Death Penalty of Jared Loughner

Twenty-two-year-old Jared Loughner is certainly one of the most hated humans to have ever taken a breath of American air. And a wager that he’ll be found guilty of his heinous crimes would probably be a safe bet. If fact, he’ll probably be sentenced to death…if he’s not found to have a mental impairment that will prevent him from standing trial. But this story is a long way from over.

First things first. Enter the attorney who’s job will be to defend a man who killed six people, including U.S. District Judge John Roll, and wounded fourteen others (among the wounded was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords).

Criminal defense attorney Judy Clarke

The attorney dubbed “The One Woman Dream Team,” Judy Clarke, has been named to represent Loughner in federal court, and she’s no stranger to tough death penalty cases. Some of her more well-known cases include, Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Eric Rudolph (the Olympics bomber), and  Zacarias Moussaoui (9/11 conspirator). Clarke also represented Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who drowned her two young boys.

Judy Clarke is the perfect attorney for cases such as the aforementioned, since she is a fierce opponent of the death penalty. Her passions surely drive her will to triumph, and triumph she has. Rudolph, Smith, and Kaczynski all dodged death row.

Clarke’s latest client, loughner, has been charged with two counts of murder (Judge Roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, a staff member of congresswoman Giffords). He has also been charged with two counts of attempted murder and a single charge of attempting to assassinate a member of congress. Since these crimes were committed against federal employees, Loughner will answer to the charges in a federal court somewhere within the United States, in Arizona if at all possible, but not likely in any courtroom near the shooting scene, or near Judge Roll’s court (the entire federal bench in Arizona has recused itself due to close ties to Judge Roll.

Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall

The state of Arizona has yet to issue warrants, but officials, including Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, have both stated that numerous state charges will be filed. LaWall says it’s important that justice be served for all of the victims, not just federal employees. The state charges could include one for each and every person (approximately 150 people were in attendance of the meeting) who were placed in the line of fire.

It’s important to note that not all attorneys are permitted to appear and plead cases before all courts. In fact, many attorneys who’ve been admitted to the state bar never appear in federal court. To do so, special requirements  must be met.

Also, federal rules often differ from state rules of law. Will those different rules of law cause complications for Loughner’s defense?

Maybe so.

Loughner crime scene

Sure, this one’s an open and shut case since Loughner pulled the trigger, many times, in front of many witnesses. And without a doubt Loughner’s sanity, state of mind, etc. is going to be the root of his defense, and his sanity may very well be the single factor that spares his life. But it may not keep him from going to prison. And this is where the differences in state and federal rules muddy the waters.

The state of Arizona does NOT allow a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity. Federal law does. Instead, Arizona’s options are Guilty, Not Guilty, or Guilty But Insane, and a Guilty But Insane verdict means a convicted person may be held at a state mental institution, BUT, if doctors determine their sanity has been restored at some point, they will then be transferred to prison to serve the sentence for their crime.

This time, no matter the direction this case takes, Defense Attorney Judy Clarke has her hands full. I think her record of winning death penalty cases is about to take a hit because prosecutors and law enforcement officials are coming after this guy, hard.

Pima County Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik

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Registration for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy is set to open in a few days!

Reserve your spot early. Space will be limited this year!

New workshops!

New hotel!

Renowned experts in computer crimes, forensic psychology, criminal law, and bioterrorism!

Driving simulator!

Action, action, action!


EMS workers!

Cops, Cops, and more Cops!

And, yes, FATS training will be back!

Details coming soon on our all new website.

See you there!

Officer Jillian Smith

I remember the feeling of answering your first calls with your field training officer stuck to you like glue, making sure you didn’t do or say anything dumb. It was also the FTO’s responsibility to keep you safe. Sure, you’d been through months of training at the academy, but nothing could prepare you for the real street action.

Years later, I, too, became a field training officer, watching over the rookies as they learned the ropes and tricks of the trade. It’s a period in an officer’s career that’s not unlike a baby taking her first steps. They stumble around and mom or dad is always there to catch them when they fall. But there are some in this world who never trip. They never stumble. Those are the ones who hit the carpet running. And that’s the story of Arlington Texas Police Officer Jillian Smith.

Jillian was a typical girl in high school. A good student and a cheerleader. But there was one thing that set her apart from the other giggling  sixth-graders. She wanted to be a police officer, an interest sparked by the local D.A.R.E. program.

