Friday’s Heroes: Remembering the Fallen

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Typically, Friday’s Heroes is a weekly tribute to the U.S. law enforcement officers who’ve lost their lives in the line of duty. However, this week we are making an exception to include and honor a remarkable hero from outside the United States.

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Nagwa Abdel-Aleem, 55

Egypt’s Police Force

April 9, 2017 – Egyptian Officer Nagwa Abdel-Aleem was on duty, protecting the entrance at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Tanta, about 60 miles north of Cairo, when a suicide bomber (ISIS claimed the attack) approached. Officer Nagwa Abdel-Aleem bravely stood her ground and denied access to the church. The bomber then denoted the device, killing himself and Officer Abdel-Aleem. It is believed the terrorist’s target was Pope Tawadros II, who had left the site a few moments prior to the devastating explosion.

One of Officer Abdel-Aleem’s sons was also killed in the blast. He, too, was a police officer.

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Master Sergeant Carl T. Cosper, 56

Barry County Missouri Sheriff’s Office

April 7, 2017 – Master Sergeant Carl Cosper was killed in a vehicle crash when a bus turned in front of his patrol car, He was responding to a domestic call when the crash occurred.

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Deputy Sheriff Levi Pettway, 61

Lowndes County Alabama Sheriff’ Office

April 10, 2017 – Deputy Levi Pettway died in a traffic crash when his patrol car left the roadway and struck a tree.

He is survived by his wife.

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Trooper Anthony J. Borostowski, 34

Wisconsin State Patrol

April 11, 2017 – Trooper Anthony Borostowski was killed in a single car crash at 4 a.m., when his patrol left the roadway and struck a tree.

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Master Police Officer Jason G. Harris, 39

Spartanburg South Carolina Police Department

April 13, 2017 – Master Officer Jason Harris was killed in a crash when, while responding to assist another officer, his department motorcycle struck the rear corner of a car as it turned in front of him. He succumbed to his injuries two days later.

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When Lying Becomes A Crime: Obstruction Of Justice

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Obstruction of Justice (aka perverting the course of justice) is a broad term that simply boils down to charging an individual for knowingly lying to law enforcement in order to change to course/outcome of a case, or lying to protect another person. The charge may also be brought against the person who destroys, hides, or alters evidence.

Penalties for obstruction of justice vary from state to state, and the federal government. For example, in Virginia Obstruction of Justice is a class 1 misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to one year in jail.

Misdemeanor Classes in Virginia

§ 18.2-11. Punishment for conviction of misdemeanor.

The authorized punishments for conviction of a misdemeanor are:

(a) For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

(b) For Class 2 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than six months and a fine of not more than $1,000, either or both.

(c) For Class 3 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $500.

(d) For Class 4 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $250.

The federal government sees the crime of obstruction in a different light. In their eyes, obstruction is a felony that carries a stiff penalty. For example, in 2010, a Georgia deputy sheriff, Mitnee Jones, was convicted of Obstruction for lying to to the FBI and providing false statements as part of an investigation into the death of a Fulton County jail inmate.

The jury convicted Jones of filing a false incident report with the intent to hinder the federal investigation, making a false material statement about the incident to a Special Agent of the FBI, and obstruction of justice by making false statements to a federal grand jury investigating the death of the inmate.

Jones faced a maximum prison sentence of 20 years for filing the false incident report with the intent to hinder the federal investigation; five years for making a false material statement about the incident to the FBI, and 10 years for obstruction of justice by making false statements to a federal grand jury. However, at sentencing, Jones received a much lighter sentence of one year and three months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to perform 120 hours of community service.

Not all obstruction of justice cases are simple, with paper trails to follow. Remember Martha Stewart? The government’s criminal case against Stewart was based solely on the fact that she made false and misleading statements to the SEC, and those accusations led to Stewart’s conviction for obstruction of justice, and the charge of lying to federal investigators.

By the way, the feds love to add obstruction charges to their cases (every suspect lies to the police at some point, right?).

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They do so because the threat of the additional 5-year sentence for obstruction is a great bargaining tool when offering a plea deal (We’ll drop the obstruction charge if you plead guilty to possession of the cocaine).

