A Shot to the Back: Legal, or Not?

Read any news story about a cop who used deadly force against a suspect and you’ll find a long list of mostly negative statements in the following comments section. For example, the person who complained about the  shooting and killing of escaped New York prisoner Richard Matt, who, by the way, was armed with a shotgun at the time he was shot.

The commenter wrote, “In my mind Matt was murdered for the sake of sport.” They were speaking of THE Richard Matt, the murderer who killed his boss and dismembered his body before fleeing to Mexico where he killed another person.

Most people, though, understand that a convicted murderer/prison escapee holding a shotgun is a clear-cut definition of DANGER. So yeah, shooting Matt was a no-brainer (for most people).

But what about Matt’s escapee accomplice, convicted cop-killer David Sweat? When Sgt. Jay Cook encountered Sweat walking down a rural road near the Canadian border, what happened next is apparent. Sweat ran and the sergeant shot him twice in the back. Sweat was clearly unarmed and was running away, meaning there was no immediate physical threat to the trooper, right?

Well, under normal circumstances this would be true, that no threat was present. However, this was not a normal circumstance. First of all, Sweat and Matt were both convicted murderers and were both in prison serving life sentences. Next, and anyone who has followed this blog for a while already knows that officers may shoot a fleeing suspect if he has probable cause to believe the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others (more on this in a minute).

Sergeant Cook definitely had reason to believe that Sweat posed a significant threat to others because he’s a known killer, and because he’s an escaped convict on the run who’d likely harm others to remain free, if that’s what it took to avoid capture.

Also, in many areas, including New York, the law allows for deadly force when stopping a dangerous convict from escaping prison.

Think about it for a moment. Those armed guards stationed in towers around the perimeters of prisons aren’t there simply to occupy space. In addition to keeping an eye on things from above, their duty is to stop any prisoner who makes it “across the fence.” That’s why corrections officers often practice their shooting skills on the range while perched in makeshift towers. They are the last line of defense between dangerous convicts and the public.

The same applies to law enforcement officers when searching for prison escapees who made it past the fences and tower officers.

Tennessee v. Garner

The 1986 U.S. Supreme Court case Tennessee v. Garner is the case that supports shooting fleeing suspects who pose a danger to others. Tennessee v. Garner also forbids the act when no threat is present. Clearly, though, an escaped murderer is a significant threat, armed or not.

Leaving Sweat and Matt for a moment, let’s apply this information to the case of the South Carolina officer, Michael Slager, who shot Walter Scott in the back while he, too, ran from a law enforcement officer. Scott was stopped for a minor traffic violation which is definitely not a threat to the officer or others. But Scott ran away. Well, simply running away from an officer does not pose a threat to anyone, including Officer Slager.

Although, maybe having to chase someone would have been a threat to the heart of an out of shape officer, but no real threat, legally speaking.

But shooting escaped killers David Sweat and Richard Matt? Definitely a no-brainer. They had to be stopped by whatever means it took to stop them.

Some have asked if officers would have shot the two escapees had they surrendered peacefully? Easy answer … No. I’ve been on several manhunts for prison escapees, including the escapes of viscous murderers, and not one of those ended with anyone shot, killed, or harmed in any way. A few ended at the electric chair, but that’s a different story.


With that said (above), I’d like to address the recent offer-involved fatal shooting of 17-year-old Antwon Rose.

The Story

Police stopped a vehicle Tuesday in East Pittsburgh, Pa. that matched the description of a one being sought in a failed drive-by shooting. Someone in the car fired several .40 cal. rounds at a subject.

East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld along with other officers were in the process of detaining the driver when the two passengers fled on foot. Antwon Rose was one of the two young men who fled from the scene.

Officer Rosfeld pursued and then fired the shots that killed the fleeing teen. It’s believed the shots were from behind, in the back. And that’s more than likely the case and a cellphone video appears to solidly support that claim.

Was it lawful for officers to shoot a fleeing suspect?

This scenario is a bit unique in that it occurred in Pennsylvania where the law permits shooting fleeing suspects, for just cause.

The Pennsylvania law does not mandate that the person fleeing from police be armed with a deadly weapon. Instead, it’s quite specific in that it states the officer must only believe that the use of deadly force at that precise moment be to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or such other person.

In this case, Officer Rosfeld must be able to clearly articulate that he believed his use of deadly force was for this reason. Otherwise, the shooting is not just.

Speaking from experience (been-there, done-that), I can offer a few thoughts that were most likely going through the officers’ minds at the time of the stop. This, below, is from a Facebook post I wrote yesterday).

What officers knew prior to and during the stop

  • A shooting has just occurred.
  • The vehicle matched the description of the one driven by the shooter(s)
  • Three suspects who could be armed and aren’t afraid to shoot.
  • The possibility of firearms in this car was great.
  • The rear window of the vehicle had been shot out. HUGE clue!
  • While handcuffing the driver, two passengers fled.
  • The danger level was over the top.
  • This all took place in a matter of seconds/a minute or two.When things unfold that quickly, the brain doesn’t have time to calculate every single detail.Therefore, instinct and training kick in, meaning the officer reacts to the threat, instantly. We need to know exactly what occurred leading up to the shooting and at the precise second he pulled the trigger. The officer’s perception of the incident is critical.*Did you know they believed the car they pulled over was involved in the earlier incident because a back window had been shot out? That alone was probable cause to make the stop and to believe the danger level was high. But they also had a description of the car. 1+1 =

    When an officer receives a transmission about a wanted vehicle, they go on the information received. Then, when the occupants act out, well, every red flag in the book goes up – a driveby shooting, car matches the description, rear window shot out, suspects flee …

    Hmm … sounds pretty reasonable to assume these guys were up to no good, right? And that no good in this instance most likely involved gunfire. It was also pretty safe to assume the men, at least one of them, was armed. Which one? You’d know it wasn’t the guy you just patted down and cuffed/were about to cuff. Therefore, one of the two who ran must be holding the gun used in the driveway. Or both.

    Those are the sorts of things going through your mind at 1,000 mph, while you’re on the side of road, in the dark, while trying to handle three guys who could be attempted murderers. Your hands are busy with handcuffing a guy who could be armed, while trying to keep one eye on the other guys, who also could be armed.

    Again, I’m not defending the officer. But I wanted to attempt to help people understand how something like this happens. Doesn’t mean the officer didn’t act improperly. But, I’m sure he was more than a bit scared due to the number of officers ambushed or shot death recently. For example, the two I posted just today. Those two died after a prisoner overpowered one of them and used their service weapon to kill both. And these are just two of the officers shot recently, They were the two out of several shot who died.

    I agree, a terrible tragedy, for both the victim of the shooting, his family, and for the officer and his family. He’ll live with this for the rest of his life, second-guessing every single second of it, just as I have since 1995 when I shot and killed someone.

    I think about it every single day of my life, wondering what I could have done differently. There was nothing of course, but it doesn’t stop my heart from aching like its being squeezed by a thousand hands every time I do. The scenario often creeps into my thoughts the moment my head hits the pillow. It’s horrible, and my family has suffered because of it. I’m not the same person I was even moments prior to sending that first bullet in the direction of the bank robber.

Here’s the Pa. code section detailing the use of deadly force.

Pennsylvania General Assembly – Title 18

 

§ 508.  Use of force in law enforcement.

(a)  Peace officer’s use of force in making arrest.–

(1)  A peace officer, or any person whom he has summoned or directed to assist him, need not retreat or desist from efforts to make a lawful arrest because of resistance or threatened resistance to the arrest. He is justified in the use of any force which he believes to be necessary to effect the arrest and of any force which he believes to be necessary to defend himself or another from bodily harm while making the arrest. However, he is justified in using deadly force only when he believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or such other person, or when he believes both that:

(i)  such force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape; and

(ii)  the person to be arrested has committed or attempted a forcible felony or is attempting to escape and possesses a deadly weapon, or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict serious bodily injury unless arrested without delay.

(2)  A peace officer making an arrest pursuant to an invalid warrant is justified in the use of any force which he would be justified in using if the warrant were valid, unless he knows that the warrant is invalid.

(b)  Private person’s use of force in making arrest.–

(1)  A private person who makes, or assists another private person in making a lawful arrest is justified in the use of any force which he would be justified in using if he were summoned or directed by a peace officer to make such arrest, except that he is justified in the use of deadly force only when he believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or another.