Smith, with her goals in mind, received a bachelors degree in criminology from the University of Texas where she graduated with honors in August of 2009. Six months later she was hired by the Arlington Police Department. She checked the first goal off her list and entered the police academy—Class 41. Again, her drive was evident. She earned top grades in many of the classes and she graduated on August 20, 2010.

With her academy training behind her, Smith breezed through the field training program, completing it on December 13, 2010. She now had another goal in mind. She wanted to get some street experience behind her and then, hopefully, sign on with the FBI. That was two weeks ago.

Tuesday night, fifteen short days after completing all her training, Jillian Michelle Smith was shot to death while protecting an 11-year-old child during a domestic dispute. Officer Smith had responded to a low-priority call where a woman wanted to file a report of abuse by her husband who had already left the residence.

Officer Smith was in the process of recording the necessary information when the husband returned and began firing a weapon. Smith placed herself between the gunfire and the child and was killed. The suspect also shot and killed his wife, but the child Officer Smith had protected was able to escape without harm. The suspect then shot and killed himself.

Officer Jillian Smith was a true hero, and if she were able to do so she could check one more item off her list. You see, Officer Smith firmly believed she was on this earth to protect and serve the community where she lived. And she was right. Because of her bravery a child lived to see another day.

Who says Cops can't write fiction

I saw a few comments floating around the internet yesterday about the writing skills of police officers. Those words prompted today’s blog post. Without going into detail I’ll simply provide the following.

There are hundreds of published books, both fiction and nonfiction, written by hundreds of police officers. So, contrary to to what you may have read yesterday, cops are not big dummies who can barely read and write. In fact, here are a few authors you may have heard of, and most of them are still working the streets as police officers.

Robin Burcell

Burcell is an award winning mystery author who spent over two decades working as a police officer. She served as a hostage negotiator, a detective, and as an FBI-trained forensic artist.

Jim Born

James O. Born has been a deputy U.S. Marshall, an agent with the DEA, and currently serves as a Special Agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). He’s also a very successful author who shares an editor with W.E.B. Griffith and Tom Clancy.

Mike Black

As an active-duty sergeant, Michael Black has seen some real action. He’s been a SWAT commander, a patrol supervisor, and a member of a raid team. He’s into weightlifting and the martial arts. He’s the classic tough-guy cop. And, he graduated from Columbia College, Chicago in 2000 with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction Writing. He previously earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Northern Illinois University.

Joseph Waumbaugh

Cops can’t write fiction? Yeah, right. Joseph Wambaugh is a former MWA Grandmaster!

Will Beall

Still serving the LAPD, Beall finds time between arrests to pen books. He’s also written a few episodes of a mildly popular TV show called Castle…

Rick McMahan

ATF Special Agent Rick McMahan is an award winning author whose work has been featured in books such as Death Do Us Part, edited by Harlan Coben.

John J. Lamb

A former homicide investigator and hostage negotiator, John J. Lamb is a successful mystery writer who just happens to be married to a fingerprint expert.

It would take days to list all the cop-authors and I just don’t have that kind of time. But please feel free to peruse the Police Writers website to have a look at a rather long list of authors who’d probably disagree with the statement that cops can’t write fiction.

South Fulton Firefighters: A Disgrace To The Uniform?

When I raised my right hand and pledged to protect and serve citizens and their property I took that oath seriously. Every officer does. And so does every single firefighter I know. I’ve never met a police officer or firefighter who’s in the business for the money. Not one. They took the job because they want to help people.

I’ve been called to the scene of scores of fires where I’ve seen brave firefighters wade into a wall of flames just to bring out a family heirloom, or a beloved pet. They’ve risked their own lives to save the lives of others. It’s what they do and what they do is dangerous. Very.

Firefighters, like police officers, raise their right hands and promise to help others when in need. In fact, here’s a copy of the firefighter’s pledge.

A Firefighter’s Pledge

I promise concern for others.
A willingness to help all those in need.

I promise courage – courage to face and conquer my fears.
Courage to share and endure the ordeal of those who need me.

I promise strength – strength of heart to bear whatever
burdens might be placed upon me.
Strength of body to deliver to safety all those placed within my care.