Here’s the obstruction section from the Code of Virginia:

Obstruction of Justice – Code of Virginia

§ 18.2-460. Obstructing justice; penalty.

A. If any person without just cause knowingly obstructs a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, or animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 in the performance of his duties as such or fails or refuses without just cause to cease such obstruction when requested to do so by such judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, law-enforcement officer, or animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. Except as provided in subsection C, any person who, by threats or force, knowingly attempts to intimidate or impede a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, or an animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 lawfully engaged in his duties as such, or to obstruct or impede the administration of justice in any court, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

C. If any person by threats of bodily harm or force knowingly attempts to intimidate or impede a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, lawfully engaged in the discharge of his duty, or to obstruct or impede the administration of justice in any court relating to a violation of or conspiracy to violate § 18.2-248 or subdivision (a) (3), (b) or (c) of § 18.2-248.1, or § 18.2-46.2 or § 18.2-46.3, or relating to the violation of or conspiracy to violate any violent felony offense listed in subsection C of § 17.1-805, he shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony.

D. Any person who knowingly and willfully makes any materially false statement or representation to a law-enforcement officer or an animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 who is in the course of conducting an investigation of a crime by another is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

* Not everyone who lies to local and state police is charged with obstruction. If so, nearly every person who’s been questioned by officers would be in jail, because approximately 9 out of 10 suspects lie when they’re in the “hot seat.”

When it comes to charging someone with obstruction, well, you’ve got to carefully pick your battles and then fight them wisely.

 

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The Night I Became Patrick Swayze

I was thumbing through a stack of offense reports, the crimes that had occurred during the previous overnight hours, when the owner of a nightclub showed up at my office door. His business had a widely-known reputation for rowdy bar fights, stabbings, drug dealing, and shootings. He was a loud-talking man with a coarse voice that sounded as if he’d swallowed sandpaper. He was rude, crude, and irritatingly boisterous. However, the day he sat in the chair next to my desk with his hat in hand, however, he was as meek and mild as a newborn kitten. He had troubles and he wore them on his sleeve for the world to see.

He explained to me that the local police (his club was located in a nearby city outside of my jurisdiction) had threatened to begin proceedings to classify his business as a nuisance. Their goal was to then subsequently padlock the doors. He went on to tell me that he’d invested his entire life savings into the nightclub, as well as the cash he’d set aside for his daughters’ college years, which were rapidly approaching.

I asked Mr. Jones (not his real name) why he’d come to see me and not an officer in the city where his business was located. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “I understand you know how to clean up problems like mine. You can, right?”

At the time, I did have a bit of a reputation for taking on the biggest and baddest thugs on the street, and winning. Of course, I didn’t do it alone. I had the backing of a large group of police officers we called the “Street Crimes Unit (SCU).”

When I was recruited to work for a  certain (unnamed) city police department, part of the reason why was to clean up an area called “The Bottom” (not the real name) where honest, law-abiding folks absolutely did not dare venture outside at night. Instead, they double-locked their doors and windows and hunkered down, anticipating gunfire, home invasions, and drug dealers and prostitutes operating their businesses from the locals’ front yards and porches.

Dialing 911 was basically a hobby for the residents of The Bottom, and, when patrol officers responded they were often on the receiving end of anonymous gunfire, rocks, bricks, and more. They were outnumbered—15 or 20 to 1.

So, in order to accomplish the task I was hired to do, I assembled a team of off-duty officers, sheriff’s deputies, corrections officers, federal agents, friends of mine from the state police and other state agencies, reserve officers, and a herd of canines and their handlers—both narcotics dogs and those who love to bite. We were all outfitted in SWAT-type clothing for uniformity, and we were heavily armed. After a briefing where I instructed everyone to be safe but to arrest as many law breakers as they could possibly nab—I wanted the bad guys to know we meant business—we headed out on a mission we hoped would produce positive results.

I led the long parade of police vehicles to the edge of The Bottom where we parked, gave the dogs a quick potty break, and then we “moved in” on foot, walking as a large unit down the middle of the street. I assigned two officers to stay behind, standing guard over our vehicles.