(2)  A private person who is summoned or directed by a peace officer to assist in making an arrest which is unlawful, is justified in the use of any force which he would be justified in using if the arrest were lawful, unless he knows that the arrest is unlawful.

(3)  A private person who assists another private person in effecting an unlawful arrest, or who, not being summoned, assists a peace officer in effecting an unlawful arrest, is justified in using any force which he would be justified in using if the arrest were lawful, if:

(i)  he believes the arrest is lawful; and

(ii)  the arrest would be lawful if the facts were as he believes them to be.

(c)  Use of force regarding escape.–

(1)  A peace officer, corrections officer or other person who has an arrested or convicted person in his custody is justified in the use of such force to prevent the escape of the person from custody as the officer or other person would be justified in using under subsection (a) if the officer or other person were arresting the person.

(2)  A peace officer or corrections officer is justified in the use of such force, including deadly force, which the officer believes to be necessary to prevent the escape from a correctional institution of a person whom the officer believes to be lawfully detained in such institution under sentence for an offense or awaiting trial or commitment for an offense.

(3)  A corrections officer is justified in the use of such force, which the officer believes to be necessary to defend himself or another from bodily harm during the pursuit of the escaped person. However, the officer is justified in using deadly force only when the officer believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or another or when the officer believes that:

(i)  such force is necessary to prevent the apprehension from being defeated by resistance; and

(ii)  the escaped person has been convicted of committing or attempting to commit a forcible felony, possesses a deadly weapon or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict serious bodily injury unless apprehended without delay.

(d)  Use of force to prevent suicide or the commission of crime.–

(1)  The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary to prevent such other person from committing suicide, inflicting serious bodily injury upon himself, committing or consummating the commission of a crime involving or threatening bodily injury, damage to or loss of property or a breach of the peace, except that:

(i)  Any limitations imposed by the other provisions of this chapter on the justifiable use of force in self-protection, for the protection of others, the protection of property, the effectuation of an arrest or the prevention of an escape from custody shall apply notwithstanding the criminality of the conduct against which such force is used.

(ii)  The use of deadly force is not in any event justifiable under this subsection unless:

(A)  the actor believes that there is a substantial risk that the person whom he seeks to prevent from committing a crime will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless the commission or the consummation of the crime is prevented and that the use of such force presents no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons; or

(B)  the actor believes that the use of such force is necessary to suppress a riot or mutiny after the rioters or mutineers have been ordered to disperse and warned, in any particular manner that the law may require, that such force will be used if they do not obey.

(2)  The justification afforded by this subsection extends to the use of confinement as preventive force only if the actor takes all reasonable measures to terminate the confinement as soon as he knows that he safely can, unless the person confined has been arrested on a charge of crime.

(July 17, 2007, P.L.139, No.41, eff. 60 days)

 

2007 Amendment.  Act 41 amended subsec. (c).

Cross References.  Section 508 is referred to in section 8340.2 of Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure).


From Tennessee v. Garner

“The use of deadly force is not justifiable . . . unless (i) the arrest is for a felony; and (ii) the person effecting the arrest is authorized to act as a peace officer or is assisting a person whom he believes to be authorized to act as a peace officer; and (iii) the actor believes that the force employed creates no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons; and (iv) the actor believes that (1) the crime for which the arrest is made involved conduct including the use or threatened use of deadly force; or (2) there is a substantial risk that the person to be arrested will cause death or serious bodily harm if his apprehension is delayed.”


The Supreme Court said in the Graham v. Connor decision, “The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”


Finally – Please DO NOT rely on news and social media as a basis for rendering judgement on this incident or other). Those reports are all over the place, and most are extremely inaccurate. They’re uneducated speculations, wishes, dreams, etc. of “reporters” hoping to get the first scoop.


I.B “Fake News” Lion

I’ll say this one more time – This is not a political statement, nor is it a defense of the officer’s actions. I was not there so it would be impossible for me to know exact details, and I will never know what was going through the officer’s mind and/or the state of his emotions and perception at the time of the shooting. Remember, the law says we’re not allowed to play Monday morning armchair quarterback. Instead, we must base our decisions on the reasonableness of a particular use of force from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene. Not the opinion of @I.B. Lion, the guy in his mom’s basement who pumps out dozens of false media reports on social media sites.

Crossing the U.S. Border: The Facts of the Matter

Before you read further, please know that I cannot and will not comment on border and political issues. I can’t offer insight or opinion because I am not there, have not seen anything first-hand, and I definitely believe absolutely nothing I read in the media or see and hear on “news” programming. It’s disheartening and extremely frustrating to read three or four news articles from various sources with all having different things to say about a current event, something that actually happened, not fiction, and many of what’s supposed to be news articles are merely the opinions of the “reporter.” And for goodness sake, some of the stuff I read on social media is so incredibly outlandish that it, too, is beyond belief.

I try to sift through the nonsense to get at the real meat of the matter. But until I know the facts, I try to hold my tongue. Speculation and opinion are fuel for fires. However, what I can do is to present the law, the stuff that’s passed by our elected officials and in turn enforced by law enforcement. I know, what a shock, right? Cops do not make the laws. Who knew …

Okay, here’s the reality of arrests and/or detention – short and sweet.

When someone breaks the law—felony or misdemeanor—they are typically arrested and held in jail until they post bond or until a hearing where a judge then releases the subject or holds them until trial.

During the time the person is incarcerated, they are totally separated from family members, unless, of course, there’s a family member already in lockup. If the person has a child with them at the time of the arrest, the child is placed either with responsible family members or, if no family is available, in the care of the government. Sometimes this involves a secure facility until other arrangements are made (foster care, family member offers to take the child, etc.).

This not something new!

Every person who’s in jail is separated from their children, if, of course, they have any. Every single time. Kids are not permitted to live in jail alongside their incarcerated or detained parents.

This is not something new, nor should it be a surprise.The folks who choose to illegally cross over into the United States are committing a crime. It’s a simple as that, according to the law.

Yes, they’re breaking the law; therefore, law enforcement is obligated to arrest and detain. Unfortunately, the children accompanying them are caught up in the mess.

Again, when it comes to what’s written in black and white, it is not the job of law enforcement to determine who they may release and who they may hold, nor is it permitted that they act as prosecutors, judges, and as members of a jury.

Once officers have made an arrest, they are not allowed to “un-arrest.” The case is, at that point, out of their hands. It is then time for the prosecutor and courts to handle things from there.

Speaking of what’s written in black and white, here is the federal law that officers are, by law, required to enforce. (The solution is to fix/change the law, not blame the cops for doing a job that’s often unpleasant).

Crossing the U.S. border illegally is a crime – 

8 U.S. Code § 1325 – Improper entry by alien

(a)Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection; misrepresentation and concealment of facts

Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.

(b)Improper time or place; civil penalties. Any alien who is apprehended while entering (or attempting to enter) the United States at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers shall be subject to a civil penalty of—

  • at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry (or attempted entry); or
  • twice the amount specified in paragraph (1) in the case of an alien who has been previously subject to a civil penalty under this subsection.
  • Civil penalties under this subsection are in addition to, and not in lieu of, any criminal or other civil penalties that may be imposed.

c)Marriage fraud

Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both.

(d)Immigration-related entrepreneurship fraud

Any individual who knowingly establishes a commercial enterprise for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, fined in accordance with title 18, or both.

(June 27, 1952, ch. 477, title II, ch. 8, § 275, 66 Stat. 229Pub. L. 99–639, § 2(d), Nov. 10, 1986, 100 Stat. 3542Pub. L. 101–649, title I, § 121(b)(3), title V, § 543(b)(2), Nov. 29, 1990, 104 Stat. 4994, 5059; Pub. L. 102–232, title III, § 306(c)(3), Dec. 12, 1991, 105 Stat. 1752Pub. L. 104–208, div. C, title I, § 105(a), Sept. 30, 1996, 110 Stat. 3009–556.)

#fixtheproblem


*I’m trying this once again – PLEASE do not turn this into a political discussion. I’m merely presenting the law as it’s written. Anything beyond that is for your personal sites. Keep in mind that this is a factual piece. There’s nothing hidden between the lines. Nothing. Nada.