I promise the wisdom to lead, the compassion to comfort,
and the love to serve unselfishly whenever I am called.

-Author Unknown

I’ve said all this as a lead-in of sorts to a story that really rattles me to the core. And it bothers me to speak badly about public servants but, in my opinion, firefighters of South Fulton, Tennessee didn’t serve the public. In fact, they stood by and watched a couple’s home burn to the ground and didn’t lift a finger to stop it. Inside that home were a lifetime of memories along with the family pets. They all perished.

Obion County, Tennessee – Gene Cranick was burning trash in two metal drums, a common practice in rural areas of the country. The containers were quite some distance from his mobile home, yet the fire ignited nearby grass and quickly spread toward Cranick’s home. He called 911 seeking the fire department’s help.

The 911 dispatcher advised Cranick that firefighters would not be responding because he’d failed to pay a $75 “fire service fee.” The distraught homeowner told the dispatcher he’d pay whatever it took to get the firefighters to respond because his house was now on fire. The response he received was an unbelievable, “It’s too late to pay and they will NOT be responding.”

Cranick, along with friends, attempted to extinguish the blaze with garden hoses, but the fire was too much for the small amount of water. Meanwhile, the fire had spread to a neighbor’s field and fence, so they called the fire department. However, their response was quite different and in a matter of minutes a fire crew was on the scene spraying gallons of water using high-pressure hoses attached to publicly-funded fire trucks.

Why did the fire department respond to the grass fire? Because the owner of the dry weeds had paid the $75 fee in advance. So, after the Fulton FD extinguished the brush fire they stood leaning against their trucks and against the property fence and watched the Cranick home burn until it was reduced to a pile of cinders. A pile of cinders that also contained the remains of the Cranick’s beloved pets.

You know, this story disgusts me. It makes me ill…sick to my stomach. Sure, taxes and fees must be paid. It’s the law. But there are remedies available to collect those fees, even after the fact. For goodness sake, put out the fire and then sue. Get a $75 lien against the property.  Bill the homeowner for time and material plus interest. Take Visa or MasterCard. Install one of those credit card swipers directly in the body of a fire truck. Something. Anything! But don’t stand by and let a lifetime go up in flames over a few measly dollars.

Thankfully, this is an isolated incident. Firefighters everywhere are true heroes.

As for the firefighters of South Fulton who stood by and watched this family home burn…shame on you. Sure, you’ve probably saved lots of property in your day, maybe even a few lives, and you deserve thanks for those acts, but this is a dark cloud that’ll hang over your heads for a while. Policies or no policies. You were there, on the scene, and did nothing to help your fellow man. Perhaps you need to read this…again.

Fire Fighter’s Prayer

When I am called to duty, God wherever flames may rage,
give me strength to save a life, whatever be its age.

Help me to embrace a little child before it’s too late,
or save an older person from the horror of that fate.

Enable me to be alert to hear the weakest shout,
and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out.

I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me,
to guard my neighbor and protect his property.

And if according to your will I have to lose my life,
bless with your protecting hand my loving family from strife.

So what’s next, a fee for police service? “Sorry, ma’am, but you didn’t pay your $75 rape insurance…”

I’m just saying…

*This article is strictly my opinion and parts of it were paraphrased from comments found in news stories…lots of news stories).

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Writers’ Police Academy Photo of the Day

Grandson's take on cops and robbers

I was arrested at least sixty times last week. I got the works—Tasered, struck with a PR-24, peppersprayed, cuffed, stuffed, and booked. And I loved every minute of it. You see, our eight-year-old grandson came to stay with us for a week during his summer vacation and he had a million questions about my former career in law enforcement. Then came the role playing…lots of role playing. Day after day of it.

The questions started when he came into my office and saw several commendations, awards, photos, and certificates hanging on the walls around my desk. He wanted to know what a medal of valor was and what I’d done to earn awards for lifesaving. He seemed genuinely impressed that his grandfather was once an expert marksman and had even taught firearms training at the police academy.

His little fingers traced the edges of an old desk plate bearing my name, the rank of investigator, and the seal of the DEA. His big brown eyes lit up when he saw my defensive tactics master instructor certificate (he wanted to know if I had ever been a real-life Ninja). And he giggled when he saw a few old photos of me in uniform, with a full head of hair, and without the doughnut-around-the-waist syndrome. His attention lingered on the martial arts aspect of police training. He was fascinated with the fact that most police defensive tactics techniques are based on the martial arts.

