Do You Feel Safer…Now?


President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, a move that merged several agencies under a single umbrella—Coast Guard, National Guard, FEMA, Customs and Border Patrol, TSA, Secret Service, and a gaggle of other three-letter agencies, with the exceptions of the FBI and CIA.

This move was supposed to create a safer America—“a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur,” according to the National Strategy for Homeland Security.

Well, here’s a bit of Homeland Security news that just might give you reason to scratch your head and wonder…

1. During the past 31 months, over 1,300 Homeland Security badges and official credentials have been lost or stolen. These were not items kept in a warehouse, though. Instead, they were the ID’s and badges issued to active-duty agents. 165 department firearms are also missing (lost or stolen). Antonio Ramos, a muralist, was killed in Oakland last November. The weapon used to commit the murder was stolen a couple of months earlier from an ICE officer in San Francisco.

2. The BioWatch program is an initiative of Homeland Security. Its purpose is to detect the release of pathogens into the air as part of a terrorist attack on major American cities. Now, I’m slightly familiar with this program, and Denene is extremely familiar with it. The concept is great. The program works, and it works well.

What? You didn’t know there are “sniffers” in position all across the U.S., especially in cities that are particularly attractive targets for terrorists? Well, they’re out there and there are plenty of them, you just don’t recognize them because they’re mingled in with all of the other hardware attached to every piece of vacant space on telephone poles and other such city or utility real estate.

Since terrorists seem to set their sites on gatherings of large crowds, such as the Super Bowl, Homeland Security decided to place a few portable sniffer boxes in and around downtown San Francisco in advance of the big game next Sunday. I know, the game will be played in Santa Clara, not San Francisco. Santa Clara, by the way, is actually 40 miles away from San Francisco, a distance that can sometimes take a couple of hours to travel if the freeway traffic is in full bloom.

Anyway, Homeland Security officials placed portable sniffers throughout downtown San Francisco, and they chained the boxes to light poles. To power the units they ran the electrical cords to the power poles and tapped into city current.


KPIX/CNN photo

Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but I believe anyone who can figure out how to plug-in and unplug a basic toaster could surmise that cutting the cord or pulling the plug on this high-tech toxin detector would be all that’s needed to set an evil plan into motion. And we mustn’t forget that the game, and the crowd associated with it, will be some 40 miles away. Therefore, I’m thinking the only “sniffs” these boxes will detect will be those of wino urine and pot smoke (those of you who’ve visited San Francisco will understand). And that’s if the boxes are still plugged in on the day of the game. Hmm…a pair of bolt cutters for the cables and officials may find a couple of these diamond-plate boxes for sale in local pawn shops or in the back of a contractor’s truck being used as a toolbox.

Hey, I know.  A crook could steal two or three and use them to store all those missing badges and guns.

A final thought…do you suppose the boxes are nothing more than decoys, mere empty shells used to fool potential terrorists. Nah…those cowards wouldn’t care if the boxes were there or not. Besides, by the time the sniffers detected a harmful toxin in the area, the people around it would already be toast (notice how I used “toast” to tie in with the earlier reference to “toaster?”). However, an alert from these mini tool boxes would provide ample time to save the politicians who will probably not set foot anywhere near these things.

So, do you feel safer now?


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The Killing of Laquan McDonald: Murder or a Justifiable Use of Deadly Force?


I’m often asked to share my opinions regarding officer-involved shootings and other similar incidents, but I choose not to offer personal viewpoints because the purpose of The Graveyard Shift is to present factual information with, of course, an occasional bit of fun tossed in. I especially do not address issues regarding race, religion, and/or politics.

With that said, I thought it appropriate to post a dash-cam video recently released by the Chicago PD. The footage shows Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke shooting a suspect, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. McDonald was carrying a small knife in his hand and was several feet away from the on-scene officers when he was shot and killed.

Now, I’d like for you to clear your mind of all notions you may have of police officers, good or bad, and then watch the video with an open mind, much like jury members are asked to do. Afterward, please continue with the remainder of this article. Also, please try not to cloud your open mind with the age and race of the people in the video. Just the facts, as they say.