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A Cop’s Nighttime Melody: Sounds of Graveyard Shift

Many writers have never, not once, set foot inside a police car, nor have they climbed out of bed at 11 p.m. to swap pajamas for a police uniform, Kevlar vest, gun belt, sidearm, and spit-shined shoes. And they’ve not headed out into the night to spend the next eight to twelve hours dealing with the city’s “worst of the worst,” and worse.

Most people have not left home with their family saying, “Be careful, see you when you get home,” and know they’re saying it because they worry the next time they see their loved one will be at their funeral service. “Killed in the line of duty” is what the bloggers and reporters will say.

Sure, you all know what goes on during a police officer’s shift—fights, domestic calls, shootings, stabbings, drug dealers, rapists, and killers of all shapes and sizes.

But what those of you who’ve never “been there, done that” cannot honestly and accurately detail the sounds heard when someone take a shot at you. No, not the actual gunshot. Its the other noises that help bring super-cool details to your stories.

To learn about those sounds, let’s pretend we’re the officer who’s just been the target of a bad guy’s gunfire. We’re chasing the suspect through alleys and paths that wind through dark wooded areas, all while knowing the guy has a gun and he’s definitely not afraid to use it.

Can’t see your hand in front of your face, so you stop and listen. And then it happens …

That eerie calm.

It causes the hairs on the back of your neck to stand tall and straight. Goose bumps come to attention on your arms. A lone pea-sized bead of sweat worms its way down your spine, easing through the space between your pants and the bare skin of your waistline. It feels oddly cool against your fear-warmed flesh.

If this occurred in a movie there would be, of course, background music. So let’s do this right. Hit the play button, take a sip of your coffee, or tea, and then read on to learn about A Cop’s Nighttime Melody.

 

10-4, I’ll take this one …

The call came in as “Shots Fired. Suspect is armed with a handgun and caller advises he is still at the residence and is threatening to kill responding officers.”

I was working the county alone so I asked the dispatcher to request backup from a nearby city and from the state police. The trooper in our county was also working alone. Our roles differed, though. He was out on the interstate writing traffic tickets while I responded to the usual plethora of calls. Either way, we were alone when we approached whatever situation was before us, be it stopping a stolen car with dark tinted windows or heading toward a house where I knew a man was waiting to kill me.

The sound of a police radio is far different when it’s heard late at night as opposed to the same radio traffic during daylight hours. Its an unexplained phenomena. It could be that dark skies and night air create different acoustics. Or that working the graveyard shift forces dispatchers to work really hard to battle “the thing” that comes out at night to squeeze their emotions into submission. They typically lose the fight which results in a manner of speech that’s without feeling, inflection, and dynamics.

Nighttime radio traffic echoes and travels far. It’s weird and out of place among the stars and creamy moonlight. Dispatchers drone on like robots … “Robbery at …” “Wife says husband hit her …” “Lost child …” “Possible drug overdose at …” “Loud music at …” “Peeping Tom at …” “Customer refuses to pay at …” Shoplifter at …” “Dead body in river …” Dead body in park …” “Shots fired …” “Shots fired …” “Man stabbed at …” Shots fired …”

Back to the man who wanted to kill me

I acknowledged the call with a “10-4, I’m en-route.” Then I hooked the radio mic back into the metal “U-shaped” clip connected to the dashboard. Next I pushed one of the many red toggle switches mounted into the center console.

With the push of the button, a faint click occurred simultaneously with the eruption of pulsating blue light. I stepped on the gas and heard the engine come to life. Since I was miles out in the country there was no need for the siren. Not yet.

I pushed the pedal toward the floor until I was cruising along at 70 mph. Believe me, that was pretty fast considering the curvy, hilly road that was before me.

There are no streetlights in the country. It’s super dark. Blue light reflects from trees, shrubbery, houses, mailboxes, passing cars, and telephone poles. It also reflects from the white lines painted on the pavement.

Meanwhile, the radio traffic continues with updates for me and with traffic from city officers and the trooper out on the interstate … “Use caution. Driver of the vehicle is wanted for a homicide in …”

My car radio played in the background. The Oak Ridge Boys went on and on about Bobbie Sue and Elvira while I attempted to straighten the curves by hitting my marks—drive low in the curves, on both sides of the road. Never at the apex. Unless a car is coming in the opposite direction or you cannot see far enough ahead to safely do so.

The blue strobes mounted on top of the car make a clicking sound with the start of each flash. The wig-wag headlamps do the same. The roadway is very uneven with a few cracks and potholes scattered about. They cause the patrol car to dip and roll. The extra pair of handcuffs I and many other cops keep handy by hanging them from the spotlight handle that protrudes from the post between the windshield and driver’s door, sway back and forth and bang together causing a constant click, click, click noise. The sounds are out of sync.

I switched off my lights a ways before reaching the scene—didn’t want to shooter to know  I was there—and stopped my car on the shoulder, a bit down the road from the driveway. I called the dispatcher on the phone to let her know I’d arrived. The use of the phone was in case the bad guy was listening to a scanner. I turned down the volume on my police radio. Way down. Remember, the sound travels far. I wished backup didn’t have to do the same (travel far).

I opened my car door slowly to avoid making any noise. The interior light was not operational—disconnected in police cars to prevent illuminating the officer and/or blinding them to goings-on outside the vehicle.

As I slid from the seat my leather gun belt creaked and squeaked and groaned, as leather does when rubbed against other leather or similar material. To me, the sound was as loud as fourth of July fireworks. My car keys (in my pants pocket) jingled slightly with each step. So I used a hand to hold them against my leg. The other hand was on my pistol.

I walked up to the house to peek into a window before knocking on the door. I wanted to see if I could, well, see anything. But, as I closed in on the side the house a large mixed breed dog stepped into view, showing its teeth and upper gums. The animal with matted-hair and a crooked tail growled one of those slow, easy rumbles that comes from somewhere deep inside. I held out a hand for it to sniff. It backed into the shadows.

A quick peek inside revealed a family of five. A woman with two black eyes and three crying children. Two girls, not quite teenagers, but close, probably, and a wiggling and squirming baby. A man stood near a tattered recliner and tall floor lamp. He held a pump shotgun in his right hand. At the moment, the barrel was aimed toward the floor. He yelled a few obscenities and started to pace. Then he looked straight at me, or at least it seemed like he looked at me.

My heart pounded against the inside of my chest. It bumped so hard I could hear the sound it made with each beat.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

From somewhere deep in the shadows.

Grrrr …….. Growl …..

From inside the home.

A baby crying.

A woman pleads and sobs.

A young girl. “Please, Daddy. No more!”

Sirens wail in the distance, beyond the black tree line that connects sky with earth. Sounds travel further at night, right?

The air-conditioning unit beneath the window snaps on. Its compressor humming and fan whirring. The metal casing rattles slightly. Probably missing a screw or two.

A Cop’s Nighttime Melody Approaches the Finale

I knew what I had to do and started toward the door with my leather shoes and gun belt squeaking and keys jingling and heart thumping. As I reached for the knob I took a deep breath.

The expansion of my chest pulled at the Velcro that held my vest tightly against my torso.

Crackle. Crackle. Crackle.

Right behind me now.

Grrr …. Growl …

Crying.

Screaming. 

Whir.

Thump. Thump. Thump!

Jingle

Squeak.

The door.

Turn and push.

“Drop the gun!”

BANG!

BANG!

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Crying.

And crying.

“10-4. Send the coroner.”

So, my friends, those are the sounds of working the graveyard shift … A Cop’s Nighttime Melody.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This is a repeat post per request. Thanks!


By the way, we are preparing a big announcement regarding the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy. Believe it or not, the event just became even more exciting. Extremely exciting, actually. Never before offered at a writers conference, or to non-law enforcement. This is big and it’s a fantastic opportunity!

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Dead Women Sometimes Cry in the Rain

Never start a story with the weather. I’ve heard this many times over the years. In fact, once, in a moment of desperation and frustration, author J.A. Konrath begged writers to not do this “unspeakable” act.

Elmore Leonard begins his “Don’t-do-it” list with weather.

  1. Never open a book with the weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.”
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control!
  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Same for places and things.
  10. Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.

Elmore Leonard said it’s taboo!