We pulled out boxes of old police stuff that I’d forgotten I had. Things like old police hats and jackets, newspaper articles, and pictures. After an hour or so of digging through tons of memorabilia and listening to the accompanying stories, my grandson was ready to play cops and robbers. But he wanted to do it police academy style. He wanted to experience the real thing, from the radio call to handcuffing the crook.

What he said next was a real eye-opener for me. He said he wanted to learn how to hit people on the head with a baton (he called it a bat), beat them up, and then shoot and kill bad guys. Like real cops do in the real world.

I promptly told him that police officers don’t do things like that, but his expression quickly let me know that he doubted what I was telling him. Our conversation then went something like this:

Me: “Why do you think police officers do things like that?”

Grandson: “Because that’s what they do on TV and on video games, and it’s way cool!”

Me: “It’s not way cool to hurt people.”

Grandson: “Uh huh! It’s cool when they bash their brains out and blood goes everywhere. And they kill the bad guys with machine guns and bombs and sticks and shotguns.”

Me: “I think we need to have a long talk. Have a seat.”

And that’s exactly what we did. We had a long talk and I explained that a police officer’s job is to help people, not hurt them. But I also explained why it’s necessary to sometimes use force when bad guys are trying to hurt other people.

My grandson then wanted to know about police weapons and how they’re used to help people. Well, I don’t have an arsenal lying around the house so I did the next best thing, killing two birds with one stone. His second favorite thing (next to playing police) is to make things, preferably out of wood. So I took him out to the garage where we pulled out a few tools—saws, hammers, sandpaper, glue, and paint, and we went to work making some basic police equipment. I figured that by fashioning the items from scratch he’d have a better understanding of the finished products. We made a few crude items—a pistol, a can of pepperspray, a PR-24 (side-handle baton), and a Taser.

With those freshly-made tools in hand, along with a pair of real handcuffs, two radios, and my old Maglite, I went to work showing my grandson how and when each of the tools are safely used by police officers.

I explained Use of Force and each of the levels. He learned gun safety. We role played. We talked on walkie-talkies. He arrested me or let me go depending upon the situation.

He conducted traffic stops. He raided my office countless times. He saved innocent victims, and he hauled the bad guy (me) to jail.

In short, my grandson went through a mini police academy, and graduated with flying colors. He also expressed an understanding of just how wrong TV can portray police officers.

Me, I had a wonderful time playing cops and robbers. Better yet, my grandson and I became closer than we’d ever been. I’m already counting the days until next summer. I wonder how long it would take me to build a police car out of wood?

Shoot low boys, they might be riding Shetland ponies.”

– Lewis Grizzard

I started The Graveyard Shift a few years ago in response to requests from numerous authors, most of whom are mystery and crime writers. Actually, many of those requests came from members of MWA and SinC. The first day I posted an article the site received a whopping 68 visits. I won’t say how many hits and emails we receive today, but it’s in the thousands, from all over the world. The blog is translated into several languages, and it’s used as a research tool for numerous school projects. The latter is why I do not allow bad language or other material that’s not suitable for children. And, believe me, it’s tough to maintain that standard when you’re writing about cops and criminals. But we try.

The Graveyard Shift has come a long way since our first day online. We’ve undergone major changes in the appearance, and we’ve had to increase the bandwidth a few times to keep up with the amount of traffic received. On Christmas Day, a couple of years ago, the site shut down because it couldn’t keep up with the incoming hits. Thankfully, our web host was able to take care of the problem even though it was a major holiday.

We’ve been both proud and fortunate to have featured many top-of-the-line guests on the site, including bestselling authors, TV and film writers, actors, law enforcement and forensic experts, literary agents, publishers, and professionals from other fields of interest to writers, readers, and TV viewers. We’ve advertised books and other products for our guests, and even a few connections between authors, agents, and publishers have been made as result of The Graveyard Shift. The idea for the Writers’ Police Academy (something else we do for the benefit of writers) was conceived as a result of The Graveyard Shift and reader response. Proceeds from that event are for the benefit of the criminal justice foundation at the police academy where the event is held.

