Steubenville sexual assault

Nearly fifty Steubenville, Ohio teenagers gathered to celebrate the end of summer. Some would soon begin their college years, while others would see more time in high school.

Alcohol, and plenty of it, was at the center of the informal party. And, as usual when too much beer and liquor are mixed with teens, trouble wasn’t very far away. Only this time the trouble came in the form of a sexual assault on an intoxicated 16-year-old girl. An assault that went on for several hours while others looked on.

Some party-goers photographed the assault(s). Others recorded the actions on video. And, after all was said and done, some even urinated on the unconscious girl. No one, not a single person, attempted to stop the actions of the young men who so cold-heartedly violated the girl. Could it be that people today are so desensitized to violence that they saw this as entertainment? Unfortunately, that seems to be the case.

Information, photos, and videos of the sickening crime quickly found their way onto social media, which finally led to the arrest of two high school football players. They were each charged with kidnapping and rape.

Adding to the horrific details of this night is a disturbing video made by some of the teens who witnessed the assault(s). In it, the teens make jokes about the victim and the things done to her by the young men at the party. One of the teens in the video actually talks about the victim as if she’d died during the assault(s), which is even more appalling.

It truly is disgusting to learn that people see humor in such a vile action. And this is one case where words alone can’t do enough to describe the recording. So here’s the video. Warning, the language is sexual in nature, graphic, and not definitely not suitable for young ears (video leaked by Anonymous).

 

Gun violence

We had out-of-town friends visit us yesterday, and it was embarrassing, and sad, that we had to advise them against following GPS directions in order to avoid certain areas of the city. But, it was a necessary evil due to the number of seemingly random shootings that have occurred there over the past few months. Of course, several of the gang-related killings were accidental shootings—the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. But dead is dead, no matter how the unfortunate person became a murder victim.

Our police chief seems to be doing everything humanly possible to combat the gun violence, including assigning a special task force to work nothing but gang-related crimes. He’s saturated the trouble areas with patrol cars, officers on foot, undercover officers, and more. He’s even asked council to approve the hiring of dozens of new police officers. The same is true for surrounding jurisdictions.

Still, the shootings continue…and continue, and continue.

For example (just this week alone):

– local deputies conducted a traffic stop where the driver jumped out of the van and began firing a revolver at the officers.

– narcotics agents arrested a drug dealer who was carrying a .22 pistol containing a 100 round magazine.

– a man came home for the holidays, and then shot and killed his mother before taking his own life.

– a man walking in a local park was robbed at gunpoint, and after handing over his money, he was shot by the robber. The victim, a convicted felon, then pulled his own weapon and returned fire.

– a man broke into a local residence and forced the homeowner to the floor at gunpoint.

– a man walking down the street on his way to a store was shot and killed.

– a man dressed as Santa Claus robbed a downtown bank at gunpoint.

– a suspect wearing a black hoodie robbed a grocery store at gunpoint.

The good news is that our overall crime is down from 2011. The bad news, though, is that gun-related crime is up—over double the number of the same type of crimes in 2011.

So what’s the answer? After all, the chief of police in our city has already attempted, with no luck, to reduce gun-related crimes by increasing the number of good guys with guns.

Will new, more restrictive gun laws do any good? How about banning large capacity magazines?

If more restrictions/laws are enacted, will the bad guys then suddenly come to their senses and begin obeying the law? Will they stop using high-powered rifles with 100 round magazines, and pistols with 30 round capacities, as their murder-weapons of choice?

Honestly, I don’t see a good, solid solution to the problem. However, I know we have to do something, and we have to start somewhere. But where?

In 1975, the unthinkable happened in a small town in Virginia. An 88-year-old retired school teacher was brutally raped and strangled, and her attacker left her lying on the floor believing she was dead. Moments later, though, the woman managed to crawl to her telephone and called the police. While on the phone, in an extremely weak voice, all she managed to get out was that she’d been attacked. Minutes later, when police broke into her back door they found the gasping woman seated in a chair wearing only a torn slip. She managed to tell the two patrol officers that she’d been raped and choked by a “negro man.” The woman died at the hospital less than an hour later.

The local police, assisted by the county sheriff and his deputies, immediately initiated a manhunt. In simpler terms, in 1975, that meant round up all suspicious black men and bring them in for questioning. And that’s what the officers did, but the results were negative. Each of the men brought in were ruled out.

The search for the killer continued for several days until a sheriff’s deputy happened upon a young black man riding his bicycle near a small country store. The man appeared to be a little “odd,” and after a quick background check the deputy learned that his “suspect” had been released from a mental hospital just two days prior. So the officer hauled him in for questioning…lots of questioning.

The local sheriff decided to personally conduct the interrogation, hoping to put away the man who killed that defenseless and sweet retiree, a woman he thought highly of and checked on two or three times a week. A woman who also brought brownies and other treats to the local police on a regular basis.

During the interrogation, the suspect’s attention often wandered, and was extremely unfocused. In fact, he often starting singing, warbling theme songs from old TV westerns. The sheriff’s patience wore thin, telling the man to, “Look at me. Look at me!” Finally, tired of the suspect’s lack of interest, the sheriff said, “”You’re not half as damn nuts as you act like you are, you know that? You know what happened last week, don’t you? Huh?”