Even our wonderful friend and writing teacher extraordinaire, Les Edgerton, has a few of his own rules regarding opening page blunders. In fact, he generously assembled those in his excellent book, Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers At Page One.

Edgerton’s list of Do-Nots:

  • Opening With a Dream
  • Opening With an Alarm Clock Buzzing
  • Being Unintentionally Funny
  • Too Little Dialogue (first few pages)
  • Opening With Dialogue

For details regarding each of the above points please click here (Writer’s Digest article).

Now, with that said and with an absolute clear understanding of the rules—NO Weather!—let’s get on with the show … today’s article. And it starts like this …

It was a dark and stormy night in our county. A sideways rain driven by the type of wind gusts that TV weather reporters are seen battling during live shots of hurricanes, the really big ones that send trees toppling and waves crashes onto houses far from the shoreline.

While on patrol I’d noticed a car parked approximately thirty yards off a dirt road next to a river. The vehicle was situated in the clearcut section along a power line. The driver’s door was open and what appeared to be a person was half-in and half-out. The upper portion of the body was the out section, and he or she was getting soaked.

So, in spite of the downpour, thunder, lightning, and the hairs on the back of my neck standing at attention (the cop’s sixth sense was in full overdrive), I had to get out to investigate.

I scanned the area carefully, using the spotlight mounted to my car, making certain this wasn’t an ambush, and then stepped outside. After another look around, I plowed forward while the winds drilled raindrops into my face and against my lemon-yellow vinyl raincoat, the one I kept in the trunk of my patrol car just for times like this one. The sound of those oversized drops of water was that of small stones striking at a pace equal to the rat-a-tat-tatty rounds fired from a Chicago typewriter.

As I stated earlier, the storm that night was brutal. It was a fight to walk headfirst into swirling, stinging winds that tugged and pulled and pushed against my rain coat, sending its tails fluttering and flapping, exposing my brown over tan deputy sheriff uniform. It—the uniform—was not waterproof. Not even close.

The ground at the crime scene was extremely muddy and with each step my once shiny brown shoes collected gobs of thick, wet soil until it felt as if gooey bricks were tied to the bottoms of my feet.

These were the deplorable conditions in which I met the crying dead woman.

Raindrops the size of gumdrops pelted the victim’s face, gathering and pooling at the corners of her eyes, eventually spilling out across her cheeks like tiny rivers that followed the contours of her flesh until they poured from her in miniature waterfalls.

It was one-on-one—me and the victim.

Passenger door open.

She’s lying there, bottom half in, top half out.

Her face aimed at the sky.

Rain falling into her open mouth.

Cheap dollar-store tennis shoes and half-socks, the socks her youngest daughter—the seven-year-old—called baby socks.

Her hair, mingled with mud, rainwater, sticks, and leaves.

Power lines crackled and buzzed overhead.

The creamy light from my flashlight showcased her dim gray eyes.

No life,

No recollections,

No dreams.

Not a flicker.

Tire tracks.

Different pattern than the rubber on her Chrysler.

Driver’s window down.

Three rounds—one to the head and two to the torso.

Five empty casings.

Pistol.

Not a revolver.

Half-empty wine bottle.

Cheap.

Not her brand according to the ladies in her church group. “Oh we don’t drink. Neither did she. Except on special occasions. Yep, it must have been something or somebody really special for her to drink that stuff.”

“Was there a somebody special?”

Eyes cast downward.

Blushes all around. “Well … she did stay after Wednesday night preaching a few times. But they were meetings strictly about church business. After all, he is the Reverend. A good man.”

More blushing.

A stammer or two.

A good man.

The rain comes harder, pouring across her cheeks, meandering through her hair.

Droplets hammer her open eyes.

She doesn’t blink.

A dead woman crying.

Footprints.

Two sets.

One walking.

Casually?

A sly, stealthy approach?

The other, long strides.

Running away, possibly.

Zigzagging to the woods.

Bullet lodged in base of a spruce pine.

One round left to find.

Water inside my collar, down my back.

Shivering.

Cloth snagged on jagged tree branch.

Plaid shirt material.

Blood?

Still visible in the rain?

The missing fifth round?

Maglite never fails, even in torrential rain.

Cop’s best friend.

Light catches shoe in underbrush.

Shoe attached to adult male.

Dead.

Bullet in back.

The fifth round.

Coming together nicely.

Church meetings.

Reverend.

Two lovers.

Special wine for special occasion …

A good man.

Sure he is.

~

Morning sunshine.

Tiny face peering from window.

Waiting for Mama?

Police car,

Parks at curb.

Scent of frying bacon in the air.

Door swings open.

Worried husband.

“No, she didn’t come home after church. Called friends and family. Nobody knows.”

Husband, devastated.

Questions unanswered.

Children cry.

“Yes, I have ideas. 

And I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Tire tracks match.

Pistol found.

Preacher hangs head in shame.

Special occasion.

To profess love.

But …

Another man.

Another lover.

Angry.

Jealous.

Handcuffs.

Click.

Click.

Murder.

No bond.

I seal the deal with a single, odd, plant seed found stuck to the killer’s brake pedal.

Bingo!

I could definitely place him at the scene.

Prison.

Life.

No parole.

Today, there’s no rain in California. Not a drop.

But the lack of moisture falling from the skies doesn’t stop me thinking of the crying dead woman and her kids, her loving husband and, of course, baby socks.

Special occasion?

Good man?

Yeah, right.

The world’s filled with good men … and battered, hurt, and dead women who cry in rain.


Les Edgerton has a brand new book coming out in november 2018. I have an advance copy and it’s a killer! So today, I’m officially issuing a BOLO (Be On the Lookout) for Adrenaline Junkie.

In the meantime, don’t forget to pick up a copy of Hooked!


*Top photo – Writers’ Police Academy – Shallow grave investigations

12 Facts About Interrogation

Police officers are required to follow a set of strict court-ordered rules when interrogating a suspect who’s in their custody. And, if they don’t follow those set-in-stone rules, any statement made by the suspect would most likely be ruled inadmissible in court. Imagine if that wrongfully-obtained statement had been a full confession to a murder. Definitely not good.

So here’s a handy checklist for your protagonists to follow when they’ve got their bad guy under the hot lights.

1. Physical abuse is forbidden. So put away the rubber hoses.

2. Promises of leniency are also not allowed. Police officers do not have the authority to reduce a jail or prison sentence, nor can they pick the jail or prison where a suspect will serve his time. An officer’s involvement in the case ends with her court testimony.

3. Miranda warnings (reading of rights—you have the right to remain silent … etc.) are given before interrogating a suspect who’s in custody. It’s not like you see on TV. Officers do not begin spouting off the warnings the second they arrest someone. No, no, and NO! Only to people they intend to question. And, questioning is not reserved for serious felonies. People who commit misdemeanors are questioned as well. Keep in mind, though, that department policy may require some officers to present/read/announce the warnings to every person they take into custody, but it is not the norm to do so.

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Miranda v. Arizona is the case that started the ball rolling. (click here)

4. Officers are not required to give the Miranda warnings when questioning a witness—someone who is not a suspect. Remember: In custody = Read Miranda warnings. No custody = No Miranda warnings.

5. Officers posing as prisoners in any correctional facility (undercover assignment) not required to give Miranda warnings/advisement of rights to prisoners before asking them questions. Therefore, Barney Fife was absolutely following the law when he questioned a prisoner while posing as a fellow crook. See, I told you that show was an accurate portrayal of police work.

6. Miranda warnings should be given each time there’s a significant delay in questioning. For example, you break to get a good night’s sleep and then resume the next day. Officers should give the Miranda warnings before resuming the questioning.

7. Each new/different officer who questions the suspect should again advise him of Miranda. Now, I don’t mean that if five officers are in the room at the same time, each one should take turns reading the guy his rights. I’m referring to the instances where, say, one officer questioned the suspect for a while and then left. Then another officer (might even be from another agency) comes in to ask questions. The new officer would need to advise the suspect of the Miranda warnings. There’s no such thing as a “blanket Miranda warning” that covers everyone at all times.

8. If a suspect, at any time during the questioning, states that he does not understand his rights the officer should stop and repeat the warnings. They should then continue with the warnings until the suspect states that he fully understands and waives each of them.