This site is basically a free service for writers and anyone else who happens to drop by. We don’t make a dime from it. Never have. In fact, it costs us quite a bit of money to produce, and that’s not to mention the huge amount of time that’s put into bringing current information and material to our readers.

Somebody out there must like The Graveyard Shift because the amount of traffic we receive is astounding. Knowing that we’ve been able to help, in some small way, has been wonderful. But…and there’s always a but, huh? So here goes:

Normally, when a topic that I believe would be of benefit to the writing community (I base this on the questions I receive, chatter I hear from writers, and things I’ve read in books), I’ll post a quick mention of that topic and a link to the site on a few writer group loops. Apparently that practice, and this blog, have offended a handful of people on a couple of the loops. Those folks have expressed concern that my brief ads regarding the topic of the day are a form of self-promotion and that I should not be allowed to continue posting those short messages. Honestly, self-promotion was never my intention. Since the first post of this blog my intention has merely been to help writers with their work. I do not post the link to this site as a method of BSP. Besides, I have nothing of my own to promote. No new books.  Nothing. And, the site is free to anyone who wants to take advantage of it.

So, I’m torn between trying to help and continuing with business as usual, or changing our entire game plan.  We certainly don’t want to offend any more people than we already have. I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas, since you’re the reason we do this. Do you want to know when we’ve posted a particularly important topic?

You know,

when I post those one-line ads it’s normally because I’ve read something wrong about police procedure or forensics in somebody’s book. Was it yours?

A Philadelphia police officer used a Taser to take down a 17-year-old boy who ran onto the field during a Phillies game. The boy ran around the outfield for a few seconds before being brought down by the Taser’s electrified probes.

A December 2009 ruling by the liberal-leaning Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set judicial standards for police and their use of Tasers. “The objective facts must indicate that the suspect poses an immediate threat to the officer or a member of the public,” said Judge Kim Wardlaw in the ruling.

So, what’s your opinion? Was the officer’s Taser use justified in this case? Was there a threat to the officer or anyone else?  Were restraint options other than Taser use available to security and police? Keep in mind that it is illegal to trespass on the ball field.

By the way, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said, “The officer acted appropriately, and I support him 100 percent.”

– It seems that this incident was not much of a deterrence. The next day a second fan made his way onto the field, but was captured without the use of a Taser. Security managed to grab this one the old fashioned way, with their hands.

* 334 people died in the United States from 2001 to August 2008 after being hit by Tasers.

Officer down!

Two simple words with a huge meaning — life or death.

When searching for a topic for today’s blog I stumbled across a series of troubling headlines, many involving the shooting of police officers by a thug with a gun who thought nothing of pulling the trigger. In fact, shooting and killing a police officer in these modern times is an act regarded by some as no more serious than swatting a fly.

When did society make this turn, where a human life is no more valuable than that of an insect? Kids can longer travel to Mexico during spring break out of fear of being gunned down or beheaded by members of drug cartels. A simple walk in a park sometimes leads to a missing person case that all too often ends with the discovery of a body in a landfill or shallow grave in the woods. Suicide bombers kill anybody they can, doesn’t matter who. They just want to kill somebody.

Police officers respond to calls of domestic violence only to be shot by the very people they’re trying to help. Traffic stops result in gun fire. Bank robberies and convenience store hold-ups end in shoot outs.

Each and every day police officers are slapped, punched, spit on, kicked, stabbed, cut, and shot. All while enforcing laws, and protecting citizens and their property.

Cops didn’t band together and write up a bunch of laws so they’d have something to do.

It wasn’t a police officer who one day decided to make pot illegal, which, by the way, was the cause of two Baltimore, Md, police officers being shot this past weekend. Officers stopped a car and subsequently found marijuana. During the arrest of the car’s occupants the driver pulled a .25 caliber pistol and fired. He shot one officer in the cheek and the other in the hand. The suspect was shot and killed by the third officer at the scene.

Each Friday I post a list of officers killed in the line of duty during that week. As most of you know, I rarely ever report a death-free week. What you don’t see are the survivors — the officers who are hurt, wounded, or involved in shooting situations during the course of their shifts. To give you an idea of what goes on, here are just a few of the headlines for the past couple of weeks.