Twice, the sheriff took his suspect to the woman’s home hoping get some sort of reaction from him. Nothing.

According to transcripts, the sheriff’s continued interrogation was relentless, and at one point told the man, “Go ahead and tell us what happened so we can go home, OK?” Suddenly, out of the blue, the suspect uttered the words the sheriff wanted to hear…sort of. He said he pushed a woman down, tore her clothes, and then had sex with her. But most of what he told the sheriff was wrong according to what they knew about the crime and what they’d found at the scene. The man also said the woman, his victim, was “colored.” She was white.

Well, after hours upon hours of intense interrogation and hearing the “confession,” the suspect was finally charged with the rape and murder of the sheriff’s elderly friend. And a few weeks later he was tried and convicted for those crimes and was sentenced to life in prison. The evidence used to convict him was a single pubic hair found on the suspect’s clothing (it was not tested), his odd confession, and a single fingerprint that did not match the victim.

In 1983, lawyers for the convicted man appealed his case with success. The court ruled that the sheriff had not, in spite of hours and hours and hours of intense questioning, advised his suspect of his rights. Charges were dropped and he was released from prison after already serving five years. However, he was committed to a mental institution.

The real twist to this case came thirty-three years later, when the Virginia State Police re-opened the case as part of Governor Warner’s effort to exonerate wrongly convicted innocent people. Within a few days of submitting DNA samples for testing, state investigators received a match to items seized at the original crime scene. However, it was not the DNA of the mentally challenged man who had already served five years for raping the schoolteacher. Instead, the DNA matched another man, a man who’d recently been released from prison after serving a sentence for rape and sodomy.

The second man was arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to prison for the schoolteacher’s rape and murder (based on the recent DNA tests), and his conviction finally led to the exoneration of the wrongfully convicted mentally challenged man. Sadly, he’d passed away a few years before he was exonerated.

Experts say intense questioning tactics by the sheriff led to the suspect’s false confession, an attempt to please the top officer so they could both simply go home. Also, taking the man to the scene of the crime provided him with details he otherwise wouldn’t have known. Poor police tactics was the conclusion of many experts.

By the way, the fingerprint that was found at the scene, the one police said didn’t match the victim…it belonged to the sheriff.

Dairy Farmers

In the coming weeks, dairy farmers from each county in the continental U.S. will begin the arduous task of reviewing all mystery and thriller books. Yes, these farmers, cow pokes, and manure-movers will put down their pitchforks, switch off their John Deere tractors, and begin turning pages. Yet, and I think it’s safe to say, most have absolutely no experience as editors or writers. In fact, some of them have probably never read an entire mystery book, like I’ve never read books on farming. Not one. Still, county, city, and state governments have decided that the bovine farmers will have the final say as to whether or not your books will make it, or not.

Actually, a single thumbs-down review by “Mort the Morning Milker” will result in the author’s banishment from writing, confiscation of all computers and pens and paper, and the immediate termination of internet service (no more Facebook or Twitter). It’s the law because elected officials say it’s the law, and they know best, right?

Anyway, you, as a writer, if banished by the milkers, will be immediately ejected from all writing organizations and critique groups. In short, your life’s dream and career will soon be in the hands of people who don’t have a flippin’ clue about your vocation.

Is it fair? Certainly not. But I understand that soon to follow will be landscapers critiquing the landing techniques of jet pilots. Daycare employees are on schedule to begin pointing out flaws in the design of all ballistic missile submarines. Me…well, my first order of business is to have someone round out the corners on Picasso’s The Three Musicians (people don’t have square and rectangular legs, you know).

Absurd, huh? Doggone right it’s absurd. Crazy even.

So I ask you, then, what on earth makes officials in the city of Pasadena, Ca. think the average “Joe and Jane Citizen” are qualified to determine whether or not a police officer is justified in his/her decision to use force? Who knows, but that’s exactly what they’re planning to do (have police review boards made up entirely of average citizens).

Honestly, it’s difficult enough for those of us who’ve worked in the field to come to those conclusions. However, as experts using many years of training and experience as a basis for our determinations, we can generally place ourselves in a position similar to what the officer(s) in question faced at the time of the incident.

A civilian, however, who’s most likely never been in a physical confrontation of any kind, especially one where the use of deadly force is necessary, has no experience or training to draw on as a basis for forming a logical and educated conclusion. Mostly what they have to go on is someone’s testimony or written words, and possibly a video or aftermath photos, and that’s it. And that’s not enough. Not even close.

Perception of threat, escape, harm, etc. at the exact time of an incident is a crucial factor when determining when or if to use force. How an officer (or anyone else for that matter) perceives an immediate (imminent) threat is also crucial when determining what level of force is necessary.

Is this guy going to escape and harm someone else? Is this person going to harm me? Is this person who’s holding what appears to be a weapon…well, is he going to kill me if I don’t stop him?

How long does an officer have to make those determinations? Sometimes a fraction of a second—not even a whole second…think about it—, and it is extremely difficult for a police review board to know what an officer experienced at the exact moment the incident occurred. But police officers usually have some idea because they’ve “been there, done that” even if it was only in a training capacity. It is, however, IMPOSSIBLE for an untrained, inexperienced civilian—a “Mort The Milker”—to sit in a meeting room several weeks after a legitimate use of force incident occurred and make any sort of educated determination based solely on photos, videos, statements, etc.

