(Updated March 8, 2011 with a pdf of the private investigator's original letter, in response to his request made in the comments.)
One of the striking aspects of the Jan. 8 mass-shooting and its aftermath was the media circus around the home Jared Loughner shared with his parents, on the 7700 block of North Soledad Avenue.
I was up on that block Thursday afternoon, and a neighbor gave me a letter that I thought captured the extremes that news organizations went to in those days after the shootings.
In the letter, dated Jan. 18, Indianapolis private investigator Chuck Jordan asked for a neighbor's help in capturing Jared Loughner's parents on video.
"We are requesting your permission to allow us to place a camera/recorder in your home pointed out of a front window at the Loughner home across the street," the letter says. "This system is fairly compact and unnoticeable and can record for days straight once it is set up. We would leave the equipment in your home for a couple of weeks and return to retrieve it."
It went on, "Our objective is to capture the Loughners on video leaving their home at some point during those couple of weeks. Our client is seeking this type of video for a story they are working on."
"We would appreciate your help in our efforts as this is such an important national, if not global, news event."
The neighbor Lynn Riach, was offended by the request and did not respond.
The sentence that really struck me was this one, earlier in the letter: "We have been closely following the recent tragedy in Tucson and are, as with the whole nation, saddened by the senseless violence that took place there."
The whole thing struck me as galling, but Jordan was matter of fact about the request when I spoke with him this afternoon. Most of the time, he would use such a camera in cases of suspected infidelity or repeated burglaries, but a news-media client asked him for help catching the Loughners, who had been hiding in their home from the mob outside.
"We thought this might be a way to get video of what people were looking for at the time, of the Loughners leaving their home," he said. "We understand, most people are reluctant to get involved that way."
Of course, I have to remember I'm a reporter too. I've made my share of unlikely requests over the years -- lots of letters, emails and calls to people who probably didn't want to talk with me. But never anything like this.