Goodbye Mayberry, Hello Garden Of Good and Evil

Once again we’re packing up and moving out. My office is already losing its “at-home” feel. Book shelves are empty. Papers have disappeared. The fountain has been drained. And the old blue lava lamp burns no more. All that remains is the need to write.

Living in North Carolina has been wonderful. After all, I finally had the chance to set foot in the town where a lot of my memories live—Mt. Airy, the hometown of Andy Griffith. Mt. Airy is also the town that gave birth to the idea of Mayberry, N.C. And, of course, that’s where Gomer made his famous citizen’s arrest. It’s where Ernest T. Bass broke nearly every window in town. And it’s the place where cops did the right thing, treating people with dignity and respect. And that’s what they received in return. Yep, the world needs more officers like Sheriff Andy Taylor and his deputy, Barney Fife. But we also need more citizens like Floyd the Barber, Aunt Bee, Helen, and Thelma Lou. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if kids today were more like Opie. No pants hanging off the butt. No hats on backward. And no F-bombs in every sentence.

But, it’s time to move on. This is the weekend. This is it. We’re heading for…

Moving to a new location can be stressful. New jobs, new ways of life, and new people. However, I’ve already been in contact with several writers in the new location and they went to work lining up places to live, recommended Realtors, and clued us in on the local hot spots. So it almost feels like home already. Yep, there’s no denying it…writers are good people.

By the time you have your Sunday morning cup of coffee we’ll be following in the footsteps of these guys. I hope we make it there before midnight…

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering The Fallen

The Graveyard Shift extends our condolences to the families of each of these brave officers.

Officer Carlos Ledesma, 34

Chandler Arizona Police Department

July 28, 2010 – Officer Carlos Ledesma, a full-time undercover police officer, was shot and killed during a drug operation.  When attempting to exchange $100,000 in cash for a large quantity of marijuana, the suspects opened fire. Two other undercover Chandler officers were wounded during the gun battle. Two of the six suspects were killed.

Chandler officers receive the news about their fellow officers during a press conference – East Valley Tribune photo.

Officer Ledesma leaves behind a wife and two children.

Inspector Timothy Charles Barnes, 38

North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles License and Theft Bureau

July 28, 2010 – Inspector Barnes had been with the NC Division of Motor Vehicles just nine weeks when he suffered a fatal heart attack during the physical training portion of department’s basic training program. He’d served as a deputy with local sheriff’s office for ten years prior to moving over to NCDMV.

Deputy Sheriff John Willis, 31

Greene County North Carolina Sheriff’s Office

July 28, 2010 – Deputy John Willis was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance. Deputy Willis entered the home and was immediately met by gunfire. The suspect, a man with an extensive and violent criminal history, then turned the gun on himself. He too died at the scene. Deputy Willis was not wearing his vest at the time. He leaves behind his son and daughter.

Deputy Sheriff Samuel A. Smith, 23

Franklin County Kansas Sheriff’s Office

July 23, 2010 – Deputy Samuel Smith was responding to assist another deputy at a domestic dispute when he lost control of his car and struck a tree. He was wearing his seat belt, but died at the scene.

Deputy Smith had only been with the department for nine months.

Chief of Police Daniel K. Duncan, 55

Lake Oswego Oregon Police Department

May 20, 2010 – Chief Daniel Duncan was in a meeting when he heard a call for assistance. He responded, running down several flights of stairs and across the building, to help his officers with apprehending the suspect when he suddenly felt ill. He went home to rest and was found dead the next morning from an apparent heart attack.

Chief Duncan died just six days prior to retiring after serving 34 years as a police officer.

Detective Lieutenant Liusila Brown, 44

American Samoa Department of Public Safety

July 22, 2010 – Lt. Liusila Brown was working court security when he was shot and killed by a criminal suspect. The man, a gang member and member of the defendant’s family, shot Lt. Brown several times and was then heard screaming obscenities at the officer as he lay dying on the ground.

Officers in American Samoa are not permitted to carry firearms.

Audio of the horrific shooting can be heard here.

*Thanks to ODMP

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Dazer Laser: Blinded By The Light

There’s a new crime fighting tool available and it’ll soon have bad guys “seeing the light.” Laser Energetics, Inc., a Charlotte, N.C. company, has introduced Dazer Laser. The DL projects a laser so powerful that it can tame even the toughest of crooks without harming a single hair on their wanted heads. And officers can safely use this non-lethal weapon from as far away as 2400 meters.

