This Crime Photo Is Generating a Lot of Conversation

February 16th 2017

Almie Rose

A 30-year-old woman from Davis, California, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of vandalizing a local mosque on Jan. 22. Lauren Kirk-Coehlo was charged with "felony vandalism with a hate crime enhancement," according to The Sacramento Bee.

The coverage of the story by one local media outlet has attracted attention on Twitter for its portrayal of the suspect.

Based on surveillance footage, Kirk-Coehlo is suspected of smashing windows, slashing bicycle tires, and wrapping strips of bacon around the door handles of the Islamic Center of Davis. The damage is estimated to be "more than $7,000," according to The Sacramento Bee.

As Twitter user smileyabadin10 pointed out, Kirk-Coehlo is depicted in the story with her high school yearbook photo, leaving many Twitter users to speculate why a photo that's over a decade in age would have been published.

However, whatever the intentions or motivations of the local the paper, it caused a discussion about race and privilege, with some Twitter users noting how white suspects are afforded kinder photos in their crime stories than suspects of color.

In 2015, an artist named EJ Brown channeled his anger and frustration with the media's portrayal of black men and mugshots to create The Mugshot Series, a photo series that showed black men in a graduation cap and gown holding plaques depicting their college majors in the style of a mugshot.

"In the past couple of years we’ve seen events from Travyon Martin to Freddie Gray unfold, and I was disappointed with the way the media would portray young black men," Brown told Takepart. "They’d dig up photos from Facebook with a group of friends and suddenly they’re a gang. A peace sign would become a gang [symbol]. I was always puzzled by that."

There are some that argue that publications and the media should avoid using an accused person's mugshot.

"A mugshot, the picture taken after an arrest, is a photo designed to tell the state's side of a story. The subject of the photo, taken at one of the lowest points in their life, has no voice, but the language of the form - the unflattering bright light, the drab background, the name and prisoner ID at the bottom - tells us we are looking at a 'criminal,'" wrote Charles Davis wrote for Truthout.

Man behind bars

Because of the hate crime charge against Kirk-Coehlo, along with reports that she "wrote of having 'dreams and aspirations' of killing people, and glorified Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof in social media postings," according to The Davis Enterprise, Davis police are pushing to raise her bail from $40,000 to $1 million.

As Davis Detective Dan LaFond wrote in the police petition to raise bail, "I believe Kirk-Coehlo is an immediate danger to the public."