I’ve heard the word entrapment spoken to or shouted at officers, including me, at least a thousand times over the years, especially when undercover ops came to a close and the bad guys discovered the true identity of a person, an undercover police officer, they’d admitted to their inner circle. That it was the undercover agent to whom they’d spilled their deepest secrets. And it was the sneaky cop to whom they’d trusted enough to sell mounds of illegal goods such as cocaine and/or guns. Those officers who, while during the course of their assignments, concealed their identities to infiltrate criminal enterprises.

And it doesn’t stop there, with undercover operations. No, not at all. I’ve had the word tossed at me during traffic stops and during investigations of murders, burglaries, white collar crimes, and even B&Es.

Entrapment is often a go-to word when a bad guy is caught with his hand in the cookie jar. It’s almost as if some people think it’s a “get out of jail free” card.

So what exactly is entrapment?

For starters, it’s more than simple trickery, such as when undercover cops grow long hair and beards, and wear jeans, t-shirts, and tennis shoes as part of a disguise so that they’ll fit in with a certain crowd. Or, when a female officer wears a tight, short skirt and 10-inch heels while parading along sidewalks pretending to be a hooker who’s fishing for “customers.”

A person is “entrapped” when he is persuaded by police, or their agents—someone acting on their behalf, such as an informant—to commit a crime that he had no previous intention of carrying out. In simpler terms, the officer or agent of the police convinced the person to commit a crime he otherwise would not have committed. Cops may not plant the “commit the crime seed” into the mind of an innocent person.

A defendant who is the victim of entrapment may not be convicted of the crime.

The DOJ – Entrapment

The Department of Justice details entrapment as …

“Entrapment is a complete defense to a criminal charge, on the theory that ‘Government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute.’ Jacobson v. United States, 503 U.S. 540, 548 (1992). A valid entrapment defense has two related elements: (1) government inducement of the crime, and (2) the defendant’s lack of predisposition to engage in the criminal conduct. Mathews v. United States, 485 U.S. 58, 63 (1988). Of the two elements, predisposition is by far the more important.

Inducement is the threshold issue in the entrapment defense. Mere solicitation to commit a crime is not inducement. Sorrells v. United States, 287 U.S. 435, 451 (1932).”

Solicitation of a Crime is NOT Entrapment!

It’s perfectly legal for police officers to pretend to be someone they’re not in order to get to the bottom of a criminal case. For example, the undercover officer who pretends to be a an arms dealer who requests to purchase illegal firearms from a suspected criminal.

It is not entrapment when a person is ready and willing to commit a crime when approached by an officer, undercover or not.

The mere providing of an opportunity to commit a crime is not entrapment. In order to find entrapment, there must be persuasion to commit a crime by the entrapping party.

Entrapment is a legitimate defense. However, the burden of proof is squarely on the shoulders of the defendant. To claim inducement, a defendant must prove that police conduct absolutely created a situation where a law-abiding citizen (the defendant) would commit an offense. The defendant must prove to the court that he was unjustly persuaded, coerced, threatened, and/or harassed into a situation where he committed the crime for which he was charged.

Again, an undercover officer who merely approaches someone to ask if they’d be willing to sell the officer a quantity of drugs, and they do, this is not entrapment. The officer in no way unjustly persuaded, coerced threatened, and/or harassed the subject. Instead, he asked for a product and the subject delivered the goods.

For example, the case of Officer Ima Agent and cocaine seller Willie Deal:

Officer Ima Agent, dressed in jeans, a Grateful Dead t-shirt, and scuffed, red Chuck Taylors, sees Willie Deal, a suspected drug runner, standing on a street corner. She sees Deal make several exchanges with people—cash for small, pebble-shaped pieces of aluminum foil. So she approaches Deal and their conversation goes something like this.

“What’s up?” says Agent.

Deal gives the female undercover cop a head to toe once over. “Just chillin’. Know what I’m sayin’, Shorty?”

“I’m in town for the weekend visiting my boyfriend. He’s in the county lockup and one of his friends, Joe Blow, said I might be able to hook up around here. He point me in the right direction?”

“Depends, Shorty. Whatcha’ looking for?”

“Just a rock or two. All I got is thirty bucks, though.”

Deal gives her another look. Thinks for a minute. Looks around. Another look. “Okay, Shorty. Let me see the thirty and see what I can do.”

Officer Agent shows Deal a crumpled ten and twenty (undercover cops always wrinkle “buy money.)” New bills are dead giveaways to bad guys, that they’re dealing with a rookie undercover cop.

Deal produces two small foil-wrapped packages. Agent opens one to inspect the goods and determines that it is indeed crack cocaine. Then she signals to her partners with a quick a scratch to the right side of her head, the sign to move in to make the bust.

The scenario between Agent and Deal is a legal arrest. No entrapment.

Deal was absolutely ready and willing to sell drugs. Agent in no way unjustly persuaded, coerced, or threatened Deal to sell her the drugs.

 

Have you ever had one of those bosses who knows everything about everything? You know the type, no matter what you say or do, they know best, did it better, faster, and more cost efficient, all while walking uphill during a snowstorm while barefoot.

Well, as bad as it is for you guys to work for one of these know-it-all’s, imagine doing so while working as a police officer where split-second decisions could mean the difference between someone living or dying.

Add to that, the boss decides he wants to come out and play cops and robbers during an important operation, unannounced, making those split-second decisions for you … over the course of an hour or so without knowing details, background, the names of the bad guys and whether they’re armed, or not. Not a freakin’ clue.

Well, I once had one of those bosses, and …

The bust promised to be a good one—cocaine, heroin, and a boat load (just an expression) of shrooms and pills. I’d worked on the case for a couple of months, spending lots of undercover time hanging out with this group of doofuses, and I’d reached the point where I was ready to get warrants for everyone, including search warrants for two properties.

One residence was the single-story modest home of a guy, Carey D. Weight, who held most of the group’s dope. He also did most of the packaging and transporting. The other search warrant was for the home of the top dog in the operation.