Jacksonville, Fl. – Arrest Made After Two Florida Cops Shot During Pursuit

Citrus Heights, Ca. – California Officers Shot During Struggle With Suspect

Baltimore – Maryland Officer Shot At Traffic Stop, Suspect Killed

Salt Lake City – DA Says Officer Justified In Shooting

Hemet – California Police Tense After Latest Gang Threat (police stations and cars have been booby-trapped with explosives, gas, and other deadly weapons)

Oak Hill – West Virginia Cop Survives Shooting; Manhunt For Suspect

Atlanta – Suit Says Ga. Cop Wasn’t Certified When He Shot Suspect

Elyria – Ohio Cop Killed Responding To Disturbance

Anaheim – Off-duty Cop Fatally Shoots Violent Man

Jefferson – North Carolina Officer Dies At the End Of His Shift

Philadelphia – Pa. Gun Trafficker Gets Ten Years After Cop’s Death

Liberty County – Texas Sheriff’s Deputies Shot, Suspect Dead

What has happened to people? Why are things as they are? Are bad things influencing good people? Are people copying what they see and hear?

Video games?




Bad parenting? Poor education? What????

Why do people kill? Why do the lives of police officers mean nothing to some people?

I ask you, would you want a job where going to work meant you might be stabbed, shot, or even killed? And people wonder why cops can’t trust anyone.

I’m just saying…

Police dogs are fearless animals, and so are their handlers – fearless, that is. So are patrol officers, investigators, motorcycle cops, bike officers, SWAT team members, hostage negotiators, corrections officers, and everyone else who wears a badge and swears to uphold the law and protect people and their property.

Everybody who raises their right hand to take that oath knows there’s a certain amount of danger involved with the job. They know there’s a chance that they just may get a little boo-boo every now and then – a scraped knee, or even a loose tooth or two. I, like many officers, have been cut, punched, and slapped silly. In fact, I still have a few boxes of band-aides that look like crime scene tape. It’s just a part of the job.

Officers are going to get injured. If they don’t, then they’re not pulling their weight on the street. But the point is, every cop knows the risks, and should not expect pristine, accident-free working conditions. A cop’s job is simply not the same as that of a concert pianist, or the guy who tests feather pillows for a living.

You know, the moment when your new boss hands you a gun, a handful of bullets, and a bullet-proof vest, is the moment, if there’s a doubt, when the average person should ask the new supervisor if there’s any danger involved in his newly chosen career. I do believe most people would pick up on those subtle clues without having to ask. Still, someone for the “Here’s your sign” club always seems to slip through the cracks.

“…I learned to drive an 18 wheeler in my days of adventure. Wouldn’t ya know I misjudged the height of a bridge. The truck got stuck and I couldn’t get it out no matter how I tried. I radioed in for help and eventually a local cop shows up to take the report. He went through his basic questioning. No problem. I thought for sure he was clear of needing a sign… until he says “ your truck stuck?” I couldn’t help myself! I looked at him, looked back at the rig, then back to him and said, “No I’m delivering a bridge …Here’s your sign!”

I’ve said all this to tell you a little story about Officer George Gabaldon, an Albuquerque, New Mexico police officer. In 2006, Officer Gabaldon was working patrol, a job he was hired to do (he’d already received his gun, bullets, and vest), when he and another officer stopped a truck that was traveling in the wrong lane of travel. In fact, the truck almost hit Officer Gabaldon’s patrol vehicle head on. See, there’s one of the dangers of the job right there. Hey, Gabaldon, this was a clue. Danger was approaching!

As it turns out, the truck was stolen. Danger clue number two. Bad guys who drive stolen cars are normally pretty desperate to get away, therefore they do crazy things like riding on flat tires, or even riding on just the metal rims when they run out of rubber (For some reason, these dummies always seem to have flat tires). Well, lo and behold, that’s exactly what Gabaldon and his partners were faced with on that particular November night – dangerous crooks riding on metal rims. Any cop’ll tell you that’s a bad combination.

Officer Gabaldon correctly called for backup. After all, a dead hero is exactly that…dead. Cops come out of the woodwork like frenzied roaches when one of the fellow Boys in Blue calls for assistance, and things were no different in this case. Even one of the city’s canine units rolled up to lend a hand and four paws. Those desperadoes weren’t getting away from Gabaldon and crew. No, sir! Besides, there’s safety in numbers. That’s why you see forty or fifty dozen police cars on the side of the road parked behind a VW Beetle while displaying enough spinning, flashing, and blinking candlepower to serve as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon light show. No one wants to get hurt. Everyone wants to go home safe and sound at the end of the shift.