We were about 30 deep and 2 wide, and I guarantee you that 60 officers suited in all black with some carrying rifles and shotguns, while a pack of barking and snarling rottweilers and German shepherds, well, I’ll put it this way … the streets were fairly clear within a matter of minutes. We took a few prisoners—those who thought they could could take on the police by firing a couple of Saturday night specials into the air, hoping to scare us away. And there were those who enjoyed a good fist fight no matter the odds.

Sure, I got my clothes dirty, and I came away with a few bruises and scrapes, but we won the battle. And we did it again and again until the elderly residents were once again able to enjoy their front porch swings while drinking glasses of iced tea and chatting with their neighbors.

Anyway, back to Mr. Jones. Those “street sweeps” earned me a reputation of taking on the biggest of the biggest and the baddest of the baddest. It wasn’t a totally earned reputation since it was an effort by an entire team, but I led the way so it was my face that was associated with kicking butt and taking names.

Mr. Jones asked me to come to work for him as the head of his team of security officers. He wanted me to be a bouncer. A cooler. And in the worst joint within five counties. I immediately said thanks but no thanks. Then, and it was odd to hear from this guy, he said, “Please.” And there were tears in his eyes.

Well, Friday night rolled around—yes, I’m a sucker for tears—and I stood just inside the front door of the nightclub, wearing a black t-shirt with SECURITY stamped in bold white letters across the back.

I was Patrick Swayze from the film Roadhouse. Well, sort of …

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I also wore BDU’s with the pockets packed with pepperspray, a kubaton, an ASP, and handcuffs.

I showed the other bouncers how to operate a hand-held metal detector—everyone was to be scanned…no exceptions, I told them. No purses, pocketbooks, or bags of any kind. No pepperspray and no knives … of any kind. If the detector sounds off, pat them down. If they refuse the pat-down, they don’t come inside. Simple as that. I did not want to go home that night with any extra perforations in my body.

Ten minutes into this dumb move, I was wondering just how dumb I was for considering this dumb assignment.

Finally, at 10:00 p.m. (my usual bedtime), it was time to open the doors. The DJ was already pumping out Hip-Hop and rap tunes that pounded inside my skull and rattled my bones until I thought my skeleton might make a break for it and dash for the exit. I’m a Led Zepplin/Pink Floyd kind of guy, so the music spewing from the club’s Volkswagen-size speakers definitely wasn’t doing anything to make me feel welcome.

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I peeked outside and saw a line of people snaking down the front steps, out into the gravel parking lot (I’d already made a mental note to avoid any scuffles out there, because rolling around on jagged stones can be painful), and down the sidewalk at the street. Building capacity was 800 and there were at least 1,000 people waiting to get inside to hear “DJ Jamba-Juice” or whatever the hell his stage name was. I think his real name was Billy Smith, though.

The crowd poured through the double front doors like water going down a drain. At twenty bucks each, Mr. Jones was making a killing, and that wasn’t counting the watered down scotch and bourbon the patrons would soon be gulping, at 10- to 12-bucks a pop.

The guys at the doors used those counter-clicker-things, trying to keep track of how many people had come inside, but doing that, scanning for metal objects, searching pockets, arguing about the pocketbook rule, and dealing with those who were already intoxicated when they arrived, well, let’s just say they lost count and the building was bursting at the seams. I swear, each time the crowd exhaled I thought I could see moonlight coming in through the spaces where the rafters “used to” meet the walls.

And, lo and behold, it happened. Somebody looked at somebody’s girlfriend and the donkey dung hit the fan. It was on and out came the knives and broken beer bottles.

I waded through the crowd of looky-loos, pushing and pulling people out of my way until I found the fight. Four men going at each other like a pack of hyenas going after a zebra carcass. Two women were scratching and clawing and hair-pulling, and this was the snatching of real hair. Their wigs were on the floor, looking like two squashed and very dead muskrats.

I started worming my way into the fight, stopping the slugging, stabbing, and cutting. Then a shot rang out. And then another, and another.