9. If the officer gives the warnings and then the suspect says he does not wish to answer, the officer may not continue the questioning.

10. If the suspect requests a lawyer, the officer may not question him until an attorney is present. However, that doesn’t mean a lawyer will drop what he’s doing and run down to the police station. It could be days before an attorney is appointed to represent the little darling. And, the suspect could change his mind at any time and decide to answer questions without an attorney being present. Sitting in jail sometimes “changes the mind,” hoping that cooperation will gain their freedom.

11. Officers should never interrogate suspects who’re obviously intoxicated, suffering from withdrawal, severely injured, suffering from mental illness, or extremely upset (hysterical).

12. Officers cannot legally tell suspects that they’ll allow others to harm them if they don’t confess. You see this all the time on TV and in books – “I’m going to put you in a cell with Big John Bend’emover if you don’t tell me what I want to know.” No.

* Officers should read the Miranda warnings from a pre-printed form or card, not recite them from memory. Reading from a form provides consistency and prevents any omissions and additions, even slight ones, which could be used against the state’s case. If possible, it’s best to have the suspect sign a pre-printed form, an agreement to waive his rights and talk to the officer(s). Someone should witness the signing.

Miranda Warnings

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  • You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Do you understand?
  • Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law. Do you understand?-
  • You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. Do you understand?-
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. Do you understand?-
  • If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Do you understand?-
  • Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?
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Josh Moulin: Cyberattacks And How To Protect Your Computer and Data – Part 2

The following was originally posted to the blog site of author L.A. Sartor. She and Josh were kind enough to allow me to share this extremely cool bit of knowledge with you. By the way, many of you will remember Josh from his wonderful cybercrime presentations at the Writers’ Police Academy, and from his fascinating articles here on The Graveyard Shift.

So, without further ado, I’ll ask L.A. Sartor to introduce today’s guest blogger …

Author L.A. Sartor


“I’m incredibly honored that Josh Moulin, who was my cyber expert for 
Forever Yours This New Year’s Night, responded with a “yes” when I asked him to do a series on what is a cyberattack, how to recognize them, and how to protect yourself.

Take it away, Josh.”

 


In my first blog, I discussed the cyber kill chain and how hackers move through predictable steps to launch an attack against a target. In that blog, I used the example of an author who was targeted because of their controversial writings and the author’s system was compromised with ransomware. In this second post, I am going to discuss the most common cyberattacks and how computer users can become savvy to detect potentially malicious activity. While there are many kinds of attacks, I’m going to highlight some of the most common attacks that I see. Additionally, while the technical execution of many of these attacks are different, the methods for detection and prevention are similar if not identical.

Phishing Attacks
The most common way that computers and networks are compromised is through phishing attacks. In my scenario in the first post, the author was tricked into clicking a link within an email that caused the author’s system to reach out to a server and download malicious code. Phishing is a very easy attack to create and is more of a social engineering attack than anything technical.

Sometimes these messages are clearly phishing attacks; the message contains grammatical and spelling errors, it is sent by an organization you never do business with, or it is sent by a prince in Nigeria or the U.K. lottery asking you to claim your winnings. Clever hackers though take time in crafting their message and even if it is blasted to millions of email accounts, all they need is to steal the credit card information of just a few people to make a huge return on their investment.

Below is an actual phishing email that came to me. As you can see, the message looks legitimate and there are no obvious signs of it being malicious. Remember, the rule is to never click any links until and unless you are positive the message is legitimate.

When I hovered over the links within the email, none of them went to the Amazon.com domain. Instead the links all pointed to hxxp[://]greatdeals.gungh.top/system/9d011840a8b905ba79667fa20d0a0936. This URL has since been taken down as malicious, but had I actually clicked the link when the URL was still active, my system very well may have become infected.

In some cases of phishing, instead of getting a link to click, the attacker will send a specially crafted attachment. PDFs and Office documents (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.) can be embedded with malicious code and once a user opens the document the code may be able to execute. This is why in the latest version of Microsoft Office, documents are opened in safe mode and in order to edit or print, users must click a button. This safe mode prevents the document from running any macros or other code that may compromise the computer.

If you are ever unsure of a URL or a file, there are several free online resources to help. For instance, URLQuery.net allows you to enter a URL and scan it for malware, complaints, or other warnings. It also tells you the country it is hosted in and gives a screenshot of the website you looked up. Another site, VirusTotal.com, is owned by Google and allows both URLs and files to be scanned for malware. If you receive a file from someone and you want it scanned before you double click it, upload it to VirusTotal to see if it’s malicious first.

Drive-By or Watering Hole Attacks

As organizations and individuals have become more adept at identifying phishing emails, attackers have had to change their modus operandi. One such example of this evolution is changing phishing emails so instead of sending an attachment within an email that is compromised or a link that begins the download of a piece of malware, the email (or Facebook post, or Tweet, etc.) sends the user to a website. The website is most likely legitimate and the user’s system would not detect anything suspicious at this point because nothing is attempting to download.

In the background however, the attacker has compromised the website, hosting malware on the site itself. Once the victim’s browser begins to read the contents on the website, it delivers a payload of malware to the system. This may come in the form of a download where the user is prompted to run something, or it may be a piece of JavaScript that when the browser sees the code, it automatically runs it without user interaction.

These attacks are called “drive-by” attacks because they can indiscriminately target anyone who browses the site, or watering hole attacks because the malicious activity is just sitting in the site, waiting for people to stop by. There have been some very popular websites compromised and embedded with malware such as CNN and Forbes so this kind of attack can be extremely widespread.

How do you spot this attack? Well, this one is tricky and there is a possibility that nothing on your system will notify you that an attack is taking place. Some more advanced anti-malware software may catch it, or if you notice strange things happening on your computer (website crashes, or your computer begins running slow with high CPU or memory utilization), or being prompted to download and run something may all be indications of a problem.

Wireless Attacks / Man in the Middle (MiTM) Attacks

While it has long been known that Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other wireless technologies are vulnerable to attacks, it is still a common and successful attack because people continue to connect to open access points out of convenience or to save their data consumption. Many people do not configure their home wireless access points correctly either, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by people in the area.

When I was in law enforcement, I remember a case where an Internet Protocol (IP) address was identified as downloading hundreds of images of child sexual abuse. My team wrote a search warrant and executed it, only to find that the home we went to had nothing to do with the crime. Our investigation later revealed that a neighbor about three homes down was a registered sex offender and had been using this neighbor’s Wi-Fi to commit their crimes. It was a huge inconvenience (not to mention a traumatic event) to not secure their Wi-Fi network and it all could have been easily prevented by taking some basic security steps.

Beyond securing your personal network, you must be extremely careful with the networks you allow your devices to connect. If you are connected to an unsecure wireless network (e.g. Starbucks) anything that your device transmits or receives that isn’t otherwise encrypted is fair game for someone also connected to that same wireless network. Wireless networks acts as a hub, meaning that anyone else connected to that network can see all the traffic, not just the traffic between their own device and the wireless router. Because of this, I can setup my device on the Starbucks network to promiscuously listen to all traffic and capture it, allowing me to compile it and view anything you typed, downloaded, uploaded, etc. as long as you were doing it unencrypted (http instead of https for example). If you navigate to a website that is not using encryption like http[://}yoursite.com and enter a username and password, I can sniff that out of the air and later use it.

It is true that more and more sites, especially sites that involve finance or healthcare use encryption because it’s mandated, there are still many sites that do not. The other danger is that most people reuse passwords, so even if your bank uses encryption (i.e., https[://]yourbank.com) but your favorite news site does not and you use the same password between the two, once I get the unencrypted username and password and see in your traffic you navigated to US Bank’s website, I can try your username and password on that site to see if it works. This is another huge reason to always use multifactor authentication on everything (more on this in the next post).

Another wireless attack is called the Man-in-the-Middle or MiTM attack. This kind of attack, which can also be carried out with cellular devices using devices like the Stingray can be very dangerous. In this kind of attack, the criminal creates a rogue access point (AP) and advertises it for users to connect to. On one side of the rogue AP are the victim devices and the other side is a path to the Internet. This allows the attacker to capture, decrypt, and record all of the traffic between the victim device and the Internet. It also allows the attacker to inject malicious traffic or redirect websites using the Domain Name Service (DNS).