Nope, these decisions cannot be accurately made by an average civilian any more than the average Mort The Milker should be scrutinizing the latest Dean Koontz novel, hunting for dangling modifiers and the correct usage of lay and lie. I do agree, however, that strong checks and balances be in place. And I agree that they should be utilized whenever needed. Err on the side caution. Review all cases, if necessary. But the reviews should be conducted by people with education and/or experience in the field.

One way civilians can educate themselves is to sign up to shoot FATS (firearms training simulator) or a similar system. And when they do, it’ll take approximately two minutes to make a believer out of them. In fact, ask anyone who’s participated in the FATS training at the Writers’ Police Academy. Lots of doubting writers enter the room as skeptics, but they come out believers in having to experience “the moment” to truly understand.

Use of force is a serious matter, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Nor should force be used unnecessarily and/or without justification. Never.

BUT…dairy farmers should stick to what they know best, milking cows. And Joe and Jane Citizen should do the same (stick to what they know), and leave policing to those who know the business. Unless, Joe and Jane want to and are able to take the time to learn about what it is they’re tasked to judge. And they must leave emotions and media opinions at the door, along with their own personal beliefs about police officers. This would not be the time to seek revenge for receiving a traffic ticket. After all, we’re talking about someone’s life, and someone’s dreams, and someone’s career, and someone’s family. And it could all be over with a “thumbs down” verdict by a citizen with a vendetta. But, if the officer was indeed wrong in his actions, then so be it. And the truth will come out without a lot of digging.

I believe the fair way to handle this is to have a panel consisting of both civilians and police officers. But with the mixed panel comes the possibility of a draw, and who gets the job as tie-breaker?

I, for one, know what it’s like to have bullets zinging by your head. I also know what it’s like to use deadly force, and it’s a gut-wrenching experience—both killing someone and then waiting to hear, even though I knew, that the shoot was justified.

Still, I’m comfortable in knowing I did the right thing in that particular situation. No doubt whatsoever.

What I’m not comfortable with, though, is dairy farming, because I know nothing about it, which is why you’ll never hear of me passing judgement on Mort’s milking mannerisms.

Now, Pablo, about that painting…you do know that people don’t have eyes on the side of the head, right? And the nose, it goes between the eyes…geez…

At no time were any cows, writers, or dairy farmers hurt during the writing of this article. Also, any implication that farmers or writers are less than intelligent, well, that’s your conclusion, not mine. Some of my best friends and family members are farmers and they’re far more successful than I could ever hope to be….an theys probly better righters than me too.

A recipe for PTSD

Ever wonder what it’s like to kill someone? Well, I don’t have that worry. You know the saying…been there, done that. And I’ve lived with the dead guy’s soul scrabbling around inside my head ever since.

I never thought about this sort of thing until it happened to me. And it didn’t take long to realize that once I’d pulled the trigger, sending bullets on their way, that was it. I couldn’t call them back. Nope, no “all e all ye in come free’s.” Not that I would’ve called them back, mind you. Not even one of them. It’s just that I sometimes wonder how life would be today if I’d never squeezed the trigger on my SIG P228.

Okay, enough what-if’s. Let’s get right to it. Here’s how I came about killing a guy on a blistering hot August day back in 1995.

The morning started off with me sitting in my office thumbing through a stack of offense reports from the previous night. Nothing special, a few drunks, some minor drug activity, a couple of break-ins, and the usual domestic he said-she saids.

Then it happened. The 911 call and silent alarm, both coming in at the same time. A young man—22-years-old—walked into a bank and pointed a long-barrel revolver at one of the tellers. He grabbed all the money he could carry in a white, wrinkled, plastic grocery bag, and then turned and calmly walked out the front door. The entire robbery took place in less than ten minutes.  The teller was left a trembling and tearful mess. An extremely traumatic experience for her. Victim number one.

The robber fled the scene and, unfortunately for him, he wrecked his car trying to escape. Five of us cornered the guy in a culvert beside his car—three patrol officers, one special agent from one of those “three-letter-agencies,” and me. I was dressed for court, wearing a coat and tie, which is not exactly the perfect outfit for exchanging gunfire with a bad guy on one of the hottest days of the year.

The robber had no intention of surrendering, and decided to shoot it out with us. Big mistake for him.

Four officers took cover at the top of a highway exit ramp, just above and out of the robber’s line of sight. I was closest to the gunman—twenty-five yards away to his left. My only cover was a small maple tree—a very, very small maple tree. At the time it seemed like a toothpick with only a few leaves.

The robber crouched down near the rear bumper of his car, where I watched him load his weapon—an old revolver. I yelled, begging him to drop the gun and come to us with his hands up. He ignored my orders and fired a shot toward my fellow officers on the hilltop.

The sound of his gunshot activated my brain’s slow-motion function. Time was crawling to a stop.

Somehow, and I still can’t explain it, I actually had time to look around before reacting to the gunshot. I saw my partners yelling, their mouths slowly opening and closing. Lazy puffs of blue-black smoke drifted upward from their gun barrels. I saw a dog barking to my right—its head rose and fell with each silent yap, moving slower than dial-up internet. Droplets of spittle hung in the air around its face.