While the video is sinking in, let’s talk about the use of deadly force and when it should or should not be employed.

The use of deadly force is permitted in cases of self defense and to defend the lives of others. In other words, a real threat to someone’s life must be present in order to justify using deadly force. No threat to life or serious injury = no use of deadly force.

Was there a clear threat to life or serious injury in the incident shown in the above video?


1. Police officers are legally allowed to shoot a fleeing criminal suspect only when the suspect has killed/seriously injured someone and the officer believes the suspect will continue to kill or further cause serious bodily injury to others. This was not the case at the time the video was recorded.

2. Police officers are not required to be absolutely certain that a suspect is in possession of a dangerous weapon before they’re legally permitted to use deadly force. However, a threat must be perceived at the time the use of deadly force is employed.

3. Officers are not required to use less-lethal weapons before resorting to deadly force.

Do either of the above three rules apply to the shooting in the video?

What about #4? Is it possible that Officer Van Dyke feared for his life or the life of another? I believe that’s what his attorney has stated, that he feared for his own safety.

4. There are no absolute, clear, and defined laws that police officers must follow when using deadly force. An officer’s perception at the time of the shooting is enough to justify the act. In other words, only the officer who used deadly force can know if he percieved a suspect’s actions as a threat to his life or the life of others.

While you’re pondering these points, let’s address some common questions regarding knife-wielding suspects.

Some argue that a small knife, like the one held by McDonald at the time he was shot, present no danger whatsoever. Actually, the size of the knife is not an issue. Small blades can kill as easily as their larger cousins.

Why not use some sort of martial arts technique to disarm a knife-wielding suspect who is on the attack.? The answer to this question is quite simple. There is no foolproof technique, so why should the police or anyone for that matter, be forced to wade into a knife fight, barehanded? The suspect has initiated deadly force and that force must be responded to with the amount of force that’s necessary to stop the threat to the officer’s safety. The officer must defend himself with deadly force, if possible.

What about keeping a safe distance? Why not simply follow the guy until he gets tired and gives up? Well, suppose he’s using meth and doesn’t tire for 12 hours? Suppose he walks until he runs across an innocent person and decides to stab them? Obviously, this is not an option. At some point the police will need to confront the situation to end it.

We’ve mentioned distance, right? So what is a safe distance from a potential attacker who’s displaying a knife or other edged weapon? Well…

There is a long-standing and proven rule that an officer cannot draw, point, and fire his/her weapon if the attacker starts the assault from a distance of 21 feet.


In the photo above, the officer’s weapon is still in his holster, therefore he should be contemplating a means of survival other than attempting to draw his sidearm and shoot, such as running for cover, or preparing to go into a defensive tactics mode—hand-hand combat, with the almost certainty of being cut. I have nasty scars on all five fingers on my right hand, and my head, as proof of this last-resort tactic.

However, if the officer already has his weapon drawn and in a ready position, he’ll be able to effectively fire a round to stop the threat. Remember, officers are taught to shoot center mass, not shoot to kill, or to shoot a weapon from the attacker’s hand. That stuff is for TV.

In the two photos above the officer would easily be able to stop the threat by firing a round or two.

Okay, by now you should have a basic grasp of when the use of deadly force is appropriate when dealing with knife-wielding suspects. Now, let’s return to the shooting of Laquan McDonald, by Officer Van Dyke. Did you see anything in the video that should/could justify the use of deadly force? Did McDonald make any movements that could be deemed as threatening to the officers or to anyone else? What about the number of shots fired—16? After all, we know that when using deadly force officers are trained to shoot until the threat is stopped.

What did McDonald do that could be perceived as a threat, and when, exactly, did the threat cease to exist? Was it after two shots? Five? Ten? Fifteen? Or was it the 16th round that terminated the threat?

Or, did the officer simply commit outright murder with an obvious disregard to human life?

Well, prosecutors have now charged Officer Van Dyke with 1st degree murder and he is currently being held in jail, without bond. Obviously, they believe they have a solid case.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the use of deadly force against McDonald, but I ask that you address only the use of deadly force, saving comments regarding race and/or cop-bashing for your own sites.