To illustrate an MiTM attack, imagine you are seated at the airport and see a variety of wireless APs available to connect to. One has the name of “Free WiFi” and the other says “Free High Speed WiFi.” The “Free WiFi” is the legitimate Internet connection offered by the airport, but the “Free High Speed WiFi” is a malicious AP. An attacker sitting in your general proximity has created an AP using free software on his laptop. As your device scans for open APs it locates the High Speed AP and since anyone would want high speed over standard speed, you click to connect to the high speed AP. Once you click to connect, your device associates itself with the attacker’s laptop.

Now that you are connected to the attacker’s laptop, he essentially owns your device and the communications between your device and the Internet. Since the attacker is routing your traffic through to the Internet, as a user nothing seems out of the ordinary. In fact, the attacker is probably leveraging the airport’s free Wi-Fi to get your device out to the Internet. However, the attacker is now capturing all of the traffic coming into and out of your device and as we have already learned, anything typed in the clear (unencrypted) is recorded by the attacker in plaintext.

The attacker could make things even more interesting by using his laptop as a proxy between your device and the Internet and decrypting your encrypted traffic between your device and wherever you are browsing. Essentially what happens is your device connects to the attacker’s laptop where he breaks your connection to your bank or Facebook account, or whatever it is you are navigating to and decrypts your traffic, then re-encrypts it between his laptop and the destination (we’ll use your bank in this situation). Now the attacker can record even encrypted traffic such as usernames and passwords in plaintext. This attack however, will prompt the user’s device with an error message that the encryption certificate that you are using to visit your bank does not match the domain name of the bank and will require the user’s interaction to continue. If you’re interested in the technical details of encryption, certificates, etc. send me a note and I’ll be glad to discuss it.

Suffice it to say that if you get an error message about mismatched certificates (as shown below) on any device there is a high likelihood that the certificate has been compromised or you are the victim of a MiTM attack. No matter the reason, if you get this error, stop browsing, try connecting later from a different access point or from your cellular data to see if you get the same error, or contact the institution you are trying to access.

An error message generated by Safari showing there is a problem with the website encryption certificate

The same website visited in Firefox; notice the alert over the padlock


An example of Firefox showing a correctly implemented website encryption certificate

As mentioned above, the attacker can also inject malicious traffic into your session or redirect your computer. For example, if you type google[.]com into your browser, the attacker can create DNS entries that says if a user types google[.]com, actually send them to duckduckgo[.]com. In an even more sinister scenario, the attacker could create a rule that if you type wellsfargo[.]com, send the computer to wellsfargoamerica[.]com which might be a fake website that looks exactly like the real Wells Fargo (see Pharming attacks below).

How do you spot this attack? First, don’t connect to free Wi-Fi hotspots. If you absolutely must, then make sure you are using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection (either through your employer or use some of the VPN services available) which creates an encrypted tunnel between you and the VPN service before you navigate the Internet. Spotting a simple MiTM rogue AP may be nearly impossible. Spotting a rogue AP acting as a proxy will give you the browser certificate error messages shown above.

Pharming and Illegitimate Websites


Pharming, like it’s sister Phishing, is an attack that socially engineers a user. Instead of sending a message out, pharming is more like the watering hole attack where it waits for victims to stop by. Pharming is usually done by an attacker when they create a fake website but make it look legitimate and trick users to visit the site and enter their sensitive information (like credentials). Take this scenario: an attacker knows that because of a recent disaster, many users will be donating money to the American Red Cross on the legitimate website redcross[.]org. So, the attacker uses a free tool to “scrape” the actual Red Cross website, purchases the domain name of redcross[.]info, and then uploads the copy of the real Red Cross website to a server being hosted with Amazon Web Services (AWS). The attacker then begins a massive spam campaign for people to donate and provides the link of redcross[.]info and as people go to that site, it looks completely legit just like the real site. Users begin to donate millions of dollars to the PayPal account, which all goes to the attacker’s bank account.

This kind of attack can also be used by taking advantage of common misspellings or known letter combinations that people may not notice in the URL bar of their browser.

How do you spot this type of attack? This one may be difficult or impossible. Since nothing malicious is actually running on your computer (unless the attacker is combining Pharming with another attack) and you are just entering information into a website, there may be no signs or alerts at all. The best way to prevent this type of attack is by being very careful what you type into the URL address bar of your device, using known good bookmarks instead of relying on searches each time, and if you are given a link to click, make sure it matches the known website. Sometimes if I get a link from someone to follow, instead of clicking the link I will Google the organization and go to it that way, or at least confirm that what was in the link matches what is in Google.

In all of these attacks the bottom line is to pay attention, don’t click links that you don’t absolutely trust, actually read error messages that pop up on your screen before just clicking “OK”, don’t connect to public Wi-Fi APs, and make sure the certificate of an encrypted website you are visiting matches the domain name. In the last post of this series I will discuss the preventative strategies you can take to help harden your systems from attack and some proactive steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of being compromised.


About the author:

Josh Moulin serves as a trusted advisor to federal government IT and cybersecurity executives with the world’s leading IT advisory and research firm. Previously, Moulin was the Chief Information Officer for the Nevada National Security Site, part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Weapons Complex and before that spent 11 years in law enforcement including 7 years as the commander of a cybercrimes task force.

Moulin has a Master’s Degree in Information Security and Assurance and has over a dozen certifications in law enforcement, digital forensics, and cybersecurity including as a Certified Ethical Hacker. For more information, visit JoshMoulin.com or connect with him on LinkedInor Twitter.


L.A. Sartor

If you love stories filled with suspense, adventure, fighting against all odds and winning love, then please click here to visit the website of author L.A. Sartor. You’ll be glad you did!

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering the Fallen

Officer Robert “Rob” Shawn Pitts, 45

Terre Haute Indiana Police Department

May 4, 2018 – Officer Rob Pitts was shot and killed while assisting with a homicide investigation. As Officer Pitts and detectives approached the suspect’s apartment he opened fire, fatally wounding Officer Pitts.

 

 

 


Deputy Sheriff William J. Gentry, Jr., 40

Highlands County Florida Sheriff’s Office

May 7, 2018 – Deputy William Gentry succumbed to a gunshot wound sustained the while responding to an animal abuse call—a homeowner’s cat had been fatally shot with a pellet gun. While Deputy Gentry stood at the suspect’s door waiting to speak with him, the man opened fire, shooting the deputy in the head.

Deputy Gentry is survived by a brother who also serves with the sheriff’s office.


Officer Alex Sable, 37

York City Pennsylvania Police Department

On May 6, 2018, Officer Alex Sable suffered a heart attack during a SWAT water rescue training exercise . Medics at the scene performed CPR, and he was transported to a local hospital where he passed away on May 9th

Officer Sable is survived by his wife and three children.

 


Agent Joel Alexis Pantojas-Fuente, 41

San Juan Puerto Rico Police Department

May 6, 2018 – Agent Joel Pantojas-Fuente was struck and killed by a vehicle while assisting a disabled motorist. He was attempting to push the stranded car onto the shoulder when the passing vehicle struck him, pinning his body beneath the car he was pushing.

Agent Pantojas-Fuente is survived by two sons and his wife, who also serves as a San Juan police officer.


Deputy Inspector General Richard Hale, 46

Texas Juvenile Justice Department – Office of Inspector General

May 9, 2018 – Deputy Inspector General Richard Hale was killed in a vehicle crash when his department vehicle collided with an oncoming tractor-trailer. He was returning from a meeting with prosecutors when the head-on crash with the tractor-trailer occurred.

Deputy Inspector General Haleis is survived by his wife and eight children.

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Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog … and Fingerprinting, from A-D 

Especially for you, an A-D guide to fingerprinting … and more.

A-Naphaflavone– chemical used in fixing Iodine processed friction ridge detail.

AFIS– Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

ALPS– Automated Latent Print System.

ALS– Alternate Light Source.

APIS– Automated Palmprint Identification System.

Acid Fuchsin– Reddish protein stain used to enhance bloody friction ridge detail. Also known as Hungarian Red.

Acid Yellow 7– A fluorescent dye stain used to develop latent prints left in blood on nonporous surfaces.

Adermatoglyphia– An extremely rare genetic lack of fingerprints.