In this case, the top dog was a female—a young, somewhat attractive female, Betty Bigbutt, who lived with her elderly grandmother and her grandmother’s full-time healthcare worker. Oh, and I should mention that the female’s family was very much a high-profile family. Quite well-to-do with a very famous relative.

So, the plan was for one team to search the packager’s home, which was basically a dump, while the other team was set to paw through some extremely expensive items inside an elegant and ornate southern mansion. However, just before executing the warrants, an emergency developed and members of one of the search teams were forced to respond to assist troubled patrol officers.

Therefore, left with only one entry team, I had to change my plans, deciding to go for the top dog first, sending one officer over to guard Weight’s home in case he decided to suddenly depart. I had no idea that the chief of police and one of his captains were out, together, snooping around and playing Junior G-Men.

Our team was in position, ready to knock and announce at the front door when a faint voice crackled in my earpiece. I held up my hand, indicating I wanted everyone to stand down. Thinking something had gone wrong I backed away from the house. I heard the voice again, but couldn’t make out what the person had said. So I turned up the volume.

The barely-above-a-whisper voice of our chief of police came through, and he said, “The groceries have landed.”

I turned toward the officer standing next to me to make sure I’d heard what I thought I’d heard. He shrugged, also not knowing the meaning of our fearless leader’s words.

So I keyed my mic and softly said, “Repeat your traffic.”

And again, “The groceries have landed.”

Remember, an entire entry team, all dressed in black and armed to the max, were hanging out, attempting to hide in a yard in a prestigious neighborhood. Our vehicles were parked a couple of streets over. And here we were, trying to figure out what message our chief was trying to convey, on a radio frequency monitored by everyone in the country who owned a police scanner. He hadn’t bothered to use the tactical channel.

Finally, the colonel says, in a loud bass voice, “Capt. Ding Dong and I are parked across the street from Carey D. Weight’s house, watching it for you until you finish serving the search warrant at Betty Bigbutt’s place. Somebody just showed up with a package. We think it’s drugs. The. Groceries. Have. Landed!”

So much for the element of surprise. He couldn’t have done more harm by using a megaphone to announce the operation and, as a result, it would be only a few minutes before every media truck in town would be parked in front of Weight’s house, hoping for an action-packed breaking story.

Well, since the entire city, county, and state had just learned of our location and plans, I told the team to back off and keep the house under surveillance until I got back. Then I made a beeline for the chief. My hands had already formed a tight circle, one I’m sure would have fit nicely around my bosses neck.

When I turned onto the street where Weight lived, the first thing I saw was the chief’s sparkling white car backed into a large group of head-high hedges, directly across the street from our target’s home, standing out like a sore thumb. The nose of the unmarked car was a mere six or seven feet from the sidewalk, almost close enough that passersby could slap its hood with the palm of a hand. Blue lights in the grill and in the front of the rear-view mirror glowed hotly, reflecting the light from the streetlamp they’d parked under. Yep, Barney and Gomer were incognito, big time.

Needless to say, the bust didn’t take place that night. And I learned to never, ever, tell the chief of my plans. He could learn about them like everyone else … film at 11:00.

 

 

All cops work cases that stand out above the others. The ones that seem a bit more senseless than others. The crimes that make no sense whatsoever. And these cases, well, they’re typically committed by criminals whose wiring is sometimes wildly cross-connected, or the ends of those wires are attached to wrong terminals inside a damaged mind—positives to negative posts or something of that nature.

Personally, I’ve investigated numerous murders where the killers lived in worlds all their own, including man who believed martians told him to kill. And there was another man who thought he was Jesus, the Son of God, a divine position that gave him license to kill at will.  These folks resided entirely within the confines of their unbalanced imaginations and the illnesses that fueled them.

The Briley brothers of Richmond, Va. were a pair of siblings who  assassinated  people for fun. The two, Linwood and James Briley, were responsible for nearly a dozen homicides during a seven month period.

Linwood, whom I had the “honor” of guarding once he was captured after an escape from death row, was the first of the brothers to kill. In 1971, while still a juvenile, he sat at his bedroom window with a rifle and took aim at his elderly neighbor through her kitchen window as she went about her daily routine. He shot and killed her. Just for fun.

The Brileys were nothing short of walking, talking, and breathing, evil, in every sense of the word.

But one of the most senseless and mind boggling of all murders I’d investigated over the years was perhaps a killing that occurred on a lazy, summertime Saturday morning, near the noon hour. The neighborhood kids were out in force, with a group of boys playing a game of baseball in a street marred by dozens of potholes. The asphalt road was lined with four-room houses of clapboard siding and rusty tin roofs. Front yards were mostly dirt of the southern red-clay variety. One or two gangly weeds clung to life here and there, but that was about it for vegetation.

Old people sat on front porch rockers or battered, old cloth couches, drinking iced tea from Mason jars. They were enjoying watching the children play, perhaps thinking back to the day when they played similar games in the era when the streets were nothing more than dirt paths that connected their area to downtown.

But this Saturday morning was a day I’ll always remember. It was a case that involved two brothers. Twins, they were, and the very much true story goes something like this ….

 

Dog Number Twelve: The Brothers Most Grim

 

Smoke,

Charcoal fire.

Sun,

Blue sky.

 

Balls,

Bats, gloves.

Swing,

A hit.

 

First,

Manhole cover.

Second,

Fire Hydrant.

 

Third,

Wood plank.

Home,

Old tire.

 

Kids,

Laughing, squealing.

Out!

No, safe!

 

Pop,

Apron on.

Cooking,

Hot dogs.

 

Sons,

Both alike.

Twins,

Teen boys.

 

Ah,

Delicious odors.

Wafting,

Mouths watering.

 

Lunch,

It’s ready.

Platter,

Piled high.

 

Seated,

At table.

Blessing,

Give thanks.

 

Amen,

Dig in.

Eating,

Chewing, swallowing.

 

Forks,

Clanging, clicking.

Then,

Eleven gone.

 

Only,

One dog.