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Cop Stuff: The Weekly Top Ten List


1.  A law enforcement officer dies in the line of duty every 53 hours.

2. Not all police officers have access to ballistic vests. Why don’t they? Sadly, this due to to a lack of funding in their areas.

3. Deputy Sheriffs in Wayne County, Mi. earn $28,284 annually. That’s less than the salaries earned by county tree trimmers and maintenance workers. Some deputies in the area have opted to leave police work in favor of careers at Home Depot or Lowes where the earning potential is greater.

4. Isle of Wight County Virginia Sheriff’s Deputies now wear body cameras in response to the public’s desire that they do so. However, the county schools now want school resource officers to announce that their recorders are on prior to becoming involved in an incident. School officials are also demanding that they have immediate access to the recordings upon request, even if the recording is of a criminal act. What happens, for example, in the case of a school shooting? Must the officers first announce to everyone involved that they are recording the incident before beginning the steps needed to save lives?

5. Remember the infamous typo on the Pinellas County Florida Sheriff’s Office new rug, the one that should’ve read “In God We Trust?” Instead of the desired phrase the company mistakenly printed “In Dog We Trust.” Well, there’s now a hot bidding war going on by people hoping to purchase the rug. So far the highest bid is more than $9,000. For. A. Rug.

6. A Riverside, Ca. police K-9 named Sultan was fatally shot by a fleeing felon the dog was pursuing. A Texas police K-9 named Pepper was also shot and killed by a fleeing felon.

7. New copper-thread technology added to ballistic vest carriers eliminates heat-related issues and odor-causing bacteria and fungus troubles. Spouses and in-car partners will definitely appreciate this new technology. No more P.U. or rashes!

8. A Pennsylvania man applying for a job as a trooper was arrested during the polygraph portion of his interview after he stated he’d had sex with an underage girl. After interviewing the now adult woman, the man was charged with additional counts. He was not hired.

9. A Washington man was rudely awakened from a deep sleep when a man being pursued by police rushed into his home and climbed into bed with him. The homeowner told police he wasn’t sure if it was the intruder or the police crashing inside that actually awakened him.

10. ShotSpotter, the gunfire detection system, is now deployed in over 90 U.S. cities. Savannah, Ga. is one of the latest cities to make use of the technology and, according to reliable sources, it is working extremely well. The system displays the locations of gunfire as it happens, allowing officers to respond even before a call by citizens is made. This greatly decreases response time which could potentially save lives and to potentially apprehend criminals before they’re able to flee the shooting scene.

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Pay It Forward


Twelve-year-old Trevor McKinney, a character in Catherine Ryan Hyde’s tale Pay It Forward, devised a simple plan to change the world for the better—do a good deed for someone and ask them to “pay it forward” to someone else who needs help. The story was so moving that living, breathing humans actually began to follow Trevor’s example by paying it forward in their own lives. And such was the case this week when Emmett Township, Michigan Public Safety Officer Ben Hall stopped a young woman for a traffic violation.

As Officer Hall spoke with the driver about the reason behind the traffic stop, he noticed a young child in the back without a car seat. The driver, Alexis DeLorenzo, explained that she recently fallen on seriously hard times, including her fiance’ losing his job and having been diagnosed with cancer, and having her car repossessed. She went on to say that when the repo company towed the vehicle they also took all the belongings inside. One of the items taken was the child’s car seat. DeLorenzo told Officer Hall that she simply could not afford to purchase another one.

Officer Hall did not write a traffic ticket. Nor did he arrest DeLorenzo. He didn’t blast her with his TASER. No baton. No pepper spray. No handcuffs. No chokehold. No punching.

Instead, Hall asked Delorenzo to meet him at a nearby Walmart where he bought a brand new car seat and gave it to the surprised driver.


DeLorenzo says she’s eternally grateful to Officer Hall.


Officer Hall says the decision to purchase the car seat was an easiest fifty bucks he’d ever spent.


“It’s something that anybody in the same position, in our position, would do,” Hall said to Fox17. “I in no way, shape or form expect to be paid back. It is a ‘pay it forward’ situation completely.”