Okay, so here’s how we stand – stolen car, desperate criminals, Gabaldon and crew are ordering the men out of the car at gunpoint. Nothing out of the ordinary. A typical felony traffic stop. Cops make stops like this one all the time, nearly every single night of their lives.

Well, here’s where things started to go a little south for Officer Gabaldon. He was approaching the passenger’s side of the car when the sound of a police canine barking and running approached from the rear. That’s a good thing, right? I mean, a police dog can single-pawedly take down a man and hold him until its handler arrives to cuff and stuff the crook (We haven’t quite figured out how to train canines to handcuff bad guys. Something about a lack of fingers for cuffing, and no pockets to hold the keys). The cavalry was on the way, right?

Unfortunately, the highly-trained dog had set it’s sights on Gabaldon, not the car thief. So the animal did what he knew best. It bit Officer Gabaldon on the leg, and then refused to let go, which is what it was trained to do – hang on until given the command to release. It was a mess to say the least. Gabaldon sat bleeding on the pavement until he could be treated by medical personnel.

Granted, being bitten by a dog is a very unpleasant ordeal, especially when that animal is a police dog that will not let go, no matter what. And the more you struggle, the harder it bites. The animals know they’re supposed to keep the bad guys in that spot until their boss shows up to tell them how truly wonderful they are. After all, that’s what the dogs live for, to please their handlers. Nothing more, nothing less.

So, Gabaldon decides to sue (the suit is nearing its end this year). After all, he claims the city wouldn’t even pay to have his torn pants repaired. He says the pain he suffered as a result of the dog bite was unbearable, and I’ll have to agree with him on the pain part of his complaint. I know when I went through the state police academy with my dog I was bitten several times by several dogs during the 2,141,920 week training class (I know, but it seemed as if it lasted that long!).

Now, here’s where stupid just gets stupid…

I’m not sure how much monetary compensation Officer Gabaldon is seeking, but I do know that he’s asking the courts to change the way police canines are trained. He wants them to stop biting. Instead, he’s asking that the animals be completely muzzled and be trained to locate dangerous murders and rapists and then merely stand there barking at them – no holding with their teeth. He says law enforcement absolutely does not need biting dogs – they’re just too dangerous to have around. No place for them in the business. The fact that he got bitten should come as no surprise, Gabaldon said, since the intent is for the dog to bite after being unleashed, without a muzzle. Duh.

Okay, to clear up a point for you writers. Police canines (the ones trained to bite, not explosive or cadaver dogs) are trained to focus on a specific target that’s pointed out to them by their handlers (there’s a little secret code that’s shared between the dog and handler). If you attended the Writers’ Police Academy last year, you saw an excellent demonstration of this by one of Hamilton PD’s canines (below).

That dog locked on his target and never once once took its eyes off the man (Officer Dave Crawford who kindly volunteered to wear the bite sleeve). I have to say, in the case of Gabaldon’s bite, I believe there may have been a bit of handler error. BUT, I cannot say this for sure because I was not there. But I can say this for sure, a dog that’s only allowed to bark at a gun-wielding murderer will be about as effective as sending in the…

Attack Bunny!

I’m just saying…

*     *     *

Writers Police Academy

* FYI – If you have chance , please stop by Murderati. Cornelia Read invited me over there to grill me about the Writers’ Police Academy.

The Don Knotts Silver Bullet Novel Writing Contest is now open!

The Don Knotts Silver Bullet Contest Award winner will receive The Silver Bullet Award, free Writers’ Police Academy registration ($235 value), and have the opportunity to submit their entire manuscript to one of the judges (to be determined later based upon the genre and work itself). Additional prizes forthcoming. Here’s your chance to get your work in front of top agents and publishers! The contest is open to the general public and writers from all genres, not just academy registrants and mystery writers!

Please visit the Writers’ Police Academy website for details.