Single,

On platter.

 

Mine!

No, mine!

I,

Said mine!

 

You’ll,

Be sorry.

I’ll,

Kill you!

 

Dog,

Number twelve.

Speared,

With fork.

 

Twin,

Number one.

Shot,

By Two.

 

Dead,

Eyes open.

One,

Grabbed dog.

 

From,

Lifeless Fingers.

Chewed,

And Swallowed.

 

Twin,

No more.

Alone,

In solitary.

 

Prison,

For Life.

All,

For dog number twelve.

 

 

The Exclusionary Rule keeps police officers in check while conducting searches. It prevents prosecutors from presenting illegally obtained evidence.

The rule states that any evidence siezed during an improper search cannot be used, no matter how incriminating it may be (see Fruit of the Poisonous Tree below).

And, if this improper evidence the key piece to the entire case—the smoking gun—the prosecution may be forced to drop the case, sending a very guilty crook back on the street. The defendant may also have grounds for a civil suit against the officers involved, as well as the police department and the city.

The Exclusionary Rule is basically the Supreme Court keeping watch over search-warrant-serving cops.

There are exceptions to the exclusionary rule, such as:

When officers rely on a warrant that later turns out to be invalid. For example, officers search a house and find a large cache of illegal weapons along with a guy who’s in the process of grinding off serial numbers from an AK-47. Later, the court learns that the address on the warrant was incorrect because the detective accidentally typed River Avenue instead of River Road. Or, the landmarks used to identify the property to be searched were improperly recorded.

“I meant the blue house on River Road, the first one on the right past the old oak tree, not the first one on the left. It was an honest mistake. Oops!”

The warrant may still be ruled valid and the seizure of the guns may still be legal. Or, the warrant may be ruled invalid but the seizure of the weapons could possibly stand. This is so because the officers were acting in good faith, believing they were on the property based on a constitutionally sound warrant (This is a weak example, but you get the idea).

However, if a police officer lies to the judge or magistrate, or if the judge or magistrate showed bias toward the officers when issuing the search warrant, the warrant is invalid and the exclusionary rule is in effect. The evidence recovered by the police may not be used. In fact, it will be tossed out of court, and possibly the officer too …


Did you know??

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree – Illegally obtained evidence cannot be used against a defendant. Evidence illegally obtained is “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree.”

Suicide by Cop was a theory that developed after the young man whose life ended shortly after he sent several bullets flying in my direction. He’d left his hometown possibly to avoid a sexual assault trial centered around a serious crime he’d been accused of committing. The trial was on the horizon, therefore, some believed he’d decided to skip town. So he packed clothing into a military duffel bag and loaded it and a small amount of fishing gear into a station wagon he’d borrowed from his father. Then he headed southeast from the upper mid-West state where he and his family lived.

If his wish had been to die at the hand of police officer, well, that wish came true a few weeks later when he and I met alongside I95 in Virginia. He’d just robbed a bank and during a police pursuit, crashed his car into a culvert at the end of an entrance ramp leading onto the busy highway. The pursuing officer was a rookie I’d trained in defensive tactics and officer survival during his time at the police academy.

Long story short, since many of you know the details, he came out of his car with gun in hand and after a few moments, came up shooting. After I’d returned fire, hitting him with all five of the rounds I fired, he leapt to his feet and charged with gun in hand, pointed at other officers who’d arrived after the initial shooting began.

I and a sheriff’s captain tackled him and handcuffed him. He died a few minutes later. I was the only officer whose rounds struck the robber and four of the five rounds I fired caused fatal wounds. The fifth, a shot to the side of the head, caused extensive damage but most likely, according to the medical examiner, would not have ended his basic life functions.

Whether or not he’d planned to kill himself by using my, or another officer’s bullets, will forever remain a mystery. He took those thoughts to his grave.

I’ve told this story again to bring to light an aspect of suicide by cop that’s often buried with the victim of police gunfire—the psychological trauma experienced by the officer who was forced to fire the fatal rounds that brought about the conclusion to someone’s quest to die.

It’s within our nature to feel guilty about our actions. After all, most of us are taught at very early stages of our lives to know right from wrong, and killing another human is certainly one of things that is so, so very wrong.

Along with the guilt comes a sense of anger at being used as a source of suicide. Killing people is not part of the reasons men and women sign up to become police officers. Most want to help their fellow citizen, not harm them. I used the word “most” in the previous sentence because as we all know, there are certain individuals in this world who are broken somewhere in their internal wiring and will kill for the sake of killing. Those people, unfortunately, come to us from all walks of life. But I think it’s safe to say that 99.99999% of all police officers would prefer to not kill, for any reason.

So to place an officer in a position where it’s either kill or be killed, or to prevent another innocent person from being seriously harmed or killed, well, the act forces them to totally goes against the grain of why police officers do what they day. Those officers often feel an overwhelming sense of guilt.

In the minutes, hours, days, months, and years, and decades after these shootings, it’s not at all uncommon that officers second-guess their actions. “What if I had” begins to play on a never-ending loop through their minds.

In my own situation I often think that perhaps I could’ve/should’ve somehow, during intense gunfire, attempted to circle around the man’s car and then try to capture him alive. This scenario was not an option nor was is feasible, but I still wonder. After all, I’d disarmed several people during my career and I’d done so without having to fire a single shot.

It’s a ridiculous notion that I could’ve left my position to try and take the man down. If I had there’s no doubt I’d have been killed in a matter of seconds after I took the first steps toward his car. But those “what-ifs” still bounce around inside my skull. I’m sure the same is true for the many, many officers out there who’ve been in similar situations.

Once these emotions and feelings set in, and they do, they firmly take root. The officer often starts reliving the incident, replaying it over and over and over again in their thoughts. They become overly irritable, anxious, they can’t sleep and when they do nightmares take over, and then come the flashbacks, in living, bleeding color.

Of course, in the meantime, the officer must deal with internal investigations by outside agencies and investigators who quite often drill them with questions that insinuate the officer meant to kill the suspect out of some sort of vendetta. They make the officer feel dirty and less than human.