Officer Brian Hall did something for Delorenzo’s family that they’ll never forget. It wasn’t something he had to do, nor was his act something out of the ordinary for a police officer.

Yes, cops do things like this all the time. Unfortunately, it’s typically the bad news about law enforcement that makes the headlines and sells papers and ad space.

What Officer Hall did was a wonderful thing, and his attitude and dedication to the citizens of his community is reflection of good law enforcement officers everywhere.

Pay It Forward.

What a wonderful world it would be if everyone paid kindness forward. No hurt. No racism. No war. No greed. No violence. No stealing. No backstabbing.

Just honest and loyal people paying it forward…

 *Top photo is a screen shot of a page from Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

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Weekend Update: The Crime Scene

Working the graveyard shift often makes for an interesting week. This one, as usual, was comprised of all things good, bad, and ugly.

First of all, thanks to an enthusiastic group of research-hungry writers, the 2013 Writers’ Police Academy sold out in less than a week!

As a reward for their eagerness, the WPA is pleased to present the largest, best, and most exciting event we’ve ever produced. We have plenty of new action, and exciting workshops lined up. So stay tuned for announcements and details.

The 2013 Golden Donut Short Story contest photo has been released (above). This is an extremely popular contest that’s open to everyone, not just WPA recruits. The rules are simple—write a story about the photograph above using exactly 200 words, including the title (each story must include an original title). The image in the photograph MUST be the main subject of the story. The contest officially opens at 12 noon on Monday April 1, 2013. Winner receives the prestigious Golden Donut Award!

Now, for the news with our on the spot Crime Scene reporter:

New York – NYPD detective and popular Writers’ Police Academy instructor Marco Conelli has penned a new article titled Perps and Guns, It’s No Mystery.

Marco Conelli

Marco invites you all to read the informative piece here.

Brunswick, Ga. – While out for a leisurely walk, pushing her 13-month-old son in a stroller, Brunswick, Ga. resident Sherry West was approached by two teens who demanded her money. When she told the youths that she didn’t have any cash, the older boy pushed West to the side and shot her child in the face, killing him. The boy also fired rounds at West, grazing her ear and wounding her leg. Police have arrested 17-year-old Demarquis Elkins and an unnamed 14-year-old in connection with the attempted robbery, attempted murder, and murder.

U.S.A. – Jason Cherkis of the Huffington Post reports that since the school shooting in Newtown, Ct., 2243 people have died as a result of gun violence. Until I told him last night, Jason was unaware of the shooting in Brunswick, Ga. Unfortunately, I presume the total is now 2244.

Los Angeles – Chef David Viens received a 15-year prison sentence after confessing to police that he killed his wife and then boiled her body for four days to dispose of the evidence. The woman’s body has never been recovered.

Orlando, Fl. – Sarah Adleta was arrested for live-streaming video (Skype) of herself while sexually abusing children. A North Carolina man has been accused of watching the videos as they took place.

Texas – A proposed new law would require DNA testing be conducted on all biological evidence in all death penalty cases. Probably a good idea since Texas executes more people than any other state.

Taiwan – A man wanted for drug crimes was spotting wearing a t-shirt with “WANTED” printed across the front. The suspect does not speak English, therefore had no idea of the word’s meaning. Unfortunately for him, the officer was well-versed in the English language and decided to run a check on the unsuspecting wanted criminal who was indeed arrested.

Robert Skiff, Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories training manager and WPA instructor

Youngsville, N.C. – Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories is once again offering writers the rare opportunity to attend their evidence collection course. This week-long class is normally for law enforcement only, however, through the Writers’ Police Academy, Sirchie has opened their doors to any writer who’d like to learn “how it’s really done.” Feel free to contact me for details as to how you can take advantage of this fabulous opportunity. Several writers have already attended the course.

Me and my pal Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys

Valdosta – @Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys just tweeted “It’s a rainy day in Georgia #Valdosta.” Hey, Joe, it’s raining out here on the islands, too. I love seeing the dark clouds roiling over the ocean. The egrets are confused, though, and have all snuggled together in the rookery behind our house.

