The three minor children of a man whose suicide was broadcast live on television are suing Fox News Channel, claiming that watching the footage of their father shooting himself in the head has left them emotionally traumatized.
In a lawsuit filed in Phoenix, Ariz., earlier this month, the three children of JoDon Romero, ages 9, 13, and 15, claim they have suffered emotional distress after watching a clip of the video posted to the internet.
The two older children claim that since watching the video, they have been unable to attend school and suffer flashbacks, "sleep disturbance and obtrusive thoughts," according to the lawsuit.
Romero, 32, is alleged to have carjacked a vehicle and led police on high speed chase in which he shot at squad cars and the television helicopter that pursued him. Fox broadcast the chase live, without a delay, on Sept 28, 2012 during "Studio B with Shepard Smith," including the dramatic final moments in which Romero exited his vehicle, drew a gun, and shot himself in the head.
According to the suit, rumors that an unnamed man could be seen killing himself began circulating in the schools of Romero's two older children, high school student JoDon Jr, and his middle school brother Frank.
"After school, the older boys went home and began looking for the suicide on the internet," according to the suit.
They found the video on YouTube and "as they watched, they realized in horror that they were watching their father."
Following the initial broadcast both anchor Shepard Smith and a Fox News executive issued apologies for broadcasting the footage.
"We really messed up and we're all very sorry," Smith told viewers. "That didn't belong on TV... I personally apologize to you that it happened... It's insensitive and it's wrong."
Fox News later issued a statement explaining that as a result of "human error," the footage was not aired on a typical five second delay.
"We took every precaution to avoid any such live incident by putting the helicopter pictures on a five second delay. Unfortunately, this mistake was the result of a severe human error and we apologize for what viewers ultimately saw on the screen," Senior Vice President Michael Clemente later said in a statement.
Lawyers for the boys said that they had been evaluated by a psychologist who found that they displayed symptoms comparable to post-traumatic stress disorder that "included flashbacks, repeated thoughts and feelings associated with viewing the video of their father shooting himself in the head, re-experiencing trauma, sleep disturbance, and intrusive thoughts," according to their lawsuit.
"This psychological trauma is substantial and long-term. It will, upon information and belief, require long-term psychiatric and/or psychological treatment," their lawyers Joel Robbins and Anne Findling argue.
The lawsuit does not specify the damages for which the children and their mother are suing.
Repeated calls and emails to Fox News for comment were not returned.