Alternate Black Powder– Developed by the FBI in the 1990’s. this powder is used as an inexpensive, yet quite successful means of developing ridge detail on adhesive surfaces and/or various types of tapes.

Amici Curiae– Latin for “friend of the court.”

Anhidrosis– A medical condition that decreases or eliminates the capability of the body to sweat.

Ardrox– Fluorescent yellow dye used with UV light to see cyanoacrylate-fumed (Superglue) friction ridge detail.

Battley Classification System– Classification system for single fingerprints. The system was used in the 1930’s.

Benzidine– Benzidine, a carcinogen, was once considered as the best technique for developing bloody latent prints on nonporous items. However, due to serious health concerns, it is no longer used.

Bifurcation– Point where one friction ridge divides into two friction ridges.

Boiling Technique – Method to re-hydrate the friction skin of a deceased person. This is exactly how it sounds. To rehydrate friction skin, investigators bring water to a boil, remove it from the heat, and then submerge the hand of the deceased in the hot liquid for five seconds. The hand is then removed and dried. The skin should now be successfully hydrated to the point where it’s possible to capture a readable print. If not, the process is repeated.

In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog

  Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and a … dead man’s hand?

 

Bracelet Creases– These are the creases/wrinkles located at the base of the palm, where the hand meets the arm. This is typically the spot where friction ridges end.

CA or CAE– Cyanoacrylate (Superglue). An adhesive that, when heated, its fumes develop friction ridge detail.

Cadmium Chloride– A metal salt used to treat ninhydrin developed fingerprints.

Calcar Area– Area at the heel of the foot.

Cheiloscopy– The study of lip prints.

Chiroscopy– Examination of the hand.

Clandestine– Kept or done in secret.

Cluster Prints– A grouping of more than one print.

Collins Classification System– Classification system for fingerprints used by Scotland Yard in the early 1900’s.

Colloidal Gold– Reagent that reacts with amino acids to develop ridge detail.

Comparator– A split image screen used to view and compare fingerprints.

Core– The center/middle of a fingerprint pattern.

Diaminobenzidine– Reagent used to spot and develop bloody friction ridge detail. Also known as DAB.

DPR, or Dermatopathia Pigmentosa Reticularis – a genetic disorder that’s handed down through the female side of the family. DPR is caused by a specific gene that mutates during embryonic growth. The result of the mutation is a lack of ridge detail and sweat glands.

Dactylography– Study of fingerprints as a method of identification.

Dactyloscopy– The comparison of fingerprints for identification.

Degloving– The unintentional separation of the skin from the hands or feet. This unintentional parting of skin and flesh/bone is often the result of a deceased’s body prolonged soaking in water. The skin that slips from the hands and feet typically slides off in a manner that resembles a glove. However, such slippage of skin may also occur in severe forms of inherited mechano-bullous disorders called epidermolysis bullosa.

Dermatoglyphics– The study of the surface patterns of the skin.

Dragon’s Blood Powder– Fingerprint powder made from the rattan palm resin. Greatly increases the probability of seeing latent prints on light, dark, and colorful surfaces.

Can’t Solve the Crime: No Sweat!

Think back to your first public speaking engagement, or to an important job interview. Perhaps even to the time when you were to meet the future in-laws. Oh, and that time when the lovely Cross-Eyed Mary murdered her husband. What a day that was.

She’d thought about doing “the deed” for weeks. Then came the Saturday when she bought the pistol from the shady guy selling ice cream in the park. A quick glance at the cheap drugstore watch on her wrist indicated it was either twenty-five, or six, to four (Hey, does anybody really know what time it is?). Anyway, she knew the time had come.

The decision to end the life of another human was a heartbreaker, of course, and thinking about it often left Ms. Mary dazed, and confused. Yet, despite the good times, bad times, and a whole lotta love, what is and what never should be, finally happened. It was down by the seaside, where she figured to “do it.” And do it she did, right there in the tiny beach cottage just off Penny Lane, the place Mr. Mary fondly called his little yellow submarine. The prime piece of real estate at the end of a long and winding road. He loved that place.

Yep, that’s where it happened.

It was a scorcher that evening, with the mercury bumping 97 on the old RC Cola thermometer hanging from a bent, rusty nail hammered into one the front porch posts. The a/c unit was out of service and the repair service wasn’t scheduled to arrive until the following week.

Cross-Eyed Mary – She signs no contract

But she always plays the game …

Cross-Eyed Mary, with her sweat-soaked “I Luv Paul” t-shirt clinging to her back and pudgy belly, climbed the steps and used her key to open the door. He didn’t expect to see her there. Nor did his teenage girlfriend, Eleanor Rigby, the best friend of the Mary’s eldest daughter Michelle.

Using the back of her left hand to quickly mop away the sweat from your forehead, brows, and eyes, Miss Mary used the right to push open the door. And, just as she stepped inside she heard the creep say to his young lover, “Hold me tight, baby, and please, please me.”

The bucktoothed girl with a spattering of tiny freckles across her cheeks and nose, replied, “Baby, we’re gonna twist and shout! Wait, why don’t we do it in the road!”

That’s the line that sent Cross-Eyed Mary over the edge, according to the prosecutor. But it was the one she spoke that convinced the jury to send her away for life, and she said it after taking the stand in her own defense. She leapt to her feet and stood straight as an arrow to boldly claim that, “True happiness is a warm gun.”

She’d thought she might sway the female jurors by crying and shouting coffin-nailers such as, “I’ve been cheated!” and “I saw her standing there with the devil in her heart,” and, “I told him, ‘You’re going to lose that girl!”

What most surprised Ms. Mary during the entire experience was the moment police detectives arrived to haul her to jail for the murder of her unfaithful husband and that disgusting “little child.”

How on earth did they find out? She was so careful. Wiped away all the prints. Vacuumed. Dusted. Swept away the tire tracks. Established an airtight alibi. Tossed the gun into the ocean. Picked up the brass and tossed it behind the pistol.

No one saw her on Penny Lane and there were no cars in either of the driveways on the intersecting street, Blue Jay Way. The ice cream vendor didn’t know her. Of that she was certain. So, what? How?

Well, let’s see …

First, what do we know about the crime scene that could implicate our murderer, Ms. Mary?

The temperature displayed on the RC Cola thermometer. Remember it?The thermometer hung from a post on the front porch at the murder scene and indicated it was an extremely hot day. To make matters worse, the a/c unit was inoperable meaning the inside temperature was even hotter, in more ways than one. Ms. Mary was sweating, profusely, as people do when it’s hot, and when they’re scared or anxious.

We know why people perspire when it’s hot (to help cool down our bodies), but why so when we’re under emotional stress?

Our skin has two main types of sweat glands—eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands occur over most of your body and they open directly onto the surface of the skin. Apocrine glands develop in areas around hair follicles in places where hair is typically most abundant, such as the armpits and groin. This is the “stinky” sweat.

Apocrine glands empty into the hair follicle just prior to release onto the skin surface. Apocrine glands are found in the armpits and genital area, and release secretions (sweat) when we’re under emotional stress.

When the temperature of our bodies rise, eccrine glands secrete fluid (sweat that’s composed of mostly water and salt). The salty fluid is released onto the surface of our skin.

Okay, with that said, let’s shorten this long story.

When we’re hot we sweat. When we’re nervous we sweat. When it’s hot in a house at the beach, on Penny Lane, and a very nervous and anxious Ms. Mary goes inside that super-hot home to kill her husband and his girlfriend, well, it’s certainly safe to say she was sweating … a lot.

When sweating profusely inside a crime scene, as with skin and muscle suffering from old age and over-eating, gravity is definitely not a friend. Not at all. It pulls that body fluid downward, away from its source. Sure, some that salty liquid is absorbed by clothing, and some evaporates (this is the part of the process that cools our skin), but some of the mixture drops or is cast away from the body, landing on whichever surface that happens to be in its path.

And, since our bodies contain approximately 650 sweat glands per square inch, we also leave a bit of perspiration on everything we touch. Everything.

Within those secretions are three components that are attractive to scientists who’re hoping to use sweat to solve crimes. Those three components are: Urea, Lactate, and Glutamate.

Urea – the breakdown product of protein metabolism in the body.

Lactate – a substance produced by cells when the body turns food into energy.

