California: A Side Most Tourists Never See

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Stop monkeying around and have a look at some of the things we’ve seen in California, a side of the state most tourists don’t often see. So put on your hiking shoes and follow me. Yes, you have to get out of the car and walk, but you’ll be glad you did.

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The narrowest point of the Carquinez Straight.

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The Oak Ridge Boys performing in Santa Rosa.

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Yes, those are very large windmills. Interestingly, the landowner(s) receive $5,000 per year, per windmill, as rent for allowing the towers on the property. There are are 350 windmills in this location. You do the math.

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Bodega Bay.

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Note: To the well-intentioned writer. When the scene calls for a shirtless man, well, it’s spelled bare, not bear. Big difference.

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The Golden Gate Bridge, from below.

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The end …

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering the Fallen

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Officer David Fahey, 39

Cleveland Police Department

January 24, 2017 – Officer David Fahey was struck and killed by a hit and run driver while assisting at the scene of a fatal crash scene.

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Officer Nathan B. Graves, 45

Sac and Fox Nation Police Department

January 24, 2017 – Officer Nathan Graves was killed when his patrol vehicle was struck head-on by a car that was attempting to pass another vehicle.

Officer Graves is survived by his wife and children.

~

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Line of duty deaths are up 140% compared to the same time last year. Deaths by gunfire are up 150%.

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Homicide Investigators Should Do … What?

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There are nearly as many different ways to approach and investigate a crime scene as there are detectives in line at donut establishments. I suspect their orders—chocolate-covered, glazed, bear claw, etc.—are as diverse as their personalities and ways they approach the job. But, despite the menagerie of varying quirks and thought processes, there are things that should be done at all murder scenes. For example …

Homicide investigators should:

1. Document air temperature at the scene (ambient air).

2. Document body temperature, if the medical examiner is not on scene. Document description – cold, warm, frozen, etc. To the touch, only. Cops do not insert thermometers into any portion of a human body.

3. Document livor mortis – was livor mortis present, and at what stage? Was it fixed? Was body position consistent with the stage of livor mortis? Did someone move the body?

4. Document rigor mortis – what stage of rigor? Was the rigor consistent with the crime scene? Did someone move the body?

5. Document degree of decomposition – skeletonization, putrefaction, mummification, etc.

6. Document animal activity – was the body in any way altered by animals?

7. Photograph the body exactly as it was found. And, the ground beneath the body should be photographed once the body has been removed.

8. Document victim’s physical characteristics—description of the body, including scars, marks, tattoos, clothing, jewelry, and obvious wounds).

9. Make note of the type of on-scene emergency medical care, or the lack of treatment.

10. Document presence of body fluids and where they’re found (mouth, nose, beneath the body, etc.). Also note if there’s no indication of body fluids.

11. Bag the victim’s hands (and bare feet) in clean, unused paper bags.

12. Collect, or arrange for the collection of trace and other evidence.

13. Determine the need for alternate light sources and other specialized equipment.

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14. Photograph the victim’s face for future identification purposes (remember, most present-day identifications are done via photograph or video).

15. Make note of the presence of insects. Photograph and collect samples of each.

16. Protect the body from further injury and/or contamination.

17. Supervise the placement of the body into a body bag, and install the proper seal/securing.

18. Ensure the proper removal and transportation of the body.

19. Who, What, Where, How, and When – Who discovered the body? Who was present when the body was discovered? Where was the body discovered? How was the victim killed? When was the body discovered? Who witnessed the murder? Etc. Document all, no matter how insignificant it sounds at the time.

20. Document EMS records/activity. Obtain a copy of the EMS call sheet/report, if possible.

21. Document witness statements – What they observed, the victim’s actions prior to death, killer’s description, etc.

22. Note medical examiner’s comments.

23. Obtain witness statements and contact information.

24. Document the names and contact information of everyone present at the scene (officers, EMS, medical examiner, witnesses, etc.).

25. Be certain that all evidence has been recovered before releasing the scene.

 

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A Six-Pack of Tips: Crime Scene Investigation

Writers sometimes fail to capture what really goes on beyond the yellow crime scene tape, and that’s understandable because most creators of written fiction have never once set foot inside a murder scene. Therefore, they must rely on other research sources. Unfortunately, some turn to using what they’ve seen on TV or in the movies, or other works of fiction as a basis for their knowledge of police procedure.

As a result, many of those little tidbits, while vital to accuracy, often go unsaid. And that’s a crying shame because it’s often the use of those details that transform a good story into a great story.

So what are authors missing when they use television as their sole source of cop-type information? Well, did you know that investigators really do use those futuristic scanners that capture the entire scene in 3D? How about the chain of custody of the body? Is that really important? I mean, is the body really a piece of evidence?