The device is a no-brainer for police officers. To Daze a suspect all the officer needs to do is aim the blinking green laser light at the suspect’s face. Instantly, the offender’s vision, equilibrium, and awareness are impaired. The effects last until officers turn off the device. Unlike other police weapons, the use of Dazer Laser prevents the suspect from seeing the officer’s approach and that certainly makes for safer handcuffing and searching.

The  Dazer Laser seems to be an excellent device that, at first look, appears to be a much safer alternative—safer for both the officer and the suspect— to the Taser and other weapons, such as batons and pepperspray.

I imagine this is what a suspect hears the moment he’s blasted by the Dazer Laser.

And for hours after…


* This post is not an endorsement of the Dazer Laser. I’ve not seen the product in action, and as of this posting Laser Energetics officials have not responded to any of my messages.

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Crime Scenes: Where Do I Start And When Am I Done?

Crime solving is as easy as collecting a piece of DNA and running it through a magic computer, right? Well, that’s what TV would like to have us believe, but it simply isn’t so. Not by any means. There’s one step in the process that TV often overlooks and it’s called manual labor.

Manual labor – physical work performed for a wage.

Yes, believe it or not, police work can be very demanding, no matter what the assignment.

Seriously, cops and crime scene investigators really do work for their money, especially when it comes to painstakingly processing a crime scene. There’s a lot to do and very little time to accomplish the task. And, it’s easy for crucial evidence to become lost, degraded, or even destroyed.

The process of evidence collection begins with effective preparation. Investigators absolutely must gather as much information about the crime and the scene before they ever set foot within the perimeter. Is it a large crime scene? Do I have enough manpower and equipment to handle the scene?

Those are two very important questions the crime scene investigator must ask himself. Is he/she getting ready to wade into a stadium-size murder scene with only a flashlight and pair of tweezers? The correct amount of help is just as important as a fancy genetic analyzer. And, too many folks at a crime scene could trample or disturb crucial trace evidence. We see this all the time on TV shows—a two dozen cops plowing through an apartment kitchen, stepping over and around the victim. No!

– Your CSI team should be on the lookout for things that aren’t where they should be. For example, the victim’s home is exceptionally neat and organized, yet her purse is lying in the tub…well, that’s a clue.

– Photograph, photograph, photograph! And then take some more pictures. You cannot take enough of them, and from every angle imaginable. If possible, use an HD Laser Scanner for 3-D images.

– After you’re positive that you’ve photographed every detail then it’s time to move on to collecting…EVERYTHING! And I mean anything and everything that could possibly point to the bad guy. This is no time to be a know-it-all. That’s right, some officers do get that thing called tunnel vision and think they have the case solved before ducking under the crime scene tape for the first time. As they say, “Been there, done that.” And it’s a huge mistake.

So collect everything, including hairs (humans shed tons of hair each day), blood, and fibers. If you’re not sure if the reddish-brown stuff is blood, use a presumptive field test. There are several out there, such as Heme Stix. There are even field tests available to determine if the blood is human or animal.

Heme Stix demo

– Where can investigators locate fingerprints and DNA? Simple answer, anywhere! Dishes, glasses, garbage, toilets, sinks, mirrors, car steering wheels, car seats, carpet, hardwood floors, brushes, combs, the wall behind the toilet, bed sheets, pillows, doorknobs, light switches, computer keyboards, ink pens, pencils, On-Off knobs and buttons, silverware, refrigerator and stove handles (backside)…the list is endless, and investigators should be creative when searching.

– Find a pair of latex gloves at the scene? Sure, we all know to print the inside, right? But did you think about checking your suspect’s hands for powder residue that matches that on the inside of the gloves?

– Get the real dirt on your suspect. How? Check their shoe soles. Some soil embedded in the treads? Collect it and see if it matches the soil found at the crime scene. I once solved a murder this way. Soil found on the killer’s shoe matched a sort of unique clay-like soil at the scene of the crime. Result? Prison time for the murderer based on the lab comparison of a thimble-full of dirt.

So, to sum up this little topic, I’d say the answer to our questions—Where Do I Start And When Am I Done—is simple. You start with your thoughts and ideas and don’t stop until there’s nothing left but answers. Sounds a lot like writing a book, huh?

* I guess Snoopy and Elmore Leonard have something in common. Neither uses a computer to write a book, and both are highly successful.

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