I turned back to the robber, thinking “center mass,” and took aim, firing a single shot through the rear, side glass of the car and into the side of his head (that’s the only part of the body I could see at the time). He fell over onto his right side. I thought it was all over. Instead, the robber popped back up, smiling like a crazed zombie-like psycho. He fired four more times, pausing a few seconds between shots. This time I had a better view of him and answered each of his shots with one of my own, all directly into his chest. He fell each time a round hit, but only stayed down for a second.

car.jpg

Bullet hole in the rear glass from my shot. The large hole in the side of the car is from a slug fired from an officer’s shotgun.

After the fifth bullet hit him, he hit the ground and didn’t move.

Silence.

I called to everyone on my portable radio, letting them know it was over.

Suddenly, the robber jumped up and ran toward the officers on the hill. I ran after him. He stumbled, and I and a sheriff’s captain who’d just arrived on the scene, tackled him. We rolled the struggling robber over trying to gain control of his hands so we could apply handcuffs to his wrists. That’s when we saw that he still clutched the revolver in his right hand. He was squeezing the trigger repeatedly, but the gun was empty.

To this day, I can still hear the click, click, click of the hammer each time it fell.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered…suppose there had been one more round in that gun? Just one more round. What if…?

Yep, one more round in that revolver and I probably wouldn’t be here typing these words.

robber.jpg

Paramedics with wounded bank robber.

The bank robber died a few moments later. I’d killed him. And that’s when my troubles started. You see, our chief didn’t believe in counseling and de-briefing. No post-shooting administrative leave. So I was left to fend for myself. Tough cops were supposed to handle whatever came their way. My chief actually told me that a real cop would just suck it up. In fact, his way to help me avoid “mental issues” as he called it, was to send me to the morgue to photograph the robber’s body and to remove the handcuffs from his wrists. I wasn’t even given the rest of the day off.

The robber died that August morning, and his soul left for wherever it is that troubled souls go. But a part of my emotions were tethered to him, and it was several years before they returned.

A couple of weeks after the shooting, my partner and I met with the medical examiner (this was the same medical examiner’s office where Patricia Cornwell based her Kay Scarpetta series). Even though I watched each of my bullets travel through the air until they hit the robber’s flesh (those who shoot a lot sometimes have this ability), it still hit like a ton of bricks when she told me that all five of the rounds that hit the man’s body were indeed fired by me.

The famous pathologist spared no details when she described the damage caused by each bullet, telling me which rounds inflicted the life-stopping wounds. Actually, either of the last four rounds I’d fired would have killed him. The first…the round that entered the side of the robber’s head and exited near the jawline, well, surprisingly, that one wasn’t fatal. Sure, it made two nice little holes and knocked out a few teeth and ripped through tongue and other meat and tissue, but he’d have lived if only he hadn’t continued to shoot at us.

All he had to do was stay down. Toss the gun away. Give up. Just STOP SHOOTING and he would’ve lived. I would not have been forced to squeeze my trigger those last four times.

Yes, I recall firing each of the five rounds. Still can, just like it was yesterday. I smell the smells. Hear the sounds. Feel the heat. It’s with me every day of my life.

In the beginning, the dead guy only visited me during my sleep. Soon, he grew restless and figured if he couldn’t sleep, then neither would I. He visited me while I was at work. And he showed up during my off time. He walked with me while I mowed the grass, and he accompanied me to the store. His voice taunted me. His spirit tickled the hairs on the back of my neck just to let me know he was in the backseat as I drove my unmarked police car.

This was no downward spiral. No time for something that easy. This was a freefall straight to hell. Fortunately, just before I hit bottom I sought help on my own. And it took a few years to climb and crawl out of that dark pit, but I made it back and I actually think I’m a stronger person because of the experience. If nothing else, I have a real-life horror story to share.

Sixty-eight rounds of ammunition were fired during this shootout. The robber was hit five times, all five rounds were fired by me.  One police car was destroyed by gunfire. No police officers were injured by gunfire. However, soon after that day, one officer suffered a heart attack and died. He was 44. Two officers quit. Another died before he turned 55. An officer that showed up during the firefight died a few years later. None of us had received any de-briefing or counseling. None of us are in police work today.

Five more victims. Three dead. Three to go…

me-at-car.jpg

Police car destroyed by gunfire. That’s me with the cop/porn-star mustache. This photo was taken by a newspaper photographer just minutes after the robber succumbed to his wounds.

*This is a repeat post, but I’m currently traveling with no time spare time to write. I will, however, be checking in throughout the day. I’ll be back on Wednesday.

*     *     *

Hurry! Registration for the 2012 WPA will soon be closing.

Writers’ Police Academy

Viper the drug dog dies

The past twelve months have been the warmest ever. Well, they’re the warmest since recordkeeping began in 1895. And, the first half of 2012 (January – June) has been the steamiest first six months of any year on record. Again, since 1895.

All those hot days in the baking sun cause my little pea-size brain to churn a little more than usual, making me wonder if the heat has any real effect on the crime rate and types of crime committed. For example, the past couple of weeks have certainly been scorchers. I see a few heads nodding out there so it must be hot where you are too. Actually, the only place in the continental U.S. where the mercury hasn’t been bumping against the top of the tube is in Washington state, but weird crime is already the norm up there in the top left of the country.