LA – The Southland crew wrapped up season 5 filming yesterday. Now comes the long wait to hear if we’ll be treated to a season 6.

Here’ what Michael Cudlitz (Southland’s John Cooper) had to say on Facebook about my review of this week’s episode – Michael Cudlitz You always put so much thought into your work. Thank you.

CJ Lyons

From bestselling author CJ Lyons: Attention Fellow Thriller Writers!

You may have heard that last July I began the Buy a Book, Make a Difference charity. So far we’ve raised $28,000 for charity and 28 scholarships for police officers from underserved communities to receive CSI forensic training through the Jeff Farkas Memorial Scholarship, named after my fellow intern who was murdered while we were at Childrens’ Hospital of Pittsburgh.

I know a lot of you have law enforcement connections and need your help in reaching out to law enforcement agencies.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could please forward this link to the scholarship page:

For more info, you can also send people here:

Together we can help the police officers who are so generous with their time and support of thriller writers gain the tools they need to put the bad guys away!

Thanks in advance,


*So there you have it, the news for the week. Now it’s time now to toss a banana to the typing ape, hoping he’s up to doing a little work on my manuscript. After all, he types faster than me since I have yet to master the use of my toes on the keyboard. He has.

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Chavis Carter: Suicide While Handcuffed

Police say twenty-one-year-old Chavis Carter shot himself in the head. A suicide. And, under normal circumstances, a story such as this one wouldn’t make national headlines. However, Carter’s death is big news because the young man took his own life in the back seat of a Jonesboro, Arkansas police patrol car…while handcuffed with his hands behind his back.

To further confuse the issue, Carter was left-handed, yet the bullet wound was on the right temporal area of the scalp. And, the arresting officers searched Carter for weapons before placing him the car, unrestrained (no handcuffs). Then, minutes later, after learning that Carter was wanted for a drug crime in another jurisdiction, they had him step outside where they handcuffed him with his hands behind his back, and searched him again.

Carter’s family says no way he killed himself. He was a happy person. No troubles. A good guy.

Additionally, many citizens around the country are using the “M” word, saying the police murdered Carter in cold blood, that Carter could not have shot himself while his hands were restrained behind his back.

But an autopsy report released yesterday confirms the police statement, that Carter did indeed pull the trigger while holding a .380 pistol to his head. The report also revealed the presence of drugs in Carter’s system—marijuana, Oxycodone, methamphetamine, and Diazapam.

The saga began when police stopped a pickup truck in which Carter was a passenger. The driver and other passenger were released and sent on their way. Carter was held due to the outstanding warrant.

The original traffic stop was caught on police dash cam video, where we see an officer lead Cater to the patrol car.

There are many questions floating around the internet about this incident. There have been protests outside the Jonesboro police department. And some have called for the police chief’s resignation. All this before the autopsy report was released. Now, since the report is complete and made public, many are saying the medical examiners are in cahoots with the police to cover up a murder committed by the two officers at the scene.

So let’s pick this apart, rationally.

Officers are suspicious of the trio, and they want to question them to see if their stories match (Carter is black. The other two men are white). So they separate them. Carter is patted down (a quick pat-down for weapons is all that’s permitted at this point) and placed in the rear seat of the patrol car where he’s questioned by one of the officers. He doesn’t appear to be a threat, so he’s left unrestrained. He can’t flee because he can’t get out of the car. There are no locks or door handles in the rear compartment of patrol cars. This procedure is perfectly normal.

The other two men are handcuffed but remain outside the vehicle for questioning by the second officer. The term for this brief period of detention of the three men is called investigatory detention. It’s perfectly okay for officers to detain and handcuff people during a suspicious situation. It is for the safety of everyone involved, both suspect and officer.

So, if Carter had concealed a gun between his legs, for example, to avoid arrest for the weapon, the time he was in the back seat, unrestrained (before he was under arrest), would have been the perfect opportunity to shove that gun between the seat back and bottom, a practice that’s done all the time.

