Jeff Jardine

Tragedies bring out the good, bad and heartless with comments in online forums

Hanibal and Evin Yadegar
Hanibal and Evin Yadegar Courtesy of Hanibal Yadegar

Whenever any kind of tragedy occurs, personal opinions run rampant ahead of the facts. The case involving the death early Sunday of Evin Olsen, co-owner of Modesto’s Barkin’ Dog Grill with husband Hanibal Yadegar, is no exception.

The basics: According to her husband, Olsen – also known as Evin Yadegar – suffered from bipolar disorder and had stopped taking her medication. While having a manic episode, she went to a motel on Sisk Road and got into an altercation with a security guard who called 911 to report her behavior.

By the time a Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputy arrived, she’d returned to her car and led the deputy and other officers who joined him on a slow-speed chase through Salida. They employed tack strips in an attempt to disable her car, but she drove onto Highway 99, exiting into a Ripon neighborhood. Officers closed in, and authorities said Deputy Justin Wall opened fire because she shifted her car into reverse and came at the officers, threatening their safety. She then crashed the car into a home, and died from a gunshot wound. Four shots were fired in the incident.

Three separate law enforcement agencies are involved in the investigation: The Ripon Police Department (the incident ended in that city), the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. Wall, a deputy since 2013, was assigned legal counsel, read his rights and placed on administrative leave as investigators work the case. Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said Wall has a spotless record that included no previous use-of-force incidents.

Stanislaus County deputies don’t wear body cameras, but the Ripon police officers who responded do. Theirs will be reviewed, Chief Ed Ormonde said during Tuesday’s press conference at the Stanislaus County sheriff’s facility in south Modesto.

Law enforcement officers typically are slow to release information in officer-involved shooting cases, and Ormonde said the investigation continues to turn up new evidence.

All that stated, The Bee through and Facebook, along with other news agencies with online sites, encourages comments and interaction with and between readers. Some great conversations and debates develop in these forums regarding politics, sports, social and local government issues. Public figures generally are fair game when it comes to criticism and even cheap shots from readers.

But when it comes to tragedies, some comments simply are better left unexpressed.

Certainly, many readers offered condolences to the Yadegar family. Some wrote that they felt bad for Wall, as well.

However, some took it upon themselves to pronounced it a “good shoot.” Others questioned Wall’s decision to fire, since no other officer did. Some chided him for firing his gun in a residential area. Others suggested that officers should receive better training for dealing with people who have mental difficulties. One stated that Wall shouldn’t be paid while the investigation is ongoing.

Several offered expert advice as to how they would have handled it.

Commenters criticized the victim because of her mental state. Others criticized the deputy, and the conversation degraded into commenters insulting each other. To Hanibal Yadegar, who has a young son to raise alone now, or the deputy who fired the shot, such comments are downright cruel and heartless. They do nothing to ease pain or help in any way.

I’ve known Hanibal Yadegar for years. He is a genuinely pleasant and good man who wants answers like everybody else. He is hurting. He is desperate to understand why this ended so horribly, and why his son is now without a mother. I suspect he, too, reads the stories with hopes of finding a glint of information authorities haven’t released to him directly.

I hope he stops reading before he gets to the comments.