Let’s not forget the administration who’s already hard at work seeking ways to prevent lawsuits against the agency and the county, city, state, etc. So the officers review the use of force policies over and over again, hoping to find that they’d done everything by the book, and even though they know their actions were wholly proper, they still worry. But the city/county/state/department lawyers are only after one thing, to protect their client whether that means helping the officer, or not.

Then comes the media with their agendas and clickbait headlines. The TV news media plastering their images and the images of their homes and families across every TV screen this side of Jupiter. The stories they offer add even more salt into open wounds …

“The victim was  only 22, in the prime of his life, when he was brutally gunned down in the street by Officer So-and-So.”

“With only 6-months to go before earning his degree from ABC Community College, Officer So-and-So, ended what could have been.”

“Teenager’s Life Taken By Veteran Cop”

“He Only Had a Knife!”

Those reporters don’t bother to mention the 63 rounds the 22-year-old fired first, all while the officer was begging him to stop shooting and to put down the gun. Nor do they mention the teenager was shooting at cops after they’d caught him robbing a convenience store.

Suspension from duty after an officer-involved shooting is inevitable, and it’s demeaning, to say the least. No matter the reason, it seems to the officer that they’d done something wrong, maybe even criminal. To add insult to injury, their weapon is taken away. Even though it’s for forensic testing, this is a huge deal to the officer. A weapon is a police officer’s safety line. It’s there for them each and every day. It provides comfort for them during extremely dangerous situations. It’s a part of them. And to have that taken away, especially during a situation that’s already an 11 on a scale of 1- 5, is traumatic within itself. It makes them feel even more vulnerable. It seems like a punishment.

So yes, having to hear and experience those things while undergoing a investigation into every single move the officer has made since the day they first set foot onto the floor of the basic academy, and while dealing with all the zigging and zagging of emotions, takes a huge toll on the officers.

Suicide by cop brings to mind the title of a blog article I once wrote—I Only Killed Him Once, But I’ve Died Many Times Since That Day. I wrote the piece in my typical staccato form of poetry and I did so because this is sometimes how the experience feels to me … like individual daggers striking my nerves, one at a time, day after day after day after night after night.

It’s true, suicide by cop shatters the lives of the officers involved. Not to mention the lives of the officer’s family, and the family of the person killed by the unfortunate cop who was forced to pull the trigger.

 

Arrest and Patrol Car

All officers hear it, and it’s most likely said many, many times each and every day all across this great land of ours.

It’s a phrase that’s spoken by the wisest of the wise—the soothsayers of the legal world. The top legal minds of the entire universe..

That famous line is typically delivered in a sing-songish manner. Gently and soothingly. Almost like a lullaby.

I’ve heard it more times than I could possibly begin to count. And, I can still hear those kind, soothing words today, and they are …

“I. Know. My. Rights, you fat pig! You gotta let me go ’cause you didn’t read me my rights! Now take off these cuffs … NOW!!!!”

Miranda

When is a police officer required to advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings?

I’ll give you a hint, it’s not like we see on television. Surprised?

Television shows often have officers spouting off Miranda warnings the second they have someone in cuffs. Not so. I’ve been in plenty of situations where I chased a suspect, caught him, he resisted, and then we wound up on the ground fighting like street thugs while I struggled to apply handcuffs to his wrists. And yes, words were spoken once I managed to get to my feet, but Miranda wasn’t one of them. Too many letters, if you know what I mean. Words consisting of only four letters seemed to flow quite easily at that point.

When Is Miranda Required?

Two elements must be in place for the Miranda warning requirement to apply. The suspect must be in custody and he must be undergoing interrogation.

Writers, this is an important detail – A suspect is in police custody if he’s under formal arrest or if his freedom has been restrained or denied to the extent that he feels as if he’s no longer free to leave.

The fellow wearing the handcuffs in the photo below is not free to leave. Therefore, should the officer wish to question him he must advise him of his right to remain silent, etc. However, if the officer decides to not ask questions/interrogate, then Miranda is not required.

arrest-take-down.jpg

I’ve arrested criminals, many of them, in fact, and never advised them of their rights. Not ever. And that’s because I didn’t ask them any questions.

Sometimes officers receive a stack of outstanding arrest warrants for a variety of cases and it’s their job that day to go out and round up those folks. Those officers have no clue as to the circumstances of the crime or case details, therefore they’d not know the appropriate questions to ask. All they know is that the boss handed them a pile of warrants and told them to fetch. This, by the way, is often one of the mundane duties assigned to rookie officers, along with directing traffic and writing parking tickets.

So, the warrant-serving officers locate the person named on the warrant and haul them to jail for processing. The officer who had the warrant issued may or may not question the arrested person at a later time. But the arresting officer, the one who played hide and seek  with the crook for a few hours on a Monday morning is most likely out of the picture from that point onward. So no questioning = no Miranda.

Interrogation

Interrogation is not only asking questions, but any actions, words, or gestures used by an officer to elicit an incriminating response can be considered as an interrogation.

If these two elements are in place officers must advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings prior to questioning. If not, statements made by the suspect may not be used in court. Doesn’t mean the arrest isn’t good, just that his statements aren’t admissible.

Officers do not have to advise anyone of their rights if they’re not going to ask questions. Defendants are convicted all the time without ever hearing that sing-songy police officer’s poem,  You have the right to …

Miranda facts:

Officers should repeat the Miranda warnings during each period of questioning. For example, during questioning officers decide to take a break for the night. They come back the next day to try again. They must advise the suspect of his rights again before resuming the questioning.

If an officer takes over questioning for another officer, she should repeat the warnings before asking her questions.

If a suspect asks for an attorney, officers may not ask any questions.

If a suspect agrees to answer questions, but decides to stop during the session and asks for an attorney, officers must stop the questioning.

Suspects who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs should not be questioned. Also, anyone who exhibits signs of withdrawl symptoms should not be questioned.