People scrambled toward the exits, knocking down the weak and the meek. The fight, though, continued, and more men joined in with some taking cheap shots at me. So I decided to even the odds and pulled out my pepper spray and began squirting the attackers like I was spraying a bad roach infestation. I held the ASP in my other hand, ready to take out the kneecaps, elbows, and collarbones of anyone not affected by the spray. Luckily, they abandoned their intentions and headed for the door, rubbing their burning eyes and skin.

My brand new SECURITY shirt was torn at the collar and my freshly laundered pants were filthy, with several drops and smears of blood on the legs and near the waistband. I looked around to see why the other bouncers hadn’t come to my aid, but they, too, had been involved in battles of their own. We looked a mess, like warriors who’d been away battling dragons and other evil creatures.

A few minutes later the local police arrived and they came inside ten deep, ready to clear the joint. The sergeant recognized me and immediately asked, “What the hell are you doing here?” But his question came a bit too late … I’d already asked myself that very question at least a dozen times. And to this day I still don’t know why I agreed to serve as a real-life Patrick Swayze for a night.

I did learn a valuable lesson, though, that it’s a lot safer to approach a situation such as the one at Mr. Jones’ bar, if you go in carrying machine guns while following a handful of well-trained dogs. A stick and a can of pepper juice just doesn’t cut it when the odds are a thousand to six, in the favor of the other team.

By the way, that was the last night Mr. Jones’ bar was open for business. Someone eventually bought it and turned the place into a family restaurant, specializing in Mexican food … where hot peppers are used as they should be … as part of the cuisine

 

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Tale-Twisters: Points to Ponder

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Hey, did you know …

  1. Doomsday bunkers are all the rage right now. So much so, in fact, that one Texas company has seen a whopping 400% increase in sales in the past two months.
  2. PetPace LLC markets a wearable health monitoring system for pets and working animals, including police canines.
  3. Isopropyl methylphosphonic acid, a chemical which sarin degrades into, was found in the blood and urine samples taken from recent victims of the gas attacks in Syria.
  4. FABIS-Mobile is a facial recognition software that performs real-time identification of individuals using still or video images.
  5. A secure means for protecting and storing fingerprints is in use at U.S. border crossings.
  6. Higher quality fingerprint collection with silicone membranes.
  7. On June 30, 2012, clocks gained an extra second. Why? Because the earth’s rotation is slightly slowing, increasing the length of a solar day.
  8. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) has moved forward with a number of technologies to make software safer against hacking. Gee, I wonder what it was that suddenly brought this action to the front burner …
  9. Scientists have developed a “super sponge” that absorbs mercury from a contaminated body water within seconds. The sponge converts the toxin into a non-toxic material that can be tossed into a landfill. The sponge also kills bacterial and fungal microbes. So yes, it’s a super sponge.

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Super Sponge to the rescue!

10. Re-accomodation of paying customers. Let’s examine the definition of this term in the United Airlines policy manual.

Re-accomodation defined:

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This is why I cut WAY back on speaking at events. I DESPISE air travel.

 

 

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Cow Alarms for Your Cars: Yes, Really!

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It’s no secret that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), traffic crashes are the leading cause of death of people between the ages of 15 and 29 years old.

Add to this horrifying statistic … cows.

That’s right, those pesky bovines who refuse to move out of the way of oncoming traffic. Yes, this is a real concern, especially in India where a large number of car crashes involve drivers smashing into cows who seem to enjoy loitering in public streets.

For those of you not familiar with these walking sirloins, well, they move when they’re good and ready.

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As a result of the many traffic crashes in India, Sachin Sharma and Dharmesh Shah of the Department of Electronics & Communication, at Gujarat Technological University, in Ahmedabad, India, developed an alert system for cars that detects the presence of live bovine roadway obstacles (cows in the road).

When an animal is detected, the alarm lets the driver know, in advance, to apply brakes. This all occurs before the driver sees the hazard.

Obviously, though, cows in India do not understand basic signage, like the posted instructions we have here in the U.S. If so, one look and they’d know to remain on the sidewalks or shoulder.

Dumb cows …

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Lady Luck

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“Whoa, young fellow,” said Rufus Robinson, whose midsection had just been pummeled by the appropriately-sized head of a lad no more than ten-years-old.