Glutamate – an amino acid found in the body. Used to make proteins.

Here’s the part where science meets law enforcement. The chances of any two people having the same amounts/levels of all three—urea, lactate, and glutamate—is fundamentally zilch. Zero.

Therefore, experts now believe that they can accurately pinpoint the number of suspects and/or others who were present at the location where a crime occurred.

This process cannot identify a specific person, though. But it does provide investigators with another tool for their toolbox. Knowing how many culprits to search for is a valuable bit of information.

Testing Our Sweat

Sweat testing is not new. In fact, it’s used in many areas, such as testing for and monitoring cystic fibrosis, monitoring nutritional deficiencies, elevated glucose levels, inflammation experienced by industrial workers, and even if our medications are working properly, or not.

A sweat chloride test is used to diagnose cystic fibrosis. The testing procedure stimulates sweat production and then measures the amount of chloride.

Cystic Fibrosis

Speaking of cystic fibrosis, here’s  something you may not know:

As a former biotech company director, Dr. Denene Lofland (my wonderful wife and one of your WPA instructors) managed successful clinical projects that resulted in regulatory filings of four compounds and FDA approval for two new antimicrobial drugs for the treatment of pneumonia and cystic fibrosis. She also supervised several projects, including government-sponsored research which required her to maintain a secret security clearance.

In other words, Denene and her team developed new drugs for the treatment of both cystic fibrosis and pneumonia. She then traveled to the FDA to present the drugs for approval. The FDA approved both and each are available for prescription by physicians. Denene managed clinical trial both in the U.S. and Australia. And that last one … it’s a secret. Yep, she’s the smart one. I just carry her books, do the shopping, and cook …


Music!

Okay, how many of you noticed the references to song titles and lyrics in today’s article? Hmmm … perhaps you should take a peek because the first person to correctly identify each reference wins a special Writers’ Police Academy collectible patch!

To enter, first comment here on the blog stating that you plan to enter, and then send the list of song references/titles/lyrics to lofland32@msn.com. And please type Cross-Eyed Mary in the subject line of your email. Hint. that was a clue to song title included within the blog post. Thanks, and good luck!

WPA patch pictured here with other patches, and roles of evidence and crime scene tape.

 

Just Sign the Ticket and Be On Your Way …

“No more speed, I’m almost there
Gotta keep cool now, gotta take care
Last car to pass, here I go
And the line of cars drove down real slow”

Radar Love ~ Golden Earring

It’s a feeling that’s nearly as horrific as fingernails on a chalkboard, or a fate as evil as seeing your computer screen suddenly go dark, taking with it your latest manuscript and every single photo you’ve ever taken, including the one of your kid graduating from kindergarten, and your entire contact list (the one with numbers and addresses you’ve not recorded anywhere else on the planet).

What is this evil I speak of, you ask? That’s right, it’s the dreaded speeding ticket.

Traffic tickets are one of life’s over-the top-evils.

They affect our lives. We can’t erase them from your thoughts. They consume us. Take over our very beings. And those cops … the buttwipes who write those things. Those murdering Nazis should be out doing their jobs instead of stopping innocent people like ME! Then, after telling us we were breaking the law they actually want us to … (wait for it) … sign the ticket! The nerve of those people. I certainly am not going to sign and YOU CAN’T MAKE ME! And NO, I’m not getting out of my car!

Drivers say the darndest things

“I didn’t see a speed limit sign.”

“Everyone else was driving that fast.”

“I was keeping up with the flow of traffic.”

“I don’t believe you. Show me the radar.”

“You put that speed on your radar machine. I was doing the speed limit.”

“I’m lucky to be alive. I just knew that racist cop was going to kill me. Shoot me dead right there.”

“I didn’t do anything wrong, so no, I’m not signing your so-called ticket.”

“I’m calling your boss to file a formal complaint. I DO NOT speed.”

“My car won’t go that fast.”

“Don’t you have some donuts to eat?”

“Why aren’t you out killing innocent people?”

“You’re a liar. All cops are liars!”

“You’re not smart enough to get a real job.”

“I have more brains in my little finger than all cops combined. Idiots.”

“Speeding is not a crime.”

 

When all else fails …

Unfortunately, some drivers prefer to take this route …

“You’re not man enough to make me get out my ca— OW!”

 

My turn to speak …

Okay, let’s clear up a few myths surrounding speeding tickets.

 

  • Speeding is indeed a crime. Sign here and we’ll both be on our way.
  • We may not be smart enough to get real jobs, but for now, sign the ticket or go to jail. And, I am smart enough to know how to apply handcuffs. Right there on that line, that’s where you sign. Please do so.
  • It doesn’t matter how fast the others were driving. Each of you were traveling well above the posted limit. I’m like a lion. I pick the easiest speeder to catch, and today that was you. Please, sign the ticket.
  • Our state can’t afford to place speed limit signs every couple of feet. However, we do post those signs at well-placed intervals. You passed at least 50 of them since you entered our highway. Besides, I’m fairly certain 127 mph is not a legal speed anywhere in the state. Please sign the summons.
  • I’ve never, not once, heard of an officer shooting anyone for failing to sign a traffic ticket. I know I never have and never will. This should be obvious to you since my gun is still in my holster and I have a pen in my hand. Please sign here.
  • I’m not out killing innocent people because today is my day to issue traffic tickets to speeders. Maybe tomorrow. Sign here, please.
  • Your car may not go that fast but you certainly were. Please, sign here.
  • It’s interesting to know about the brains in your little finger. If you don’t mind, please use the other fingers to hold my pen so you can sign here. Thanks.
  • Actually, I do have a couple of donuts leftover from breakfast. I’ll enjoy them as soon as you’ve signed the ticket and are on your way to your destination. In the meantime, your signature here, please.

Sign the Ticket!

Speeding is indeed a crime. A traffic stop for speeding is an arrest. Signing the ticket does not mean you admit to guilt. Instead, it is your promise to either appear in court or take care of the ticket in advance. Keep in mind that paying the fine in advance is, unlike signing the ticket, an admission of guilt.

Here’s a portion of a ticket I once issued. Notice the highlighted area.

Since the stop for speeding is an arrest, officers have three available options.

  1. The speeder signs the ticket, promising to appear or take care of the fine in advance.
  2. Issue a warning.
  3. If the driver does not sign, promising to appear in court, the officer must arrest them and take him/her to jail where they’ll be processed and allowed to post bail/bond.

Meanwhile, at the scene of the stop, the driver’s car will most likely be towed and searched (an inventory search to list all contents). If there’s anything illegal in the car, and it’s found by the searching officers, the driver could be charged for possession of whatever the illegal item may be (drugs, weapons, etc.).

Sometimes a traffic stop for speeding nets a different result. For example, the ticket above  began as a stop for speeding. However, when I reached the driver’s window it became quite clear the man was intoxicated. As a result, I arrested him for DUI. No need to sign promising to appear since he’d now deal with that issue with a magistrate or judge.

The arrest was not an easy one. The man was huge and extremely strong. He didn’t want to go to jail and really didn’t want me to handcuff him. Well, as the image below indicates, the man’s blood alcohol content was .10, well above the .08 limit. He was drunk. And, strong or not, I managed to deliver him to jail where I had him submit to a breathalyzer test. He spent the night in jail.

 


 

Fun Fact – In Virginia, all breathalyzer operators must attend a lengthy, special certification training. I was one of the four or five officers, deputies, and troopers in the entire county who was certified. This meant when other officers arrested someone for DUI they had to call in a certified operator to conduct the testing procedure. It called for a bit of overtime and middle of the night call-outs, but the experience was good. The training was extremely interesting.

 

 


After release from custody, an arrested driver would most likely need to pay a towing and possibly a storage fee to have the car released. If anything illegal is found, it’s unlikely the driver would be allowed to retrieve the vehicle until police have completed the investigation/search.

All of this takes a few hours. It’s a real pain in the rear for officers. They don’t enjoy this at all. They’d much rather be back out on the highway sitting in their patrol cars listening to Golden Earring on the radio or reading a nice mystery while they wait for the next speeder to pass by. After all, they earn the same amount of money doing either. Which would you prefer?

Just sign the ticket!!

 

With all this talk about speed and radar, well, click to play the video and HANG ON!
 


 

For more about police radar, go here.