NEW YORK – Ten years ago, a misunderstanding at a Memorial Day neighborhood cookout turned into a bloody night of gunfire.
Neighbors told police they thought a man named Danny Williams had gotten into the barbecue brawl with two men who were later shot. One died, the other was seriously injured. But police could find no trace of Williams, then a 25-year-old parolee known as D-Knife.
The trail went cold.
Enter John Walsh and his long-running television show America’s Most Wanted. Walsh’s team aired an episode on the shooting twice in 2009 and plastered Williams’ face on the show’s website.
On July 19, 2010, Williams was captured and arrested by detectives with the New York Police Department’s fugitive task force using fingerprints. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced earlier this year to 50 years in prison.
Everyone wants to give us a huge amount of credit, but really the cops did all the work, Walsh said by phone after a day of taping new cases in New York.
But Walsh’s show – dropped by Fox last year after more than two decades – is proving it’s still a venerable crime-fighting tool, whether on air in its new Lifetime network slot, or online. There are more than 600,000 monthly visits to the site, and at least 40 captures came from online tips.
FBI and local law enforcement praise the work.
They have an excellent reputation, said Paul Browne, chief spokesman for New York City’s police department, the largest in the nation. With the NYPD and law enforcement generally, and that’s because they get results, and they also conduct themselves professionally in working with police departments.
Since 1988, America’s Most Wanted has helped bring almost 1,200 fugitives to justice. A dozen alone came directly from the 17 shows aired on Lifetime since Dec. 2. The network said recently the show has dramatically helped ratings.
I’m a very loud voice for the voiceless, said Walsh, ever the self-promoter. I do mostly crimes against women, normal average humble people. I’ll do it as long as people watch. Our ratings are fantastic.