But down here in the real meat of the U.S., things are a little crazy—a man lost his genitals in a freaky fireworks explosion, a woman was shot while dancing with an off-duty cop, a woman high on bath salts attacked a nurse and a police officer, a man beat a two-year-old with a wire coat hanger, a man was found guilty of raping his own mother on Mother’s Day, and a man was sentenced to 11 years for a drug case where a police dog named Viper bit into a package containing cocaine. Sadly, the dog died from ingesting a fatal amount of the drug.

Sure, the dog accidentally bit the package, and I’ll discuss this in a moment, but the part of the story that grabbed my attention lies within the comments made by people regarding the dog’s death, and the fact that 200 people attended the canine’s funeral.

I wonder if it is because of the extreme heat that everyone seems to be so angry about, well, everything. Here, we have a dog doing what he was trained to do…yet, people attack the story as if…well, you be the judge.

The comments below were posted on the Huffington Post regarding the story of the narcotics dog that died from cocaine ingestion:

– The dog was not trained properly

– I NEVER call a cop when I need help. If your lucky, cops leave the situation as they found it. Usually, they make the situation worse.

– The cop is guilty of reckless endangerment for putting the dog in that position.

– I am sorry but this is so over reactionary it is ridiculous. Its a dog.

– I’m kind of surprised that there was this much public support/outcry for the death of a police dog.

– people do not realize this = police dogs are given coke as puppies to get them addicted=thats why they can sniff out the yummy coke

– drug dogs are junkies by the age of 1month=very sad

– Poorly trained dog… good thing it wasn’t explosives…. BOOM !!!

– These gutless cops send dogs in when they are afraid of a situation, then mourn the death like it’s a human. And don’t get me started on cop funerals. Just another excuse to travel on the taxpayer’s buck……

– I think the dog might of had some addiction to cocaine already, I am serious…

– Clearly an improperly trained dog and handler…that’s what we get for hiring “people” with the IQ of a doorknob to police our cities.

– All on duty cops get double time for funerals in most areas. Ensures a big turn out.

– The handler taught the dog to be violent and thats what happens.

– THIS THE QUESTION FOR ALL STUPID COP LOVERS………..READ CAREFULLY AND THEN REPLY…………………………WHEN YOUR DRIVING AND LOOK IN YOUR REAR VIEW MIRROR AND SEE A COP CAR….DO YOU FEEL SAFE? OR ARE YOU SCARED OF THE MEN IN BLUE?

– I HAVE NEVER BEEN HELPED BY A COP. I DON’T KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN HELPED. I DO KNOW MANY PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN HURT BY COPS AS THEY HAVE THERE OWN RULES…..

– What ??!!?? The cop ordered some cocaine, which is against the law, and then induced the guy to deliver it to him! Then the criminal cop’s stupid dog ate the cocaine and the GUY goes to jail for 11 years? The cop should be jailed for animal cruelty! It’s time to put these cops in their place. Cut their wages, no more health care from the taxpayers, and no more pension benefits. Some of these cops get $100,000 a year!

And I agree with a commenter’s characterization of the crowd at the dog’s funeral: the clueless 200! GET A LIFE! People compalin about high taxes, then we have to put up with clown behavior like this!

– heres another dead animal because some lameass with a gun and badge was too lazy. anyone who hides behind a dog to do their job is a coward! if you cant do the job yourself, you shouldnt be working at all!

Okay, you get the idea. These comments went on, page after page after page. And it’s quite obvious that none of these people have a clue how narcotics dogs are trained to find drugs.

First of all, the dogs are never given drugs of any kind to ingest. Actually, the dogs are trained to find a toy, which is later used as a reward for finding drugs. Yes, it’s all a game to these hyper-energetic canines. To them, life is all about the toy. Nothing else matters, with the exception of their handler, and he/she fits in merely because he’s the keeper of the toy. Toy, Toy, Toy!. It’s all about the toy!

During the times when these dogs are not finding drugs, they’re with their handlers, who, by the way, are required to exercise and play with their dogs many times each day, seven days a week. They bath them, feed them, provide water, and clean their kennels. And they train every single day. In the end, after all that…it’s still all about the toy and the game…Play, Play, Play!

When I was in the Virginia State Police Academy, we trained our canines to find a rolled white towel. That was the dog’s toy, and they would climb the highest mountain to find it, and they did so because finding it always resulted in a cool game of tug with the handler.

Eventually, the towels were scented with the odor of a particular drug (we trained our dogs to locate four different drugs—marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and meth). Never were the dogs allowed to come anywhere near the real thing. And, by the way, the scents were pseudo-scents.

So, the dog finds the drug and now he’s extremely excited because he gets to play as a reward for doing a good job. And, without fail, the handler tosses out the towel (or whatever toy is used) and the games begin until the handler is out of breath (the dogs never tire).

Drug dogs are not taught to bite, chew, or even touch a drug. Some dogs, however, are trained to bark and scratch at the area where the drugs are found. Others are trained to sit the second they find a drug.

I believe what probably happened in Viper’s case, was that the animal was so excited and worked up, knowing he was about to play his favorite game, that he bit the package thinking it was his toy. I’m also sure it all happened in a split second, before the handler had a chance to pull his dog away from the danger.

I don’t believe this was a case of negligence, poor training, etc. Actually, I think the dog was doing exactly as it had been trained to do.

Unfortunately, the accident happened and Viper lost his life merely because he wanted to play his favorite game with his favorite person in the entire world.