The youngster, out of breath, red-faced, wide-eyed, and clearly wound up about something, backed up a step and ran a hand across his short, wiry, blond hair. “I’m sure sorry, mister,” he said. But I just won three whole dollars from that old game in the drug store.” He pointed at the entrance to Jones’ Rx and Lunch Emporium. “I gotta go give my mama the money so she can buy medicine for my brother. He needs it real bad.”

Without another word the boy sprinted away, clutching a small paper sack, leaving Robinson, the head teller at the downtown branch of the Fidelity Savings Bank, watching him run at full gallup until he was nothing more than a dot on the horizon.

The next day, at precisely ten o’clock, his usual mid-morning break time, Rufus Robinson set out on his customary ten-minute walk. Along the way he passed Frank’s Florist, Guy’s Grocery, Paul’s Pawn, and Connie’s Candles.

The sun was warm on his face, and the absolutely delicious scents of jasmine and honeysuckle hung heavy in the humid morning air. He turned the corner and saw, predictably, the widow Wanda Williams pinning her plus-size unmentionables to the clothes line in the back yard of the duplex she owned and shared with her tenant, Willie Wilkins.

The widow Williams saw Robinson and wiggled a knot of stubby fingers at him. Robinson shouted a “Morning, Ms. Williams” in her direction and, without missing a step, he crossed the street and headed due west. He began to whistle an old Cole Porter tune, “Cherry Pies Ought To Be You,” a song that had been stuck in his head since hearing it on his AM radio well over a week ago.

With five minutes left on his break, Rufus Robinson was about to pass by the last business on his route, Jones’ Rx and Lunch Emporium, when suddenly he heard a clatter and bang of commotion and then the two front doors flew open. And, just as it happened a day earlier, the boy, whose head felt as hard as a lump of granite when it slammed into the banker’s soft belly, burst from the drug store and out into the street. He clutched a small paper bag clutched tightly in his hand and excitement beaming on his dirt-smudged face. Robinson once again watched the boy run until he was nothing more than a memory.

The bank teller decided to see for himself, without delay, the so-called “lucky” machine that had twice bestowed much-needed riches on the young man and his family. He pulled open one of the two front doors and was met by cool, conditioned air. Looking around the place, first to the foot powders and then to the lunch counter, he didn’t see the gambling machine, so he asked an elderly clerk where it could be found.

The counter attendant, an elderly man with a tussled mane of thick white hair and a long and heavily-waxed handlebar mustache, raised his eyebrows, a gesture that formed deep wrinkles into his forehead, much like grooves carved into wet beach sand. “You must be thinking about Lady Luck,” he said.

“They gave her the name because she was built and painted up to look like a dance hall queen. But that dang thing, a slot machine, was anything but lucky, and it hasn’t been here for … I’d say forty years, or more.”

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The man used a somewhat soiled towel to wipe the surface of the bar top, concentrating his effort on a particularly stubborn dried glob of chocolate syrup. He set the cloth aside and continued to talk while using a fingernail to pick and scrape at the spilled, pesky fountain flavoring. “My father,” he said, “ran the business back then and decided have Lady Luck taken out the day a little boy won three dollars and was so excited he ran right out the front door and into the street where the east-west trolley hit and killed him graveyard dead. They say nickels were scattered everywhere and bystanders were more concerned with grabbing them than helping the kid. Anyway, come to find out, the boy had a sick baby brother at home and he was in a hurry to get there so he could give his mother the money to buy medicine. Hell, my old man would’ve given them what they needed, for free. A real shame is what it was.”

The druggist picked up a duster and swiped the feathers across the tops of a grouping of upside-down soda glasses. “By the way, mister, what made you ask about that old slot machine?”

Rufus Robinson, not hearing the question, turned and walked to the front door where he paused for a second, watching the commotion in the street. A small crowd of looky-loos circled the body of a young boy while several ruffians pushed and shoved one another, fighting over what Robinson knew to be three dollars … all nickels.

“Lady Luck, my ass,” thought Rufus Robinson.

 

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