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I've attempted this article several times over the last 10 days. 

Many of you have asked about the apology at the City Council Meeting last night. I will try to both delicately yet as strongly as I can explain what that was all about. 

Following the VMEU (Vinton Municipal Electric Utility) Board meeting last week, I stumbled into a conversation that was happening about the "bad media press coverage" that Vinton had been getting lately. Right away I knew that wasn't a conversation I'd be welcome in. As I turned to leave, I was stopped by a member of the electric board. "If you don't stop it, I'm going to go over there and shoot you!" with a nod toward where I sit to record the meetings. 

The man had been angry for an hour already, upset and yelling at another member of his team, on camera. For most of the meeting, I was appalled as I watched the dogfight in front of me unfold. Men treating another at the meeting as if he were an idiot and becoming angry over points of discussion that had been talked about for months yet never settled as I can recall. 

Entering City Hall I knew the VMEU meeting was going to be dicey. I didn't write about it, because it was that bad. Video of that meeting is here. 

As I stood there being told to stop writing unfavorable news about Vinton or I'd be shot by this angry man, the fight or flight emotions kicked in. I had been here before. I opted for flight. I should have gone straight down the hall to the police department, instead opting for a place to get as far away ASAP, my car. The angry man followed me out. As soon as I realized who was behind me, I began to wonder if he was so angry that he really was going to shoot me right there. Thinking if he did, my life insurance was paid and I was ready to go.  That is not a feeling you ever want to have. I didn't look back. I loaded my camera and tripod in my car as quickly as I could while he attempted a stilted conversation with me about his vacation. Not wanting to anger him further, I tried to lighten the mood with a well wish for his time away and got in my car, still shaking but leaving the lot as quickly as I could. 

For the past 10 days I've had multiple conversations about threats, what a threat is, and if it was "really" a threat. I am baffled by that. How the words "shoot you" cannot be a threat. According to the law, people are allowed to say that and get by with it UNLESS there is a list of other things that happen along with those words. However, you still cannot yell, "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Men in general, and even those standing there said, "he was joking." A couple of them said that he apologized as soon as he said it, because in general nice people would, but he didn't. This man only apologized after being tipped off that I had gone to the police.

Other men said, "I would have decked him if he would have said that to me! Give him a pass this time, but tell him next time you won't. Say he threatened to just harm you. Maybe you didn't hear the comment in the way that it was made." still pondering how "shoot you" should be heard. The idea that I didn't "hear it right" is called gaslighting. I heard it right. My job is built on hearing things right. 

No one argues that those words were said, it's just the interpretation of them that is being debated.

I think in this day and age, everyone knows using those words would put fear in anyone's heart. It did mine, it's still there. While my head says, "the guy is probably safe" my gut is saying, "but he did threaten to shoot you."

Over the past year and a half, I've dealt with an angry man which resulted in my being hit with his open pickup door, on purpose, and then being told, "it wasn't that bad." I've seen someone I love more than anything be hurt by another man emotionally and physically.

When mere words set me into panic attacks, tears, shaking, scanning crowds and license plates to see if it's safe, it's a sure bet that I feel threatened by the words "shoot you."

However, according to the law, well, it's not a threat because, "people say stupid things."

Just for the record, threatening a member of the press does NOT bring you good coverage either.

I have asked the City Council to remove this man from the VMEU board. He is representing Vinton, he speaks for Vinton. This type of behavior is a liability for Vinton as pointed out to me by more than one lawyer. 

In all of this, I was reminded that our police officers are the best. Many of them expressing concern, trying to help as they could, but again, the law is the law. I get that.

However, there should be other penalties that go along with threatening a woman, a member of the community, a member of the press, or anyone whatever your status. 

I can only report what happened. It is up to the city council to resolve this issue now.

I'll still keep doing my job and hope that they do theirs.

