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I had intended to take today off from blogging since it is a holiday, but in reading e-mails last night, I discovered an e-mail that could not wait. It needs my prompt apology. My opinion of what should have been done was wrong and I want to fix this. While the e-mail says other journalists made this mistake, I want to be the first to apologize.
The full explanation is set forth in the following e-mail and my answer:
E-mail No. 1
Ms. Van Susteren:
I thought this might interest you. Several years ago we suffered a large fire at an apartment complex in town. Kris Leija was shown on news "rescuing" several children at the fire and was labeled a hero. Later that day, after his picture was all over the news, he was arrested on outstanding warrants. You and other journalist criticized the local law enforcement officials about doing this. What was not publicly stated at the time was that he was a prime suspect for setting the fire. Also not mentioned was his storied past of criminal activity. Well, the truth has finally come to light. He confessed to setting the fire yesterday while being questioned by police for other criminal activity, for which he was arrested. I take great pride in the job the Abilene Fire Department did that night. Not one single person was seriously injured. This fire took place early in the morning when residents were sleeping. Only the fast actions of our department saved the residents' lives. Mr. Leija was instructed to stay out of the way and was actually inhibiting our rescue attempts. A hero does not set his own fires! Mr. Leija was hardly a hero. I am attaching a link to the news story from Firehouse.com.
You might want to get all the facts next time before you criticize the actions of local officials. We might just know what we are doing.
Captain Joey Kincaid
Abilene Fire Department
ANSWER: The Captain is right, I owe an apology. As an aside, it is personally horrible to discover my opinion on what should be done is wrong, but I am delighted to have a chance to apologize. I really want to get it right.
At the time we discussed him, Mr. Leija was being hailed as a hero. I mistakenly thought it wrong to arrest him on what seemed an insignificant charge. He was a "hero" who had just rescued a child from a burning building and was arrested on an outstanding warrant for not calling his probation officer (I think that is what the reason for the outstanding warrant).
It turns out he was not a hero but — per the Captain — a fraud... and worse, an arsonist. I hope that the Captain and others will accept my apology.
I am anxious to apologize. Firefighters work very hard under the most dangerous conditions. My work is a snap compared to theirs.
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