Officers should not question people who are seriously injured or ill.

People who are extremely upset or hysterical should not be questioned.

Officers may not threaten or make promises to elicit a confession.

Many officers carry a pre-printed Miranda warning card in their wallets. A National Sheriff’s Association membership card (same design and feel of a credit card) has the warnings printed on the reverse side.

Fact: The Miranda warning requirement stemmed from a case involving a man named Ernesto Miranda.  Miranda killed a young woman in Arizona and was arrested for the crime. During questioning Miranda confessed to the slaying, but the police had failed to tell him he had the right to silence and that he could have an attorney present during the questioning. Miranda’s confession was ruled inadmissible; however, the court convicted him based on other evidence.

Miranda was released from prison after he served his sentence. Not long after his release he was killed during a bar fight.

His killer was advised of his rights according to the precedent setting case of Miranda v. Arizona. He chose to remain silent.

*Some individual department/location policies requires their officers to advise of Miranda at the point of arrest. However, the law does not require them to do so.


 

The Writers’ Police Academy is pleased to present MurderCon, one of the most exciting opportunities ever made available to writers. In fact, the event is a rare one-of-a-kind event that’s never been offered before and may never be offered again.

MurderCon, presented by the Writers’ Police Academy, is a special hands-on training event for writers of all genres, with a specific focus on solving the crime of murder. It’s a unique juncture of fiction and fact at a major source of modern crime-scene investigation technology, Sirchie.

Attendees receive the same instruction that’s offered to, and attended by, top homicide detectives and investigators from around the world. First-hand experience will provide writers with the tools needed to portray crime scene details realistically, and to share with their readers the experience of what it’s like to investigate a murder.

MurderCon’s incredibly detailed and cutting-edge workshops, taught by some of the world’s leading experts, has never been available to writers, anywhere.

Yes, MurderCon is a “Killer” event, and you’re invited to attend!

Sign up today! Not a single crime writer should miss this event. It is that important to your work!

Interrogation classes at MurderCon taught by renowned expert, Paul Bishop.

Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop is a nationally recognized behaviorist and expert in deception detection. He spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department where his high profile Special Assault Units regularly produced the highest number of detective initiated arrests and highest crime clearance rates in the city. Twice selected as LAPD’s Detective of the Year, he currently conducts law enforcement related seminars for city, state, and private agencies. Paul has written numerous scripts for episodic television and is the author of fifteen novels, including the award winning Lie Catchers and five books in his LAPD Homicide Detective Fey Croaker series.

* Paul’s appearance at the 2019 MurderCon event is sponsored by bestselling author Kendra Elliot.

The entry team is briefed and are in position at the front door. A second team stands ready at the back door. Other officers cover each of the windows to prevent someone from slipping away.

It’s an impressive sight, all those highly-trained police officers dressed in all black and holding enough firepower and break-and-rake tools to overtake a small country. On command, a well practiced entry team moves like an intricately designed machine.

First, the distraction, a technique used to be sure the team members at the front door are able to make a safe entry into the home. CRASH! A side window is broken by an officer swinging a crowbar. Shards of broken glass are raked away from the window frame and sill. BOOM! A flashbang is tossed into the bedroom. The cover officer aims his weapon at the inside and clears the room (Never insert the gun barrel past the window frame. You don’t want some thug grabbing it and taking it away).

Now, with all attention diverted toward the crash and explosion, the battering ram hits the front door. A second CRASH! The house is suddenly flooded with heavily-armed police officers who mean business. They’ve come for the wanted suspect and they’ve caught him with his “pants down.” Seriously, sometimes you really do catch them that way!

People scream. Men run. Woman yell. Babies cry. Dogs bark. Cellphones ring. TV roars. Radios crackle. Handcuffs click. And finally … silence.

That’s how a search warrant execution can go. They’re dangerous. Exciting. Adrenaline flows like the whitewater portion of a swift-moving river. Heart pounding against the inside of your chest. Pulse pushing against the neck.

Ah, yes … the excitement.

But not so for me on one summer night …

It was to be the largest heroin bust I’d ever made—the mother-lode. I had all details perfectly spelled out on the warrant and we were ready to make our move. I absolutely wanted no mistakes. None. So the team was briefed, re-briefed, and briefed again. Besides, we’d worked together for so long that we could practically do a safe entry with our eyes closed. Still, you never know.

Sometimes I preferred to surprise the bad guys by simply knocking on the front door (with the rest of the entry team hiding around the corner). Occasionally you get lucky and the suspect opens the door, thinking it might be Aunt Susie or one of their regular customers dropping by to re-up their supply.

I decided to go for the door-knocking this time—the polite kind, not the cop-knock where you slam the butt of your fist or end of a flashlight sharply against the door. Always use command presence, even with a door-knock, right?

Knock, Knock, Knock (gently, with my knuckles).

Footsteps approached.

Since I’m highly allergic to bullet holes I stood slightly to the side of the doorjamb.

The heavy door opened slowly with a creak of the old hinges.

I was tense, prepared to grab my dangerous suspect and pull him outside.

In the opening of the doorway, however, appeared an elderly lady. White hair, round glasses perched on the end of her bird-beak nose. Faded housedress. Pink slippers.

A tiny smile split her ruby-red lips, painted with a smear of the bright red lipstick reaching a bit too high above the upper lip. A short strand of pearls hung around her neck, appearing out of place against the old paisley housedress.

The stopper was instantly pulled on the boiling adrenaline. I felt it swirling away at the bottom of the bowl.

“May I help you?” she said.

“Is Mr. Drug Dealer at home?” I asked.

“No, he’s out with some of his little friends.”

“Are you related to him?”

“No. I’m his grandmother’s live-in nurse. Her companion, actually. Madam is here, though. Would you like to see her?”

“Is anyone else in the house, besides the two of you?”

“No, it’s just us. Could I help you?”

Well, I decided to go ahead with the search, figuring I could always pick up Mr. Drug Dealer another time. So I stepped inside and explained the purpose of my visit. Madam’s companion then led me to Grandma so I could repeat the whole story again, to her.