To help sort out a few necessary details, here’s a six-pack of helpful hints for those characters whose duty is to investigate a crime scene.

1. Death Scene Documentation, Evidence Collection, and Chain of Custody of the Body

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Before the medical examiner enters the scene, be sure to preserve any evidence that may be altered, contaminated, or destroyed. You certainly wouldn’t want the M.E.’s footsteps to wipe out the suspect’s shoe prints, alter blood stain evidence, or mar tire impressions. Document the M.E.’s time of arrival, who called him and when, and what time the body was removed from the scene.

Also, make note of the seal number placed on the body bag, if a seal was used. If not, note that the M.E. did not seal the bag and have an officer escort the body to the morgue, if possible. This simple act keeps the chain of custody intact.

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2Water Scenes: What’s Important? – Always document the water type (pond, river, lake, creek, etc.). Record the water temperature and the depth of the water where the body was found, if possible. Make note of, and photograph, the surroundings. It’s possible that the victim had been swinging from the rope hanging from the limb in that large oak tree, slipped, and then fell onto that large rock jutting out of the water.

Everything is a clue. Record the position of the body in the water. Was it face down, or face up? Totally underwater, or floating? That could help determine how long the body had been in the water.

3. Shoes – Everyone entering a crime scene should wear shoe covers. If not, pay particular attention to their shoes. Yours included.

Take a photograph the bottoms of everyone’s shoes so you’ll be able to recognize the tread patterns when comparing impression evidence back at the office or lab.

4. Photograph Impressed Evidence – Always take a picture of impressed evidence (tire tracks, footprints, etc.). If something were to go wrong while you’re processing that evidence and you hadn’t photographed before you started … well, you’re, as they say … SOL.

Here’s a method of preserving impressed evidence—casting. You’ll see in the photos below why it is important to photograph the impressed print prior to making a cast.

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Investigators usually keep an impression casting kit in the trunk of their police car.

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Impression casting kits contain a casting material that’s similar in composition to the material dentists use when making impression molds for dentures.  The kits also contain dust, dirt, and snow hardener.

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Dust and dirt hardener firms up loose soil.

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Snow impression wax prevents snow from melting during the casting procedure.

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Casting powder is mixed with water and then poured directly into the impression.

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Hardened cast of suspect’s footprint.  The cast is used to identify a suspect’s shoes by size and unique characteristics, like cuts and indentations.  The cast also becomes part of the evidence that’s used in court.

5. Fingerprinting Wet Surfaces – Don’t let a little rain stop you from lifting fingerprints. There are a couple of ways to obtain a good set of prints from wet surfaces. For example, Wet Print, a ready-made spray-on mixture that develops prints instantly, and SPR, another spray on product that requires mixing before applying.

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6. Gloves – Use a different pair of gloves when handling each piece of evidence. This is an important step that prevents cross-contamination. You certainly don’t want to transfer someone’s DNA from room to room, especially if that makes an innocent person appear to have been somewhere he hasn’t! And, it is possible to leave your prints on a surface even while wearing thin, latex gloves. Cotton gloves eliminate this problem.

*Casting photos ~ Sirchie

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How to Arrest a Naked Man

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I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge. Actually, I’ve rarely shunned any sort of obstacle, including wading into a group of angry armed men to arrest one of their group.

I like other officers, have tackled the biggest and the baddest, the meanest and the ugliest, and I, like many of my peers, received plenty of bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, and other injuries as a result of arresting those behemoths.

It’s all part of the job. It’s what cops do.

But there was one guy who caused me to stop dead in my tracks to rethink what I was getting into when or IF (and this was a big IF for a few seconds) I attempted to handcuff him.

The offender, a quite large man who weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of three-fifty and towered above me at height of … oh six-six, or so.

He was a real badass.

Built like a bodybuilder and as tough as the soles of a circus sideshow fire-walker’s feet.

He was mean, nasty, and he hated cops.

He was this guy … well, at the time this is how he appeared to me.

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Still, his massive size, bloodthirsty demeanor, and bulging muscles weren’t an issue. I’d tackled men, and women, who were bigger, and nastier.

The fact that he’d backed himself into a corner and was begging me, using both hands to motion for me to come closer, was slightly intimidating. But not the sole act that slowed my approach.

Drool dribbled down his chin. His eyes had that look of “I’ve bitten the heads off of live cobras and giant scorpions.”

Still not enough to stop me.

He growled, like a crazed and rabid beast.

Nope. Still had to go to jail.

He flipped over a large piece of furniture like it was no more than child’s toy.

No, not enough to make me back down.

Actually, none of these aggressive acts of strength, defiance, and animalistic behavior were what stopped me in my tracks.

