Fayetteville Police announced late Monday morning that they arrested 44-year-old Sharpsburg resident Timothy Allen Bedgood on Friday on charges stemming from the Aug. 15 arrest of retired U.S. Army General William Livsey at his Fayetteville home.
Livsey had been arrested that Saturday night after ordering more than $80 of food from a Fayetteville Chinese food restaurant, having it delivered, and then keeping the food but not paying for it. The delivery driver reportedly tried to retrieve the food when he learned Livsey wasn’t able to pay, but two women in the home, who have been described by friends of the general as “assistants,” had already taken the food and were preparing to eat it. The general allegedly put hands on the driver when he tried to take the food from the women.
According to police, the driver notified police of the incident and wanted to press charges. Police reported that they drove to Livsey’s house to discuss the matter with him, and, during that exchange, the general became angry and combative.
Police arrested Livsey and charged him with multiple offenses, including Obstruction of a Police Officer, Terroristic Threats, and Theft of Services charges.
By Monday afternoon, Aug. 17, a Fayetteville-based media company published a story on its website detailing Livsey’s arrest. That story was soon updated to include testimony from Bedgood and the delivery driver claiming that Fayetteville Police overreacted to the incident. It also included words from Bedgood alleging that police mishandled Livsey.
According to the press release, Bedgood, who had been one of Livsey’s hired assistants, was charged with a felony count of Influencing a Witness for getting the driver to change his story about what happened on that Aug. 15 Saturday night at Livsey’s house.
The press release also clarifies what happened on the night of Livsey’s arrest, essentially refuting misinformation that had been allowed in some newspaper reporting within the last week.
“The original number of officers on scene was only three, two additional arrived on scene when fire and EMS arrived, due to the number of concerned neighbors and onlookers,” the release states. “There were six fire and EMS personnel on scene, which is normal protocol.”
The release goes on to detail Livsey’s treatment by police.
“There were also reports that General Livsey received extensive injuries which in fact were only minor lacerations on his wrists that were incurred while he was being handcuffed,” the release states. “These injuries were treated at the scene by EMS personnel. There was no additional force necessitated or used during the incident.”
[Editor’s note: This newspaper, though aware of Livsey’s arrest by early Monday morning, Aug. 24, chose to not publish reports of the arrest, partly because it is not usual to publish details of “domestic disturbances,” and partly because early reports of the incident generated more questions than answers. This newspaper did publish an editorial column, which is also published below in its entirity, in its Aug. 22 print edition, in which reporter Danny Harrison shared concerns that the arrest was not being reported accurately or fairly, though it had by then become national and even international news over the Internet.]
My take on the General Livsey Arrest
By Danny Harrison
(Originally published as an editorial in the Aug. 22, 2015 print edition of this newspaper.)
By now, many of our readers are probably already aware that retired Four-Star U.S. Army General William Livsey, an 84-year-old City of Fayetteville resident, was arrested at his home Saturday night based on allegations he roughed up a Chinese food delivery man and didn’t pay for the food.
Sadly, if you read accounts reported by other local media organizations, you will at best have only confusing bits and pieces of the story, and, at worst, you may have been influenced to believe that Fayetteville Police are the “bad guys” in this incident.
In the next few moments, I’d like to tell you a little bit of what I have learned this week, and I’d like to opine on how I think the general’s arrest should have been handled by the media.
Monday morning, as usual I read the weekend incident reports emailed by Fayetteville Police. That report listed 42 incidents that took place over the weekend in Fayetteville, four of which were “domestic disturbance” incidents. One of those was reported to have taken place at General Livsey’s home. I didn’t know where he lived, and this summarized report never lists people’s names, so I paid no particular attention to that incident.
Next, I read through the Fayette County Jail arrest summary, which does list names, addresses, and criminal charges, and that’s where I saw William J. Livsey’s name, whom I knew to be General Livsey. I called Police Captain Jeff Harris, who served as public information officer this week while Lieutenant Mike Whitlow was on a training assignment in Forsyth, and asked if they, indeed, arrested “The General” over the weekend.
Having begun my career here in Fayette County 20 years ago, I’ve met General Livsey several times. He is a bit of a legend around here. In fact, Fayette County’s stretch of Hwy. 314, which Livsey would probably have driven many times back and forth between his home and Fort McPherson in East Point, is named in his honor.
Captain Harris confirmed that, sadly, they did have to arrest the general. That telephone conversation revealed enough information for me to be very concerned for the general and not at all suspicious that police officers did anything wrong. That never crossed my mind at the time.
I discussed the incident with my managing editor, and we decided not to run a story but to follow the incident closely for the time being.
Later that evening, we discovered that another media company in the area did run a story on its website, and by the time they updated it a couple of times, it presented the police as having “over reacted” to the situation based on the “eyewitness” of “the general’s personal caregiver and driver.”
On Tuesday, officials from Fayetteville City Hall and Fayetteville Police Department issued statements based on “receiving inquiries regarding the arrest of Mr. William Livsey.” We had plenty of time to get this into Wednesday’s print edition of the paper, but again we chose to sit on what we knew because we had way more questions than answers, and we did not want to smear the good name of the general in his own hometown.
Besides, none of us were reporting on any of the other three over-the-weekend domestic disturbances, nor were we reporting on the dozens of other arrests, some of which would affect the public more than this General Livsey incident. So why were some outlets reporting on this case?
The answer is obvious: A big fish got arrested, and being the first to report on it, with or without enough facts to warrant a credible news story, is what “new media” is all about.
Once the Atlanta media picked up on the press releases, news of the general’s arrest went viral around the country and even overseas. All of this because a local media company put pressure on police to defend their actions based on the testimony of an eyewitness who, according to my research, is not credible.
To be fair, most of those national media outlets gave the story fair treatment and didn’t sensationalize it. But that’s not what happened locally.
There are too many errors in this week’s coverage of the general’s arrest to address them all here, but please don’t believe everything you’ve read. One headline alone was a cake-taker: “Takeout nightmare: Is 4-star general a robber?”
For starters, it was not a “takeout” order. It was a home delivery, and that’s not a petty difference considering the charges. Secondly, police were already saying Monday morning that the Robbery charge would probably give way to the Theft of Services charge also filed. And, as this has not gone to court yet, we don’t know that the whole thing won’t be dismissed at some point.
So asking in a headline if the general is a “robber” is just too much. I expect more from seasoned journalists than this.
Perhaps I’m “old school,” but I believe it is our job in the media to place accurate facts into the permanent record. Inside our building, guests are free to look through our archives of old newspapers and to read through what was “news” then and what is “history” now. It is an official record.
And while we certainly want to make our stories interesting and eye-catching when possible, we don’t want to stoop to throwing junk out there just to sell papers or get extra clicks on our website. At least that’s my personal view.
Fayette County is interesting enough that, if we just report squarely, we have plenty to keep people reading.
Some of my initial and existing concerns in the General Livsey case have to do with the people who were known, and others who were alleged, to have been in the general’s home at the time of the incident. There is a whole lot more to this story than has been reported thus far.
What I have learned this week, including through a face-to-face meeting with General Livsey himself, leads me to believe people who know and love the general need to pray for him and look after him.
And we as a community need to step back sometimes and let the criminal justice system do what it does pretty well in this county. If we have questions and concerns, perhaps we should keep them private until we know what in the world we’re talking about before publishing them.