Grandma was at least 190-years-old and shriveled like an over-ripe prune. She sat propped up in a hospital bed in a room that smelled like a mid-summer construction site Port-a-John. Ms. Companion apparently had not been attending to a few needs.

The companion/nurse asked if I’d like a nice, cold glass of iced tea?

“No thank you,” I said and then moved on explaining the search warrant to Grandma. She said she understood and asked then if I was hungry.

“No, Ma’am.”

I told her that we needed to begin our search.

“No one is going to do any searching in my house,” she said “without first having something to eat. No man has ever left my house, hungry, and tonight will be no exception”

She called for the companion and told her to set the dining room table, buffet style.

“No Ma’am, we can’t eat. We’re here to—”

“Nonsense. You gather all your little friends in the dining room and tell them to grab a plate. Mary! Is the table ready, yet? Fetch some  homemade rolls, too. And the real butter. Don’t forget the butter!”

“No, Ma’am. Really, we  need to …”

She held up a skeletal version of a hand. “Hush. Now you go have a bite to eat and then you boys can go about your little searching, or whatever it is you want.”

“Ma’am, really we can’t …”

One of the team members walked into room holding half a hot, buttered roll in his left hand (at least he’d kept his gun hand free). The other half of the roll crammed inside his mouth, lumped inside his right cheek. Between chews he nodded toward the dining room. “Food’s getting cold.”

The bread smelled delicious.

He raised his eyebrows and nodded again.

I knew when I was outnumbered and accepted the cold glass of iced tea that Madam’s companion held in her liver-spotted hand. I hadn’t eaten all day and was famished.

And that was the beginning of my search warrant for the mother … um…  well, the Grandma-lode of heroin, which we did find, by the way, along with cocaine, animal tranquilizer, LSD, hash, syringes, and more.

Mr. Drug Dealer was assigned a bond of one-million dollars. Yes, it was a somewhat large scale operation that he conducted under the noses of Madam and her companion. The two women were clueless.

True story …

*Break and rake is a technique used to draw attention away from the point of entry (POE). It’s a great distraction that often prevents suspects from arming themselves or from escaping custody. Catching suspects with their “pants down” (off-guard) is often the safest way to effect an arrest in a dangerous environment.Having a snack while serving a search warrant is definitely not recommended. Unless, of course, homemade bread is on the menu.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tickets are still available to this one-of-a-kind, opportunity for writers to attend hands-on homicide investigation training, training that’s typically available only to law enforcement. Hurry while spots are still available. Crime writers should not miss this rare event!

MurderCon registration

Killers, both fictional and the real-life murderers who live and walk alongside us as we carry on with our daily activities, will seemingly do anything to cover their tracks in order to avoid capture by the police. They flee the country. They lie. They stage alibies. And they sometimes use fire to conceal their crimes.

Setting aside fictional characters for a moment, let’s examine the very real case involving Gwendolyn Bewley, a 67-year-oldCleveland, Ohio woman whose charred remains were found on the kitchen floor inside her burning home. At the time of death, the body was in such poor condition that the medical examiner was unable to determine the actual cause of death.

Investigators thought it likely that Gwendolyn Bewley might have been strangled to death before her killer arranged paper and pieces of cardboard on and around her body before setting them ablaze. The purpose of the fire, they believed, was to destroy any possible evidence.

In the weeks prior the deadly fire, a man named Timothy Sheline moved next door to Ms. Bewley, into a home owned by his brother. Sheline’s broad criminal history included a 1989 aggravated arson conviction.

A couple of days after the fire and the discovery of Bewley’s body, police saw Sheline driving a car that Bewley had rented. They learned that one day after the fire Sheline had called Bewley’s sister to inquire about a lockbox Bewley kept inside her home. After further investigation, police discovered that Sheline had been using the dead woman’s credit cards to obtain cash. They also found her computer in his possession.

He was arrested and charged with unauthorized use of the car. He was also charged with the use of Gwendolyn Bewley’s credit cards.

Due to the lack of adequate cellphone tracking at the time of the arson, detectives were unable to tie Sheline to the scene of the crime. The alibi he offered appeared to be legimate. But investigators, having that “cops’ sixth sense” kept the file open, hoping to someday tie Sheline to Bewley’s murder.

Ironically, during Sheline’s trial for the use of the credit cards and unauthorized us of the car, prosecutors questioned the son of a woman who dated Sheline several years earlier. He described to the court how Sheline stole money from his mother and when she found out and confronted him about the missing cash, he set fire to her house. The blaze killed their family pet.

As time had passed, the team of investigators working this case grew to include local detectives, the State Fire Marshall’s Office, and the FBI, and it was, in 2014, approximately seven years after the initial crime occurred when new technology to cull data from cellphone towers became available. Experts received the break they’d been hoping for and  immediately called on forensics expert Eric Devlin, who was able to successfully track Sheline’s cellphone. He discovered it had pinged off a tower less than two-tenths of mile away from Bewley’s house shortly before the time of the fire.

By utilizing that brand new cell-tracking technology process detectives were able to prove Sheline’s alibi was bogus. He was not out-of-state at the time of the murder as he’d claimed. The finally had the last piece of the puzzle needed to place Sheline behind bars for Bewley’s murder, the full “MOM”—motive, means, and … opportunity. He was in the area which meant he did indeed have the opportunity to commit the crime. The discovery shattered Sheline’s alibi.

Fire had not been enough to prevent this killer from serving the rest of his life in prison, where he now sits, day-in and day-out—24-7-365.

Arson Investigations Are Tough Work

Arson investigations are not fun. Not at all. Especially when they involve a murder where the killer used the fire to conceal the crime. Arson scene are extremely messy, smelly, and the evidence is unpleasant to handle and process, especially when the victim is badly burned. It’s horrid, actually, and the experience is one that is unlikely to leave the mind.

I’ve always said that it takes a special person to work an arson case. It also takes a special writer to effectively set those scenes to page, one who’s willing to do a bit of homework.