Yes, officers often find drugs, knives, cash, and other items there. This is the reason officers should search the patrol car after a suspect has been inside. This is especially true when changing shifts. Oncoming officers search their cars before accepting them from outgoing shift officers. An example of how precise the police procedure is on the TV show Southland is, well, you’ll see the officers on the show conducting these searches at the beginning of their shifts.

At this point, everyone was polite, including Carter, the other two men, and the police. Everyone was calm and cool.

Officers find nothing wrong with the two men standing outside the police car so they let them go. However, a “hit” (officer slang for wanted person or stolen property, etc.) comes back on Carter. He’s wanted by police in Mississippi. Therefore, the officers have him step outside the car where they handcuff him because he is now under arrest. They also conduct another more thorough search of Carter and his clothing. This would be the time when officers would search really well, reaching into arm pits, between the legs, buttocks area, etc. You cannot conduct this kind of extremely personal and detailed search on a person who is not under arrest. They find nothing.

Remember, at this point Carter already had ample time to remove the gun from wherever he’d concealed it beneath his clothing, and then stash it between the seat parts (if this scenario is to be believed).

The officers again place Carter in the rear of the patrol car while they stand outside, as is common practice, discussing the case, discussing the weather, kids, or whatever, before heading back to the department, or wherever it is they need to go to process their prisoner.

Next…how could a left-handed person could shoot himself in the right temporal area. Well, I’m left-handed, but I shoot with my right. And, I can shoot almost as well with my left, which would be considered my weak hand when shooting, even though I’m left-handed. Actually, many left-handed people are fluidly ambidextrous—they can do almost anything with either hand.

To demonstrate how easy it would be for someone to shoot themselves in the head, even with their hands cuffed behind their back, the police in Jonesboro filmed a video.


Additionally, what motive would the two officers have for murdering Carter? He was wanted for a minor offense. He offered no trouble or resistance. There was no struggle. He was extremely polite to them, offering “yes sir’s and no sir’s” in response to their questions. And the officers were polite to each of the three men. To say Carter was murdered by the police simply makes no sense. Of course, at first glance, Carter committing suicide makes no sense. But it is highly possible, quite easy, actually, for the suicide to have occurred just as the police say.

And now we arrive at another puzzling question posed by citizens, that the medical examiners’ report is bogus. Yes, citizen comments on numerous blogs and news reports indicate they honestly believe that the medical examiner(s) are lying to protect two patrol officers they’ve probably never met. I ask you to please think about this for a moment. Why would three respectable and professional medical examiners/doctors participate in the cover-up of a murder? What would they have to gain? What would be their motive? Why would they place their careers in jeopardy over something like this? Easy answer…they wouldn’t.

I suspect gunshot residue testing was conducted along with bloodstain pattern and spatter examinations, both of Carter and of the inside of the patrol car. Those tests, if positive, would further reinforce the findings of the three medical examiners, that Chavis Carter did indeed kill himself.

I also suspect we’ll see a wrongful death suit based on the fact that Carter was the responsibility of the two officers at the scene. And, that Carter killed himself while under their watch. If so, we’ll soon see if sloppy and lax search procedures by the officers come into play, if that’s the case. I also believe we’ll be hearing more about the search procedures and policies of the Jonesboro Police Department in the near future.

But, once again, we have a case being tried in the media before the facts are all in—autopsy, forensic reports, toxicology, etc. This is not how the system is supposed to work. It’s not fair to anyone, including the victim. Does the name Caylee Anthony not ring a bell?

Update (8-23-12)

– Carter was on cellphone with girlfriend while seated in rear of patrol car. He tells her he has a gun and is scared.

– Police talk to a man who admits he told Carter to bring a gun with him to a drug deal.

– Blood spatter found on Carter’s right hand and inside of patrol car rear door. Windows up, doors closed. Officers outside. Witnesses confirm.

– Marks on Carter’s wrists and forearm consistent with handcuffs. One mark on the right arm/wrist is consistent with handcuff pulled high on the arm, also compatible with pulling the cuffs high and tight against the flesh while reaching to touch the upper body/head.

Chavis Carter Autopsy

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