Viewers on Friday watched national news reporters dig through the Redlands, California apartment shared by shooting suspects Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeem Malik, with a NBC News reporter flipping through photos of children and holding up a woman’s driver’s license on live TV.
During the walk through the apartment, which producers said was opened to the media by the couple’s landlord, a NBC News reporter held up photos of unidentified children, a bank document, and a driver’s license on live television.
As MSNBC’s Kerry Sanders walked through the apartment, where police had earlier recovered 12 pipe bombs and more than 1,400 rounds of ammunition, he expressed disbelief that the killers would have toys and stuffed animals for their young child.
The apartment was crowded by camera crews and other journalists all digging through the home. Sanders eventually found a pile of family photos, including what appeared to be passport photos of an unidentified woman, which he promptly suggested were the first images of Malik seen by the public.
“I’m going to guess these are the photographs of Malik. So this is the first – this may be – OK,” he said on air. “But we don’t know. We don’t know if that’s her.”
Andrea Mitchell encouraged Sanders to hold one photo up and get a “tight shot” of other pictures, including a portrait of a woman in traditional dress, as Sanders continued to guess where and for what occasion the photos were taken.
“Let’s make sure we don’t see the children, let’s not show the child,” a clearly uncomfortable Mitchell eventually interjected. “Let’s cut away from that.”
In a bedroom where credit cards and IDs were shown spread out on a bed, the camera quickly zoomed in on a California driver’s license. MSNBC did not appear to blur out a woman’s personal details as Sanders read the name on the driver’s license.
All the while, it was unclear whether press were legally allowed to handle items in the apartment or whether the landlord had the authority to give them access to the space just days after the shooting.
The FBI later said the apartment was no longer a crime scene, and was turned over to the owners last night. But legal questions about whether the landlord had the right to allow the media inside lingered, and a reporter for Al Jazeera America reported the Redlands police chief saying the Farook estate still had rights to the property.
In a statement provided to TPM, a NBC spokeswoman said “we regret that we briefly showed images of photographs and identification cards that should not have been aired without review.”
Before entering the apartment, Sanders said he was caught in the crush of reporters trying to enter because MSNBC would not pay for access to the apartment. He accused a reporter for “Inside Edition” of paying $1,000 for early access.
Reporters were posting short videos of the broadcast and screenshots of the photos and personal information online. As Mashable’s Brian Ries pointed out, posting identification numbers and images legally considered private is a violation of Twitter’s terms of service.
This post has been updated.