There’s science and a distinct discipline behind the solving arson cases. There’s an art to it, actually—to be able to iron-out the details and bring them all together to form a conclusion as to how fires start and the patterns that expose their sources.

That part I liked—the puzzle-solving that involves the combination of investigatory skills and experience along with modern forensic tools and equipment. After all, those puzzle pieces are in place at the precise moment the first ember begins to glow. They’re all there, ready for bagging and tagging, as long as everyone involved in the case does their part, correctly.

So how should authors approach writing about such complicated crimes? For starters, please do not rely on the internet to help you with developing sensation and emotion because you won’t find anything remotely close.

Sure, you’ll read about burn patterns and the tools used to delicately search through charred rubble in a search for evidence. But that’s not enough to take your readers inside a burning home where a murder victim was left behind to be destroyed along with a thirty-year old couch and the family photographs.

Why Attend the Writers’ Police Academy?

When we designed the Writers’ Police Academy, the very first one, we did so with writers in mind. We examined what it is that’s often lacking in so, so many books—real life experiences. The experiences that bring to mind the odor of burnt gunpowder (NOT cordite), the gut-wrenching feeling that occurs when a little one dies in your arms after being abused by a drug-addicted, extremely high parent. Yes there is a specific reason behind each and every session offered at the WPA, and typically each one has to do with something we’ve seen written incorrectly in someone’s book. We also keep writers up to date on the latest technology and procedures.

Bullets and Heartbeats!

The sound of bullets pinging and popping into the fender of a car you’re crouched behind as a crazed gunman lobs round after round in your direction. The sensation of your heart thumping against the inside of your chest wall as you search for an armed robber inside a dark abandoned warehouse.

Feeling the searing, unbearable heat that singes your eyebrows and warms your skin to temperatures you’re almost certain could fry eggs. The sight of what used to be a teller at a downtown bank, reduced to a blackened lump that resembles an adult-sized lump of scorched and charred charcoal. Fingers and toes separated from limbs due to ligaments and tendons having been burned away.

Seeing orangish-red flames undulate and spread across what was once a bedroom where a grandmother lay sleeping after enjoying an afternoon with her family. Those same flames push you back and back and back, choking off your oxygen and filling your throat and lungs with what feels like cotton soaked in molten lava.

You try and try and try until you succumb to the painful reality that there’s no chance whatsoever at saving the life of the elderly dear woman. You stand there gasping for fresh air while choking back tears, tears that when they’re finally released create tiny, curvy creeks in the soot staining your face.

But, unless you’ve, as they say, been there done that, you can only imagine what it’s like to experience these horrors.

So, that’s how and why we bring the Writers’ Police Academy to you each year. We want your stories to evoke emotion from your readers. We want your readers to know that you’ve done all you could possible do to entertain them in the ways they should be entertained. They’ll know this when they suddenly realize they’ve been reading your latest book until the wee hours of the morning, nonstop. Page after page after page.

We do our job so you can do yours. It’s as simple as that.

This year we’ve gone way over the top of what even we imagined eleven years ago when the WPA was nothing more than a wild idea in my mind. We’ve teamed up with a giant in the field of forensics and crime scene investigation, Sirchie, to offer to you, MurderCon, a special hands-on training event for writers of all genres, with a specific focus on solving the crime of murder.

Included in the MurderCon program is a one-of-a-kind class called Burn baby, Burn!!! Arson Investigation.

This is an outdoor session with live demonstrations of actual burns. Attendees will experience the effects of burning various pieces of evidence. Participants will learn the fundamentals of fire science, recognition of fire behavior including burn patterns and aftermath, and how fire is utilized by perpetrators during the commission of violent crimes and murder to attempt to conceal and/or destroy evidence.

Yes, you will receive instruction that not only covers the knowledge portion of fire and how it’s used to conceal crimes, we’re taking you on an adventure. A journey that delivers to you the sensations of touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight.

You’ll also experience a bit of emotion as you witness actual burns while using your writers’ imagery to picture what it must be like to be a victim who’s trapped inside the flames and heat and smoke. You’ll hear their cries (in your minds) and their pleas for help. You’ll sense what it’s like to be the officer on the outside looking in, helpless against an inferno. And you’ll imagine the body of a murder victim burning along with floorboards and window and door trim.

Burn Baby, Burn is a hands on training event that’ll surely help you breathe life into what should be an emotional rollercoaster ride for your readers.

This exciting session is taught by Ken Andrews.

Ken has over 30 years of fire investigation experience, including 28 years as an agent with the ATF and as a private consultant. He is an International Association of Arson Investigator’s (IAAI) Certified Fire Investigator and Certified Fire Investigation Instructor.

Ken was a member of ATF’s elite National Response Team (NRT) and an ATF Certified Explosives Specialist for 18 years. He has conducted investigations related to fire and explosions involving vehicles and residences as well as large industrial and commercial scenes. Ken has also instructed fire and explosion investigators nationally and internationally. During his career with ATF, he was a regular instructor at the National Fire Academy, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, Thailand.


To register for MurderCon and to learn more about the exciting 2019 classes and workshops, please visit our website at …

https://www.writerspoliceacademy.com


BIG NEWS!

Writers’ Police Academy Anthology Full Details Released Today!

Writers’ Police Academy Anthology Full Details Released Today!

Details also include a short story contest that lands you in a published book, with foreword by Lee Child. Yes, YOU could have YOUR story published in this thrilling collection of tales written bestselling mystery and crime authors, top television writers, true crime experts, a Nashville music legend, and more.

Contest winners receive an invitation to sign copies at a book launch party taking place at MurderCon. Launch party and reception sponsored by the publisher, Level Best Books, and the Writers’ Police Academy.

AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT

Edited by Phoef Sutton – Phoef Sutton is a New York Times Bestselling author and winner of two Emmy Awards for his work on the classic television comedy CHEERS. Phoef also won a Peabody Award for the popular legal drama BOSTON LEGAL starring James Spader, William Shatner, and Candice Bergen.