Still, why all the anger and hatred in the comments? Is it just me, or is this the growing trend, to spew words of hate and anger in every direction without care of the consequences?

Personally, I think everyone should learn a lesson from drug dogs…life is short, so play with your toys and love your handlers, before it’s too late to enjoy them.

Presidents Battle

The fight over medical marijuana is a battle with several fronts. Many states and local governments have chosen to legalize the drug’s use to help alleviate pain associated with disease, and as treatment for cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and other conditions. The federal government, however, has classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, in the same category as heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, Ecstacy, and Methaqualone (Quaaludes)—drugs having no medical value—and, as a result, do not recognize local authority to legalize pot use and sale.

To say the local governments and the feds have butt heads over the issue would be putting it mildly. Instead, the two are basically at war, with local officials giving their stamp of approval on medical marijuana stores, only to find the feds (the three-letter law enforcement agencies) kicking in the doors of those very same businesses.

Well, those three-letter agencies, backed by the U.S. Attorney General, have armed themselves with a very subtle “bomb.” Now, in addition to “door-kicking” raids, the feds are targeting the landlords who own the buildings where medical marijuana businesses are housed.

Federal law enforcement officials are putting the squeeze on those property owners to evict their pot-selling tenants or face losing their real estate through a civil asset-forfeiture program. As recently as this month (June, 2012) federal prosecutors have filed to seize three such buildings in Santa Fe Springs, California. Which three businesses is not clear since the selection there is many. For example, a quick online search turned up these medical marijuana dispensaries in the Santa Fe Springs area.

420 Go Green Dispensary

• 12145 Slauson Ave # B

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 696-6500

AP Natural Solutions

9841 Alburtis Avenue

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 991-9393

Tri-City Patients Association

13844 Rosecrans Avenue

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 921-8300

Deeply Rooted

8807 Pioneer Boulevard

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 699-6800

Humboldt Wholesale

12513 Shoemaker Avenue

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 946-7744

Santa Fe Compasionate Health Center

13128 Telegraph Road

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 941-1111

California Alternative Healing Center

10802 Norwalk Boulevard

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 237-7638

Whittier Hop Collective

8116 Byron Road

Whittier

(562) 945-2420

Federal prosecutors have also sent out hundreds of letters to other property owners giving them the option of booting their tenants or face losing their property in civil proceedings (civil-forfeiture statute allows the government to seize any property used to commit or facilitate drug trafficking).

This method of enforcing federal law (mailing property-seizure notices) is far less expensive than sending a raid team over to each location to kick in their doors, bag and tag all evidence, haul it away, store it, and then have officers and agents, prosecutors, judges, jurors, clerks, bailiffs, and defendants in court for weeks at a time. So far, over 200 landlords have complied with the notices by evicting their pot-selling tenants.

Another tactic used by the feds is to scare banks into not doing business with medical marijuana outfits. By threatening those institutions with civil actions, many marijuana companies have been forced to operate on a “cash-only” basis, much like street dealers.

And all this comes just a few short years after presidential candidate Obama promised he would respect state laws regarding medical marijuana. Well, not only is he targeting medical marijuana dispensaries and the people who own the property, his administration has:

– denied a petition to re-classify/reschedule marijuana despite evidence that the drug does indeed have medical value.
– issued a statement that says medical marijuana patients may not purchase firearms.
– the IRS is going after pot providers based on obscure drug trafficking laws.
– prosecutors have threatened to arrest state employees for enforcing state laws regarding medical marijuana.
– threatened to target newspapers that run ads for medical marijuana businesses.

I’m not saying that I’m for or against the legalization of marijuana. What I am asking, is…why not? Why the big push against something that over half the citizens in this country want to see legalized, especially for medical use when it can help a dying cancer patient live pain free during his last days on this earth.

What are your thoughts? Legalize pot use, or not?

*DEA photos. Information source – HuffPo/Scott Morgan – Obama Must Explain His Broken Promise on Medical Marijuana, and Soon…and, of course, my brain and experience, for what that’s worth.

Rodney King: The Irony

In 1991, law enforcement in the United States would forever be changed thanks to two unsuspecting people, a 25-year-old black man named Rodney King, and a bystander with a video camera.

King, intoxicated to a point over twice the legal limit, was driving home from a friend’s house when police officers attempted to pull him over for traffic violations. Already on probation for a previous DUI and a robbery conviction, King did as many do who fear repeated incarceration…he tried to outrun the police. The pursuit involving several marked police cars and a helicopter, wound through Los Angeles neighborhoods until King finally decided to call it quits. He pulled over.

Two passengers in King’s car were arrested without incident. King, as we all know, was not. An incident definitely ensued. Officers attempted to arrest and handcuff Mr. King, who refused. The next tactic was to deploy a Taser. It was somewhere around this time when a witness to the increasing commotion, George Holliday, decided to switch on his video recorder, and the scene he captured would soon rock the nation.

Five officers, Sgt. Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Rolando Solano, used their batons to strike King at least 56 times. And if that wasn’t enough, sometime during the brutal beating, King also received six kicks to his body.

According to a subsequent lawsuit, King’s injuries amounted to nearly a dozen skull fractures, permanent brain damage, broken bones and teeth, kidney damage, and severe emotional trauma. King almost died as a result of his injuries.

