OJ Simpson pioneered public crime as spectator sport by leading the Los Angeles police on a multihour, nationally broadcast, slow-speed chase in 1994. It was riveting. People skipped dinner to watch.
I was reminded of this over the weekend as I pondered the Facebook page of Jason Valdez, the guy who posted while holding off the Ogden police for 16 hours in a hostage drama.
With dozens of cops outside on 24th Street, Valdez commented on police tactics, chatted with relatives, posted pictures of himself and his hostage, and accepted more than a dozen new friends, including his hostage.
Police cut off his electricity, but his cell phone has Internet access. He was very publicly hooked up as long as his battery lasted.
Facebook lets you limit postings to people you pick, or you can let the world read. Whether he knew it or not (Facebook privacy settings are complex), Valdez's page was wide open.
Valdez, 36, has an extensive court history involving burglaries, assault, failure to pay child support, drugs and theft. He hid in the motel Friday when police served a felony drug warrant to him.
His family told the news media he just got out of jail, didn't want to go back and was tired of leading a troubled life.
I've often wondered what people in those situations think about. Facebook lets us see. Valdez's first post -- like many, his Facebook posts ignore spelling and grammar -- is at 11:23 p.m. Friday.
"I'm currently in a stand off wit these shady azz from opd, kinda ugly but ready for whatever, I love u guyz and if I don't make it out of here alive that I'm in a better place and u were all great friends...."
At nine minutes after midnight he acknowledges his supporters and makes it clear this is not his fault. "Everyones comments mean alot. But how this ends is on the cops now. And my HOSTAGE as they call her is perfectly fine and holding it down wit me...."
At 2:04 a.m. he posted two pictures shot with the phone of himself and his hostage, Veronica Jensen, apparently to show her "holding it down."
Pictures lie. She's in a locked room with a guy with a gun. What would you do? Jensen was smart and took care of herself.
At 4:42 a.m. he says police are "tryin to get in and involve this girl callin her my accomplice now but just so its clea To everyone im not lettin her go and if the cops come in they are jeopardizing her life and now her freedom?"
This, remember, from the guy with the gun.
Valdez gets conflicting support from friends. One says he's "proud to call you my homie," and warns that police are hiding in the bushes.
Posts from his family break your heart. "Do the right thing," "Come out alive," and "we love you and want you to be safe."
At 8:48 a.m. Saturday one posted, "Hey jason. im praying for u. i hope u make the right decision. god is wit u. listen to him. much love."
He didn't. Ten minutes later the police went in, tossed a stun grenade and dodged two shots from Valdez, who then shot himself in the chest.
Last I heard, he's still alive. No doubt, he'll be back on Facebook as soon as he can.
The page has a place where I can ask him to be my friend. I'm pretty open about who I accept, but in this case, I'll pass.