For several intense weeks, AP’s all-formats Paris team had been contending with the violent street protests of the yellow vest movement, furious at President Emmanuel Macron and the government’s economic policies. But a new threat to France’s peace suddenly arose when a man opened fire near the well-known Christmas market in Strasbourg.
On the evening of Dec. 11, the gunman shot and fatally wounded five people and injured a dozen more at the market. French authorities soon had identified the suspect as Cherif Chekatt and said that the attack was being investigated as an act of terrorism. With that, France and Benelux Bureau Chief Angela Charlton and her all-formats crew quickly pivoted from the street protesters to focus on the attack, just as a massive manhunt was getting under way.
The hunt by more than 700 police lasted two days. After AP news staff heard from official sources and then confirmed that that police had shot and killed the suspect in Strasbourg’s Neudorf quarter on Dec. 13, Charlton scoured online white pages for potential witnesses, and she reached a neighbor who, amazingly, was able to share what he was able to see from his vantage point directly across the street.
Charlton scoured online white pages, reaching a neighbor who was able to share images from directly across the street.
The exclusive video and photos that they managed to obtain were the result of teamwork and lessons learned from covering past attacks in identifying sources and deploying AP forces.
Charlton persuaded the witness to send AP a still image that clients lost no time pushing to the top of their websites. Obtaining the video, however, proved more difficult.
The man remained inside a police cordon of the neighborhood and wouldn’t provide his full video before meeting with an AP representative in person. As the night wore on, Charlton and Paris video journalist Alex Turnbull held lengthy phone negotiations with the witness to vet the material and reassure him that he should keep it exclusive and not publish it online. Berlin-based video journalist Mstyslav Chernov and Berlin camera operator Christoph Noelting spent hours waiting outside the Strasbourg police barrier in the winter cold overnight, finally meeting with the source at 6 a.m. Paris senior producer Jeff Schaeffer and European senior field producer Masha Macpherson shepherded and coordinated the whole process. The hours of negotiation, with six different people involved, finally resulted in the witness agreeing to provide his video exclusively to AP and sign over full permission to the images, edging out all AP competitors.
Hours of negotiation, with six different people involved, finally resulted in the AP obtaining the video exclusively.
The close-up images told the story: the shooter’s body is seen slumped in a doorway as police and forensic officers move in and work to identify him.
The content, which had not yet appeared anywhere, was heavily used by broadcast and online clients around the world, both as video and for screengrabs.
For their resourceful, determined efforts to obtain exclusive images on this breaking story, the team of Angela Charlton, Alex Turnbull, Chris Noelting, Mstyslav Chernov, Jeff Schaeffer and Masha Macpherson receives the AP's Best of the Week award.