Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or [email protected] where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

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  • The Henry Pratt Mass Shooting

    On the afternoon of Feb. 15, disgruntled warehouse employee Gary Martin opened fire during a termination hearing at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, Ill., killing five people and wounding several police officers before being fatally shot by law enforcement. Before police publicly identified Martin, the Tribune learned his name from sources and began investigating his background. One thing quickly became clear: Martin, a convicted felon who had served prison time for attempting to kill his girlfriend, never should have been allowed to purchase the gun used in the shooting. This discovery – aided by carefully worded Freedom of Information Act requests, unparalleled sourcing and a review of extensive court records – prompted the Illinois State Police to disclose hundreds of pages of documents related to Martin’s firearms license and gun purchase within days of the shooting. It was an unprecedented release of information, in terms of both expediency and subject manner. Illinois law expressly prohibits the disclosure of records related to firearm owner’s identification cards or concealed carried permits, but Tribune reporters were able to convince law-enforcement officials that Martin’s firearms history should be exempt from such protections because he fraudulently obtained his license by lying on his permit application. Upon receiving this information, reporters submitted further FOIAs in an effort to understand the depths of the state’s problem. A reporting project that started within hours of a mass shooting grew into an investigation that found 34,000 Illinois had their gun permits revoked – and that the state has no idea what happen to their guns. That meant 78 percent of people stripped of their gun licenses failed to account for their weapons. The responsive records – some of which required difficult fights and keen sourcing to obtain - exposed serious flaws in the national databases relied upon to conduct criminal background checks, as well as the state’s failure to ensure that people surrender their weapons after their Firearm Owner's Identification cards are revoked. In an analysis of data released for the first time, the Tribune found as many as 30,000 guns may still be in possession of people deemed too dangerous to own firearms. The Tribune also was able to create an online-lookup that allowed readers to look up how many people in their town had their gun permits stripped, the reason for the revocation and how many times that person had made a serious inquiry about purchasing a gun.
  • The Death of a State Trooper

    Early on a Saturday morning in late March of 2019, a man drove the wrong way down a suburban Chicago expressway and crashed into another driver, killing them both. It’s the kind of news story that – unfortunately -- we all report too often. It’s also the kind of story that NBC5 Investigates regularly checks out, to see what might be behind the breaking news. In this case, we quickly discovered a man – Dan Davies -- who should never have been on the road, because of a system that simply (and repeatedly) didn’t work, eventually resulting in that early- morning crash. The man Davies killed: An Illinois State Trooper named Gerald Ellis, who was heading home to his family after his late-night shift. One witness at the scene said Trooper Ellis saved the lives of others, by steering into Davies’ oncoming car. Nearly every day over the two weeks following that fatal crash, NBC5 Investigates uncovered new court records and police reports, blood-alcohol analyses and dash cam video, social-media posts and States Attorney documents, all adding to a damning pile of evidence showing that Davies should have been behind bars the night of the crash, save for a series of mistakes by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Yet, every day, when we tried to get answers from that State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, there was only radio silence. The lack of response was so galling – especially from a taxpayer-funded office accountable to the public -- that we documented, online and in real time, the actual reporting process of our daily phone calls and emails, which simply sought the most basic answers on what her office did and didn’t do, in a case that clearly and ultimately resulted in the unnecessary death of an Illinois State trooper. Ultimately, Foxx was forced to respond and – finally – take responsibility for the mistakes that allowed Dan Davies to be on the road that night.
  • The final days of Laura and Walton

    Laura Connell believed she was going to lose custody of her only child, Walton, despite years of abuse at the hands of her child’s father. After coming to Delaware to escape the abuse and appealing to the Delaware courts, it appeared she was still going to have to turn over her son to his father. She never did – instead killing first him and then herself on the morning of her family court hearing. Hundreds of pages of court documents, medical records and other records provided both by Laura herself and the courts detail the abuse and claims Laura said never reached a judge or were taken seriously. The story explains why mothers kill their children and what can drive parents to commit murder- suicide in a world in which we often lack those answers.
  • Chicago Police kept secret dossiers on public speakers