Contest judges are:

Annette Rogers, Acquisitions Editor of the Poisoned Pen Press, searches for new, unpublished mystery writers. Recent successes include Carolyn Wall SWEEPING UP GLASS, Jeffrey Siger MURDER ON MYKONOS, and Edward Ifkovic LONE STAR. In addition she evaluates and edits manuscripts, corresponds with writers and agents, and fends off Facebook friend requests. Rogers published a bestselling travel book on EGYPT-translated into six languages, wrote for O, The Oprah Magazine, and covered court hearings on the Mormon Bomber case for Time/Life. She has a Masters Degree in History and English.

Benjamin LeRoy is a founder of Tyrus Books-a publisher specializing in crime and dark literary fiction. Before starting Tyrus in July of 2009, he founded and ran Bleak House Books. He lives in Madison, WI where he works on his own writing and is endlessly fascinated with the history of baseball.

Elizabeth Pomada worked at David McKay, Holt Rinehart & Winston, and the Dial Press in New York City before moving to San Francisco in 1970 with her partner and husband, Michael Larsen. Together, they started Michael Larsen – Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents in 1972. Since then, they have sold books from hundreds of authors to more than 100 publishers. Elizabeth is a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives, The Author’s Guild, ASJA, WNBA and co-founder with Michael of the San Francisco Writers Conference and the Writing for Change conference.

Kimberley Cameron began her literary career as an agent trainee at the Marjel de Lauer Agency in association with Jay Garon in New York. She worked for several years at MGM developing books for motion pictures. She was the co-founder of Knightsbridge Publishing Company with offices in New York and Los Angeles. In 1993 she became partners with Dorris Halsey of The Reece Halsey Agency, founded in 1957. Among its clients have been Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner, Upton Sinclair, and Henry Miller. She opened Reece Halsey North in 1995 and Reece Halsey Paris in 2006. Her associate Elizabeth Evans opened Reece Halsey New York in 2008, and in 2009 the agency became Kimberley Cameron & Associates.

Okay, so the Feds say they won’t raid facilities that sell legal medical marijuana, but they do anyway. States pass laws allowing the sale and use of medical marijuana, but the DEA still suits up and arrests the sellers, growers, and users. Well, some users were fed up with the constant worry of being arrested, so they began manufacturing a synthetic LEGAL form of marijuana called K2. Yep, this stuff produces a nearly identical high by replicating the effects of THC, the high-producing chemical that’s found in marijuana. And there are no laws anywhere that regulate the manufacture, sale, or possession of the stuff.

K2 was developed by one of Professor John Huffman’s students in a Clemson University chemistry laboratory. The student discovered the chemical while studying the effects of pharmaceuticals on the brain. The new chemical was named JWH-018 (JWH are Professor Huffman’s initials).

Professor Huffman collaborated with researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and began a study of the effects of K2 on laboratory mice. The scientists quickly noted that K2 is more potent than marijuana. However, human users say the effects, while slightly similar to marijuana, simply are not the same, nor are they as pleasant.

There have been no studies conducted regarding the effects of K2 on the human body. No one knows what harm could occur as a result of smoking the newly discovered chemical. But many users say they don’t care, because they no longer have the fear of arrest and imprisonment that’s associated with smoking pot.

One user said a K2 “buzz” did not last nearly as long as a marijuana high. He went on to say that he’d rather spend a few extra dollars to purchase the real thing. Other users offered these comments about K2:

“Made me nauseous. I had to lie down immediately after smoking it.”

“It’s fairly comparable to a pot high, but it tasted like cloves.”

“The world just seemed to tick a bit slower.”

“It dulled my senses.”

“Gave me cottonmouth.”

“No red eye!”

“I could smoke this at work and no one would be able to tell!”

“I was very paranoid after smoking it. Two thumbs up!!”

“Oh, I’d definitely do this again.”

K2, also known as Spice. Genie, and Zohai, is available in stores for legal purchase. While K2 does not test positive for THC, it does show positive test results for synthetic cannabinoids, which doesn’t really matter because because the synthetic form is legal, for now. Needless to say, this is something that’s very attractive to former marijuana users who are now on probation or parole and must submit regular/random urine samples for drug testing.

K2 is extremely popular in Kansas where lawmakers intend to follow in the footsteps of Britain, Germany, France, Poland, South Korea and Russia—all have banned the sale and use of K2.

In Kansas, K2 sells for approximately $10 per gram (about the same +/- for marijuana, depending on where you are in the country), but the price may vary a bit depending upon the potency level. K2 is available in assorted flavors, such as Citron.