Jon Peacock, Matthew Shepard’s academic advisor, describes how on that Thursday the media began reporting on the crime and first mentioned Matthew’s name. Jon Peacock was initially in denial that it was the Matthew Shepard he knew. Romaine Patterson gives her reaction to the news, talking about how a friend took her aside and told her what had happened. Romaine called her sister Trish Steger to ask what was going on. Trish talks about how, as she was on the phone with Romaine, a story about Matthew came up on the news. Jon describes watching the news and realizing that the victim was, in fact, his Matthew Shepard. Trish confirms to Romaine that it was her friend Matthew who was attacked.
As the media begins to break the news of Matthew’s murder, many people who knew and loved Matthew first learn what happened to their friend from the television or secondhand gossip. While it is not the media’s obligation to ensure that Matthew’s extended network of loved ones learn what happened to him in a comfortable way, this moment does show how the very nature of news reporting can lack empathy for people who are profoundly affected by tragedies like Matthew’s death.
Next, Matt Galloway and Matt Mickelson, bartenders at the Fireside bar where Matthew Shepard was last seen at before his attack, describe how they realized Matthew was the victim and had been at their establishment the night before. The narrator then introduces Rulon Stacey, the CEO of the hospital where Matthew was treated, who received a call from reporters and quickly became the hospital’s spokesperson to the media. Romaine Patterson, Jon Peacock, Matt Galloway, and Matt Mickelson all describe their overlapping reactions of shock, fear, sadness, and anger. Matt Mickelson and Matt Galloway decide to go to the arraignment to identify Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.
Matt Galloway and Matt Mickelson spring into action after learning about Matthew’s attack and prepare for the arraignment (the declaration of charges). The two men seem to feel compelled to do their part to ensure that Matthew gets justice. Meanwhile, Rulon begins serving as a spokesperson to provide a buffer between Matthew’s family and the media. Many Laramie residents quickly become involved in Matthew’s case and seem to feel a communal responsibility for him.