The thing that held my feet to the floor was the fact that this mountain of a man, the crazy killer of his brother, was totally and completely naked, and he’d covered his shaved body in cooking oil. He was as slick as eel snot, and his skin glistened like the top of a freshly buttered dinner roll.

My first thought, I kid you not, was, “Where and what do I grab?”

Typically, cops have the luxury of grasping and holding on to clothing when tussling with unruly suspects. Clothing is also a welcome barrier between the officer and the offender. There is no touching of nude body parts. No accidental brushes against things no one one other than an intimidate partner should ever “brush.”

But there he was, a huge, slimy, angry man who, for some ungodly reason, wanted to engage me in some sort of bizarre battle.

Well, I had two options … let him go or bring him in. And, since cops don’t let criminals go, it was on!

I lit into that guy like there was no tomorrow. I grabbed and pulled and pushed and tugged and tried to hold on to an arm and/or a hand long enough to snap a cuff in place. But I simply could not hang on. His flesh squirted from my grasp like a greased pig at a county fair. Unfortunately, my uniform was easy to grab and pull, meaning I was on the receiving end of more than I was able to dish out. He was doling out real pain.

Therefore, after a few punches to my head and being slammed to the floor and against the walls, I’d had enough. Besides, I despise bleeding. So I did what any desperate person would do in this situation—I grabbed his one appendage (and accomplices) the one that sat there mindlessly, without fingers or toes or other useful purpose at the time, and I pulled hard, really hard (picture a landscaper whose trying with all their might to uproot a stubborn garden weed).

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Needless to say, the big ox surrendered immediately. So I cuffed him, covered him with a blanket, and hauled his big, nasty self to jail.

Then I went home to take a long, hot, cleansing shower and put on a fresh uniform. And I washed my hands for a really long time.

In fact, I have an extremely compelling urge to wash my hands right now.

Yuck!

 

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Have You Seen This? I Have …

Life passes much too quickly, so why not stop for a moment and see what it has to offer? Take a drive out into the country, park the car, get out, and take a few steps in any direction and you just might see something like the places I’ve posted here. Besides, it sure beats enduring the wailing, weeping, and gnashing of teeth seen on social media these days. And yes, this is indeed a wonderful and beautiful country, as you shall see below …

Twin Falls, Wa. (above and below). Top photo was also taken in Washington state.

Salt marsh near Savannah, Ga.

Grand Canyon, above and below.

Cow, Savannah, Ga.

San Juan Islands, Washington.

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South of the Border, N.C/South Carolina line on I95.

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Tybee Island, Ga.

San Juan Islands.

Looking out from the Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Savannah, Ga.

Hampton Beach, New Hampshire.

Near Mt. St. Helens.

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Oatland Island, Ga.

Mukilteo Lighthouse, Washington.

Fish Art Studio, Ga.

Marsh, Wilmington Island, Ga.

Castle Hill, Ipswich Massachusetts.

California coastline along Hwy 1 (Pacific Coast Highway).

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Near Hearst Castle, San Simeon, Ca.

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One of the pools at Hearst Castle, San Simeon, Ca.

Mt. St. Helens.

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Boston, Ma.

Woman feeding gulls – Salem, Ma.

Tobacco, near Ellisboro, N.C.

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Near Mt. St. Helens.

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Mt. St. Helens – five miles away.

Neighborhood in Bothel, Washington.

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Tybee Island, Ga. – January 1st Polar Plunge and Guiness Book of World Records attempt at setting record for largest gathering of people wearing swim caps. Yes, we set the record (this was a few years ago), and Denene and I were part of the historic moment!

Salem, Ma.

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Ocean City, Md. one day after the 2008 Bouchercon in Baltimore.

California coastline near Big Sur.

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Savannah, Ga. Police Department.

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The coast of Ga.

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The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist – Savannah, Ga. (above and below).

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Half Moon Bay, Ca.

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From the deck of a Mighty Midget (the Nakha, formerly the LCS(L) 102), Mare Island, Ca.

From the website of the National Association of USS LCS(L) 102:

“LCS(L)s were usually involved in the first assault on the beach.  Attacking the beach in a line, they made two runs, firing rocket barrages at 1000, 800, and 500 yards.  After the third rocket barrage, they turned broadside to the beach and fired on targets of opportunity before heading seaward for the next run.  On the third run, they were followed by the landing craft.  As they approached the shore, they slowed to allow the troop-laden boats to pass by and deposit their men on the beaches.  The LCS(L)s then continued to fire over the heads of the troops and remained inshore, firing on targets as they became available.  On some occasions, they took Marine artillery spotters on board for assistance in locating enemy targets on shore.  They were active in the campaigns for the Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Borneo.”

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