Executive Producer Kathleen Cromley.
After hearing the local attorneys’ concerns, National Geographic Chief Executive Officer David Lyle agreed to pull the episode.
Hollister said National Geographic’s thoughtful restraint said a lot about the network.
“It speaks volumes concerning Mr. Lyle and his network to delay airing this episode out of concern for the victims’ families, the potential financial harm to Plumas County and the concern that both parties receive a fair and just trial.”
Dara Klatt, senior director of corporate communications for National Geographic, provided Feather Publishing with a prepared statement explaining the network’s decision.
“This was done as a result of highly unusual circumstances involved in the case and at the request of the district attorney’s office and the attorney for the defendant,” the network said.
The network added that Nat Geo wanted to maintain the best possible relationship with its producers in the field.
In this case, the producers were a film crew from “Original Productions.” The crew, which produces “Wild Justice,” was traveling with local Fish and Game wardens who were the first on the scene the night of the shooting.
The crew filmed both Wallin-Reed and the bloody victims.
“The subject matter captured on film could be perceived as shocking, inflammatory and prejudicial,” Hollister said. “The airing of a ‘Wild Justice’ show based on this footage would likely cause the surviving victims and their families, as well as the family of the young man who was killed, much distress.”
Wallin-Reed, 37, pleaded not guilty to eight felony counts, including murder, during his Feb. 24 arraignment.
He is accused of killing Rory McGuire and wounding two other men with an assault rifle following a car chase that ended near Antelope Lake.
McGuire died two days after being shot in the head. The two wounded men, who were among five passengers in McGuire’s car, survived.
Wallin-Reed is charged with murder, shooting at an inhabited vehicle, five counts of assault with a firearm and possession of an assault weapon.
Wallin-Reed, who reportedly admitted to the shooting when he made a 911 call, was arrested July 3, 2011. He was charged with murder after McGuire died July 4 at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno.
Wallin-Reed, a former Army Ranger, is accused of firing several rounds from an AR-15 assault rifle at a car driven by McGuire during the late-night chase that began at Wallin-Reed’s residence along the Janesville Grade.
During the 911 call, Wallin-Reed told dispatchers he chased the fleeing car after the occupants stole solar lights from his property.
About seven miles from where the chase began, McGuire was shot in the head and hand.
Hollister said he expects the jury trial to last about three weeks.
Wallin-Reed’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 27 at 1:30 p.m.