The incident (and acquittal of the fives officers) prompted the L.A. riots where fifty-five people were killed and over 2,000 more were injured.

At some point during the riot King spoke via a news conference, stating his now famous words, “Can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?” The rioting stopped.

King sued the city of L.A. and won a 3.8 million-dollar settlement, most of which King said he lost in bad investments.

During the years after the 1991 incident, King seemed to struggle with alcohol and drug abuse, and continued to have run-in’s with police (11 arrests for domestic violence, threatening to kill his daughter and his daughter’s mother, DUI, reckless driving, and drug offenses). In 2007, he was shot in the face and torso.

After all he had endured (most of it of his own accord), King, an extremely troubled man, still seemed to find a light at the end of every tunnel. He had this to say in an interview earlier this year, “America’s been good to me after I paid the price and stayed alive through it all. This part of my life is the easy part now.”

It remains to be seen if substance abuse contributed to the events of this week, when Mr. King was found dead at the bottom of the swimming pool in his back yard.

Cynthia Kelly, King’s girlfriend, who was also a jury member in “the trial” that awarded the 3.8 million-dollars to King, called police after hearing what she said sounded like a fall (a table, or something) and a splash. Kelly told police that she ran outside and saw Rodney King at the bottom of the pool, so she threw a shovel in the water to hopefully wake him. Kelly cannot swim.

Kelly made a point to tell the police dispatcher that it was Rodney King, the man who police had beaten, therefore the responding officers knew exactly what to expect when they arrived. They knew it was Rodney King, THE Rodney King, at the bottom of the pool.

Still, the first officers on the scene did what all officers are supposed to do…whatever it takes to save a life. They dove into the pool, in uniform, and pulled out the lifeless body of the man whose unfortunate interaction with police in 1991 sparked the worst riot in L.A. history. They knew the man at the bottom of that pool was the man who, for over two decades, has sat alone at the dividing line between black citizens and white police officers.

Then those officers did the unthinkable…the unexpected as many would like to believe. They performed CPR on King, giving their all to revive THE Rodney King, the black man who many thought was hated by nearly all law-enforcement officers.

Yes, those police officers, the first responders, attempted to save Rodney King’s life.

Yes, this week, the ragged ends of a tragic circle finally met, when officers wearing the same uniforms as the men who so badly beat that 25-year-old black man back in 1991, did their best to save THE Rodney King. But it was too late. There was no saving King. Not this time. At 47, he died, leaving a world that’s probably not in any better shape than it was the night he decided to lead police on a high-speed pursuit through dimly-lit back streets of L.A.

Unfortunately, history tells us there will be other “Rodney Kings” in the news…Trayvon Martin is possibly the latest, and the country is currently waiting to see and hear if there’s indeed a message mired somewhere in that convoluted tragedy.

And, unfortunately, I doubt we’ll ever see the day when Rodney King’s hope that we all get along will ever come to fruition. But wouldn’t it be nice if someday there was peace throughout the world?

Wouldn’t it?

Well, fortunately, there are no officer deaths to report this week, and that’s the good news among all the other—Jerry Sandusky, another naked cannibal/zombie, butcher dismembers drug dealer using work knives, freeway beatings, man shoots at lawyer, woman starves teen daughter to death, strangled baby found in freezer, and mother injects daughter with heroin over 200 times.

Seriously, what’s wrong with people?

Why can’t we all get along?

*Justin Hoch photo – file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Police officers: More than meets the eye

Sure, you break a law and you’ll soon find out what it is that cops do best. But, the men and women who patrol your streets do more than arrest bad guys. For starters (and this list is FAR from being complete):

1. Cops Helping Kids – police officers host an annual fishing tournament to raise money for the Garth House, a children’s advocacy center that provides a safe have for children who’ve been subjected to severe physical or mental abuse.

2. Cops For Kids With Cancer – officers from several departments don ice skates for a tournament and raffle to help kids suffering from cancer.

3. Shop With a Cop – Local cops raise money to buy Christmas presents for kids who otherwise wouldn’t receive gifts. The officers actually take the kids shopping to pick out the items they’d most enjoy.

4. Cops Helping Unique Kids (C.H.U.K.) – Officers host a day of fun and games followed by a 5K run. Proceeds benefit children with cerebral palsy.

5. Philadelphia Police Athletic League Cop Helping Kids – The PPAL supervises 26 kid centers across the city. Each of the centers is directly supervised by an officer (on their own time). Programs feature sports, cultural, and educational opportunities. 100’s of volunteers make this a unique and wonderful experience for the youth of Philadelphia.

6. Cops Helping Kids Succeed – The National Police Athletic League is recognized as the largest juvenile crime prevention program in the nation. PAL provides safe, healthy alternatives for children from high risk neighborhoods.

7. Vouchers – Cops in Kitsap, Washington pass out vouchers to families with kids in need. The vouchers are redeemable at local businesses for items such as clothes, food and school supplies.

8. PAL NYC – is New York City’s largest independent youth development not-for-profit organization that operates head start/day care, after-school, evening teen, summer day camp, youth employment, truancy prevention, juvenile justice and re-entry, city-wide sports, play streets and part-time centers, food service, and adventure learning programs for pre-school kids, children and adolescents ages 3 to 19. It’s in its 95th year of service (excerpt from the PAL NYC site).