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Comments (8)

I am shocked that we are behaving like this! Thank you for the coverage, good and bad!
By: Patty Morgan on January 24th 1:31pm
This type of behavior should not be tolerated. If a child threatens someone at school action is taken. The city council / mayor should take action. Threats are not a joke.
By: Sara Patterson on January 24th 1:37pm
The words “shoot you” are not acceptable and cannot be understood as anything other than a potential threat—regardless of what the person in question claims or might have been thinking in his head. Intention does not guarantee that one’s words will be understood in the same way by others. And an “apology” that states one’s words were “misunderstood” is no apology at all; it’s gaslighting.
By: Soren Peterson on January 24th 1:49pm
Valerie, I am sorry you experienced this harassment. Being threatened and followed to your car is certainly meant to silence and intimidate. This is not behavior that should be tolerated. Thank you for speaking out.
By: Kelby Robb on January 24th 1:54pm
We have truly reached a sad point in our history when a board member starts trying to intimidate and bully through threats of violence a dedicated and loyal member of our community and a member of our local press. She is "Our" press!!!! Our voice!!!!!
No one that I know of from the press has been more dedicated to the truth and more dedicated to the community than Ms Close. To say differently is shameful. In a point and time of actual "Fake News" for most of the Nation, we have someone devoted to the facts and the truth.
I am offended that someone we hold our trust in would threaten Ms Close with shooting her only because she printed the truth!
What point have we come to? For what? To protect a "Good old boy" system, that puts focus on self serving intrests with no regards to the truth, law and what matters?
Is this really what we want the rest of the world to see of us?
I think not.
This man has violated our trust. He no longer serves the citizens of Vinton or Benton County. He serves himself and himself alone.
Immediate removal from the board is a requirement. If this man is not representing us, exactly who is he representing???
If you know or should have known is the standard you must accept. Everyone knows. No one can deny this fact.
By: Gerald Bates on January 24th 10:28pm
I agree with Mr. Gerald Bates, I couldn’t have said it better!
What is this world coming to? I get it that we have freedom of speech, but freedom of speech in that manner becomes a threat!! You say “I’ll shoot you”, to the wrong person and you may come up on the losing end of that “just joking comment”! “I’ll shoot you”, is no laughing matter, no matter how it’s said, that’s a threat and one I would not take lightly or kindly!
Ms. Close tells the truth, and you know that saying.....”if the truth hurts”.....well.....
Thank you Ms. Close, for being our voice!
By: Stephanie Lee on January 25th 7:52am
First off, thank you Valerie Close for maintaining the news of Vinton. Good and bad. Second, i was at the council meeting when you recieved the apology. To me it seemed he did not apologize for saying "i will shoot you". Instead he apologized for "you" misinterpreting the meaning of the "joke". Now im no comedian or jokester but if that was meant to get a laugh? Epic fail. In my opinion action should be taken against him and the law that seems to say its ok to say things like to someone. I better stop before i ramble on. Oops too late. See now that was funny. A joke. Have a wonderful day and im positive you have the support of all vintonians or vintonites behind you. Thanks again for the Vinton Today.
By: J. Doe on January 28th 4:31pm
Sometimes you just need to stand up for a friend, even when he makes a mistake; or maybe especially when he makes a mistake. The person who is the subject of this article is a fine man, one of the finest I know. I won’t defend or condone what he said and neither would he. I’m sure he sincerely regrets what happened. But I will defend the man in order to provide some perspective. My friend has led an exemplary life serving his country, community, church and family. I would be hard pressed to name anyone who has volunteered more time to good causes and organizations; from the American Legion to Knights of Columbus to the Palace Theatre to Lions Club and on and on. Perhaps most relevant to this issue, and contrary to his occasional bluster, my friend is a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. A man with a big heart, generous in all things, who would never harm anyone. All who know him would agree.
Sometimes in this day and age we are terribly quick to judge and condemn. I have certainly been guilty of this myself and need to be reminded that a little understanding and compassion can go a long way.
I stand by my friend.
By: Mark Mossman on February 7th 11:31am

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