Sheldon Richard Levy, 57, a television cameraman who pursued fires, crime and other breaking news in the late-night and early-morning hours of two major eastern cities, died of complications from kidney failure May 13 at his home in Gaithersburg.
Mr. Levy formed what was thought to be the first company that provided breaking news film and videotape to television stations in 1973. Individual freelance photographers had done the work for years, but five years after Action Movie News started in New York, Mr. Levy said that he had 13 employees and that the business grossed about $150,000.
The Washington Post, in a profile of the business in 1978, called it "the National Enquirer of television."
"They have good footage," Edith Cahill, WNBC's feature assignment editor, remarked at the time. "Sometimes it's spectacular -- especially the fires. . . . I tell you this: They've saved our rears many times."
Mr. Levy noted that he was sometimes dissuaded from covering a story when the victim's family insisted. "Like say when there's a Mafia killing and the family says, 'You film that, we're gonna blow your legs and arms off,' " Mr. Levy told the Post reporter. "Then we don't do it."
One of the firm's biggest coups was the only "perp walk" shot of David Berkowitz, the notorious "Son of Sam" killer.
When Action Movie News was asked to bid on a contract to provide photographers, technicians, microwave trucks and technical support for CNN in its early days, Mobile Video Services of Washington was born. The firm handled all of the network's live remote broadcasts in the Washington area.
Mr. Levy was also a staff photographer for WUSA-TV, working the overnight shift since the mid-1980s. He won three local Emmys for his work at Channel 9, one of them for filming a dramatic rescue of four children from a burning rowhouse on Missouri Avenue NW. That work also won a New York Film and TV Festival award and a White House News Photographers award. Mr. Levy was on disability leave from WUSA at the time of his death.
He was born in the Bronx, N.Y., and served in the Army in the late 1960s before becoming a dispatcher for the Fire Department of New York. In his off hours, he would take photos of fires and other news events and sell them to newspapers. He branched out into film and provided similar services to New York TV stations.
In pre-videotape days and without the ability to make copies quickly, Mr. Levy lashed three film cameras together to sell the film to multiple stations, and thus was born Action Movie News.
Mr. Levy was a member of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department for 11 years, starting in 1990, rising to the rank of deputy fire chief. He was a 23-year member and past president of the Friendship Fire Association, which provided emergency canteen and rehabilitation services for the D.C. fire department.
His marriage to Marie Martorello ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife, Maggie Levy of Gaithersburg; two children from his first marriage, David Levy of Chicago and Allyson Levy of Boston; and a stepdaughter, Michelle Vitale Johnson of Mount Airy.