9. Badges For Baseball – Cal Ripkin, Sr. and the Justice Department partnered to form this organization that pairs police and kids together by playing softball and baseball, building a bond between the youth and the officers.

10. Cops Helping Kids Block Party – Sponsored by police, this all day block party features food, music, and fun. Proceeds benefit children in need.

11. California Police Youth Charities – Focusing on “at risk” kids between the ages of 6 and 18 years of age, the CPYU offers fun activities run by positive role models (uniformed police officers and professional athletes from various California pro teams). The CPYU stresses education and respect for others.

12. Law Enforcement Torch Run – the Torch Run is a running event in which officers and athletes carry the Flame of Hope to the Opening Ceremony of local Special Olympics competitions. In 2011, the Torch Run raised more than $42 million for the Special Olympics.

More than 85,000 police officers participate in the Torch Run.

* These twelve causes I’ve listed are a mere drop in the bucket to the multitude of good deeds performed by law enforcement officers all across the country, on their own time, without pay. And I haven’t mentioned all the instances where officers performed CPR on strangers, risked their lives to pull victims from burning buildings and cars, step in the way of danger to save others, rush into gunfire while others are running away, and listen to verbal abuse from people who simply just don’t get it.

* Top photo is of Capt. Ted Carter, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), handing off the Special Olympics Torch to Virginia State Police Sgt. Michelle Cotton.

Zombie Alerts

Thanks to video games, movies, TV, and some books, I’ve had to spend a fair amount of time over the past few years convincing my grandson that zombies aren’t real. My words, although not always totally satisfying, seemed to at least put the issue at bay…until the next TV show or video game featuring the living dead. Finally, as he got older, zombie fear died away (no pun intended).

Well, my grandson’s zombie alert system sounded the alarm again on May 26, 2012. It came without warning, too. No advance notice. And no chance to prepare. Besides, the little fellow is too young to possess explosives and machetes (for head-lopping). He doesn’t drive (everyone knows that running over a zombie will “kill” it). His mother won’t allow him to play with matches. And, at 10, he’s not quite strong enough to bludgeon the walking dead to its second death.

So, desperate to implement the ultimate protection against the latest wave of zombie attacks, my grandson’s first choice was to call me. Sure, good ‘ol grandpa would know what to do. And to show you just how smooth and all-knowing I am, here’s how the call went.

“I thought you said zombies aren’t real.”

“They’re not.”

“Yes they are.”

“No they’re not.”

“Uh, huh.”

“No, they’re not.”

“Well, the man on the news just said there’s a naked man eating another man’s face.”

“He was probably kidding.”

“He wasn’t kidding. They showed it on the news. A man is eating the guy’s face. And he growled at the cop who tried to stop him, and the cop shot him, but he kept eating, and the cop shot him again, and he still kept eating, and the cop kept shooting.” The excited boy took a deep breath… “And you know why the guy kept eating after the cop shot him?”

Having not seen the daily news and expecting a punch line, I asked, “No, why?”

“CAUSE HE”S A ZOMBIE!”

So, it was time to start the “no-such-thing-as-zombies” speech all over again. This time, however, I had a few major hurdles to overcome. Yes, a totally nude man (Rudy Eugene) had indeed chowed-down on another man’s face. And he’d growled like a starving beast when the officer approached. Hmm…

You know, it did take six shots to stop the feeding frenzy. Suddenly, I was beginning to wonder…had my grandson been right all along? Were zombies real after all?

Then, more zombie-esque stories began to pop up.

– Alexander Kinyua, a 21-year-old Morgan State University student, killed his roommate and then ate his heart and part of his brains.

– A Swedish medical university employee became suspicious that his wife was having an affair so he cut off her lips and ate them.

– Luka Rocco Magnotta packaged dismembered body parts and then mailed them to various people.

And then, to top it all off, Mao Sugiyama, a self-described “asexual” chef from Tokyo, had surgery to remove his genitals, and then cooked and served them to five PAYING dinner guests (refined zombies who prefer a piping hot meal that includes button mushrooms?).

Oh, we mustn’t forget the New Jersey man who, just last week, stabbed himself 50 times and threw bits of his own intestines and flesh at police.

Well, until the internet and cellphone cameras, the general public rarely saw the side of society that’s now and always has been fairly commonplace—murder and real-life macabre. Police officers, though, see those things as part of their everyday, run-of-the-mill, work day. People kill. They dismember. They bite of ears, fingers, toes, and even penises. And cops see it all, including cannibalism. That’s right, cannibalism is nothing new to humans (have you forgotten about Dahmer and Albert Fish?).

But growling at police officers while consuming the face of a still-living human being? Or restaurant patrons settling down to a plate of fresh chef parts?

Me? Well, I’ll pass on the lip linguine and the genital stir-fry. But you can bet your last dollar that I’m stocking up on matches and machetes. And my car is full of gas in case I need to make speed bumps out of a couple of brain-hungry, mindless “gotta’ eat flesh” zombies.

I think my grandson may have been right after all. So I’m now on high “Zombie Alert.” I’m watching everyone closely for that “telltale look.” Who knows, they could be anywhere…the bank teller, the guy in the hardware store, or the grocery store clerk.

I think I’ll make a nice sturdy hat to protect my brain.

Now where did I put that aluminum foil?