This video from the mother of the man shot during an act of, ahem, “workplace violence” is being billed as an apology. It does include the sentence, “I apologize to both families” as part of the short clip posted to Alton Nolen’s family Facebook page, and it’s heartbreaking to have to be put in this horrendous position by one’s son — so much so that the mother and daughter seem to be in serious denial about it. The point that the mother emphasizes here is that “the whole story” still hasn’t come out, which implies … something other than Alton Nolen’s full responsibility, but it’s not clear what:
The Daily News says that the family “is in shock,” which is a pretty good explanation for what we see in the video:
“My son was a good kid,” Joyce Nolen said in a Facebook video of her son. “I know what they saying, that he done, but I’m going to tell you this, that’s not my son. There’s two sides to every story, and we’re only hearing one.”
The ex-con was taken down by the company’s chief operating officer, Mark Vaughn, a reserve deputy sheriff who opened fire after hearing screams and cries.
“His family, our hearts bleed right now because what they saying Alton has done,” Joyce Nolen says in the 98-second clip, posted to Facebook on Saturday night. “I want to apologize to both families because this is not Alton.”
It would be impossible to not feel sympathy for what the Nolens must be enduring at the moment. I’ve been trying to imagine what it would be like to find out a family member was responsible for a brutal, barbaric attack like this, and can’t comprehend the horror. The denial stage would last a very long time for me, and I’d be inclined to tell everyone to wait for all of the facts to come out, too. “What they’re saying Alton has done” is also a construct I’d be inclined to use under those circumstances, and maybe all the way through to a guilty verdict in court.
That being said, I’d have waited to do a YouTube video until that point, too. There may well be many sides to this story, but none of them will validate the beheading of an unarmed co-worker under any circumstances, let alone for the apparent Islamist motives that were in evidence on Nolen’s Facebook page. Perhaps the family means that Nolen was so insane as to not be responsible for his actions, and that may well be his defense when the case comes to court. But as far as the public is concerned, they will only want to know that police got the actual perpetrator and that’s he’s not going to get the chance to do it again. Beyond that, they’re not interested in the second side to the story, no more than they were interested in Nidal Hasan’s side to the Fort Hood shooting. Their sympathies will be overwhelmingly concerned with the victims and their families, as they should be.
This is why families at the center of a huge media story do best to seek out a spokesperson to handle communications for them until they can regain their balance and perspective. If they wanted to issue an apology to the families of the victims, they should have stuck with that — and in writing, through someone who could deal with the consequences for them.