    Tribune reporters discovered that Chicago Police were running secret background checks on public speakers at the police board’s monthly disciplinary meetings. Speakers included men and women whose loved ones had been killed by police, attorneys, activists, a religious leader, and even cops themselves. The police department secretly created profiles on more than 300 different speakers, potentially violating a court decree meant to prevent police spying on First Amendment activities. The Tribune also discovered a major discrepancy in how long police ran the secret checks, leading Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to order an inspector general investigation into the matter.
  • The Fight for Legislative Records

    The group of stories submitted start with the anti-transparency actions that Washington state lawmakers took after an AP-led coalition prevailed in superior court in January 2018, when a judge ruled that state lawmakers are subject to the same public disclosure law that other elected officials are. The final story and glance are on the state Supreme Court in December 2019 upholding that lower court ruling. The state high court ruling is the end of a nearly three- year effort by Rachel La Corte at The Associated Press to successfully challenge lawmakers’ assertion that they had a special exemption from the state’s Public Records Act.
  • Bargaining the Badge: How Hundreds of Accused Texas Officers Avoid Prison

    Across Texas, hundreds of law enforcement officers have permanently surrendered their peace officer licenses in the past four years. A KXAN investigation of 297 of those surrenders uncovered nearly all the officers were accused or charged with a crime – most often felonies. KXAN also found this system allows some bad officers to operate under the radar for years. Through internal police department and court records, KXAN found several cases of officers accused repeatedly of misconduct. In those instances, the accused police officers were able to trade their badges in a plea bargain and walk away with probation.
  • Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn't

    The book revisits the murder conviction of Jo Ann Parks, sentenced to life in prison without parole for allegedly murdering her three young children in 1989by setting fire to her home and trapping them inside. In re-investigating the case, the author found flawed forensic science, false and contradictory testimony, and strong evidence of cognitive bias throughout the case, including use of an unreliable informant who later recanted, and sworn expert testimony that the fire began because Parks supposedly constructed a crude “incendiary device” by deliberately overloading a sabotaged electrical extension cord. Testing later proved the cord did not and could not start a fire. Information in the book has since been added to Parks’ existing habeas corpus petition filed by the California Innocence Project, now being considered by the state Supreme Court. Additional findings suggests the problems with flawed forensic science and cognitive bias in general, and in arson investigation in particular, is widespread and has led to other wrongful convictions. Correcting the use of flawed forensic and expert testimony is hindered by the legal system’s reliance on precedent, which slows and sometimes prevents the correction of scientifically dubious ideas used to win convictions. Nascent attempts to study and change this tendency to prolong the use of flawed forensic science initiated by the Obama Administration have been shut down by the Trump Administration.
  • Reuters: Immigration under Trump

    Over the last two years, the Trump administration has driven rapid and unprecedented change to the United States immigration system, implementing tougher apprehension, prosecution and detention policies for migrants who come to the country illegally. Reuters has stayed ahead of policy changes, often breaking exclusive news before official announcements. We have also used data to expose where administration policies have failed and to highlight inequities in the system. In these stories, we have relied heavily on a Department of Justice database known as the Case Management System. Reuters obtains the data set, which is used by the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to schedule all court appearances, through monthly Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • Trading Away Justice

    Guilty pleas have become the go-to solution for the nation’s overburdened courts. They account for nine of every 10 convictions in the United States. But our near-total reliance on plea bargaining has created a parallel justice system -- one without the constitutional safeguards of trials, that operates largely in secret and with little oversight. Through case studies and data analysis, “Trading Away Justice” documents how even innocent defendants are being pressured into pleading guilty.
  • Reuters: Immigration under Trump

    Over the last two years, the Trump administration has driven rapid and unprecedented change to the United States immigration system, implementing tougher apprehension, prosecution and detention policies for migrants who come to the country illegally. Reuters has stayed ahead of policy changes, often breaking exclusive news before official announcements. We have also used data to expose where administration policies have failed and to highlight inequities in the system. In these stories, we have relied heavily on a Department of Justice database known as the Case Management System. Reuters obtains the data set, which is used by the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to schedule all court appearances, through monthly Freedom of Information Act requests.