About the book – The curtain rises on this collection of twisted tales, revealing the words of bestselling thriller author Lee Child. Child sets the stage for a series of mysterious and strange goings-on that occur between the hours of midnight and dawn … the graveyard shift.

https://www.writerspoliceacademy.com/after-midnight-tales-…/

 

Property crimes take up a huge portion of a patrol officer’s day. First, there’s the initial response, making sure the suspect isn’t still on the scene (or arresting the dummy if he is).

Then comes the report, questioning the witnesses, and sometimes having to stand there while people belittle the officer with snide remarks, often made quite loudly and rudely, even before they’ve had the time to remove the ink pen from their shirt pocket to begin note-taking. Starting with the standard—“I pay your salary.”

Next comes a crowd favorite that seemly plays on an endless loop.

  1. “Where were you while my house was being robbed?” 

Houses aren’t robbed, by the way. Only people can be robbed. So please do make note of the following.

  • A burglary is normally defined as the breaking and entering into a building, (usually during the nighttime) for the purpose of committing a crime, such as larceny. A robbery is the taking of property from one person by another, by violence, force, and/or intimidation, such as being held up at gunpoint.

ROBBERIES REQUIRE A FACE-TO-FACE TAKING OF PROPERTY FROM ONE PERSON BY ANOTHER, BY FORCE, THREAT, OR INTIMIDATION.

And on it goes. On and on. Those lovely little comments that are often shouted while you’re trying to help the victims property crimes, and others.

2. “If you’d spend more time on the street instead eating doughnuts all day then this wouldn’t have happened.”

3. “Aren’t you going to take fingerprints? They take them on CSI shows. I seen ’em do it.”

Okay, first, the doughnut thing is really, really old and tired, folks. Most present day officers eat well, exercise, and enjoy fruit or other healthy snacks. Many departments conduct regular health assessments and require physical fitness testing. So it’s probably a good idea to move on to something more modern or risk having your material appear dated.

Next, where is it that officers should “take fingerprints? Home, back to the office, on a date? Fingerprints are lifted, processed, developed, etc., and then those pieces of evidence are “taken” back to the department where they’re then sent to the experts for comparison.

4. “Why don’t you do your job instead of sitting in your car waiting for speeders. Can’t you find real criminals?”

FYI – Speeders are indeed law-breakers since driving above the posted speed limit is illegal. Many departments assign a group of officers to work traffic details, such as speed limit enforcement(running radar). This means that other officers are assigned to duties such as responding to criminal complaint cases.

5. “I’ll have your badge for this.”

6. “I play golf with the chief, you know. And he’s going to hear about this.”

7. “Find some DNA.”

8. “There ain’t no Mickey Mouse crap like this on CSI. No, sir. Not on COPS, neither”

And that, my friends, is what police officers all across country experience every day, day-in and day-out. But wait, it gets better.

Next comes the actual evidence collection. Now, keep in mind that this is a residence where people come and go all the time. And they touch things. In fact, they touch EVERYTHING. So what does that mean? Yep, there are fingerprints on nearly every single item in the house.

Contrary to the top-notch experts on fictional TV shows, officers cannot tell which of those prints belong to a bad guy merely by looking at them. No one can. In fact, chances are, the burglar’s (not robber’s) prints are not on file anyway.

Please keep in mind that in order to locate a suspect using fingerprints found at a crime scene, a copy of the suspect’s fingerprints must be stored within a database used by police, such as a department’s database or the national database maintained by the FBI.

Officers know deep down in their hearts that in spite of taking the time, sometime for several hours, to process, develop, and collect a bunch loops and whorls taped to evidence cards, well, they’ll soon learn that the fingerprints they’ve spent the better part of a morning or afternoon to collect are probably of absolutely no value whatsoever. But they do it anyway … time and time again. Over and over and over. Why? Because residents demand it. Sometimes, though, you do get lucky and get a match.

So, if fingerprints aren’t the number one way to catch a burglar, what is? Well, there’s no one answer to the question. Actually, solving a property crime, such as B&E, involves a lot of steps. And the sum of those steps equals “good police work.”

Solving Property Crimes

So what are some of the things officers should do to solve property crimes?

  • Responding officers should always document the scene as they found it, not after everyone has walked through and fumbled with each item they pass.
  • Question all witnesses.
  • Check for points of entry and exit. Are there toolmarks? Are those tools still on the scene?
  • Is there broken glass? Blood on the glass (DNA?).
  • Footprints outside? (or, in the carpet or on the tile flooring)
  • Lights on or off? (suspect may have touched the switches)
  • Glasses on the kitchen counter? (suspects sometimes help themselves to food and drink)
  • Check the wall behind the toilet for fingerprints. Sometimes male criminals use the restroom at the scene and while doing so they place a hand on the hall.
  • Likewise, the underside of a toilet seat is another likely spot to find prints. Unless, of course, the burglar is totally uncouth and doesn’t lift the seat.
  • Look for the “evidence trail.” Offenders sometimes drop things during their exit. It’s not unusual to follow a trail of dropped evidence and then find the suspect sitting at the other end (not like a trail of breadcrumbs, but close).
  • Were there serial numbers on the missing items, and were they recorded?

ALWAYS recored the serial numbers of your valuable items. This is handy for insurance claims. Even when using a moving company to relate, it’s a must to record serial numbers in the event they, and they do, lose items.

  • Who would benefit from this crime? A real thief (drug addict, perhaps), or someone who desperately needs to collect some insurance money?
  • Have similar crimes occurred? If so, where and how close to this scene? Talk to other officers. Compare notes.
  • Talk to informants and street people. They know a lot and they often enjoy spilling the beans, especially if telling what they know earns them a few dollars.
  • Check all pawn shops and drug dealers who’re known to take property in exchange for “goods.” Sometimes they’ll hand over stolen property to get the cops off their backs. After all, it’s bad for business to have police officers hanging around their turf.

In some areas, pawn shops are required to submit a daily list (to the police) of each item purchased.

  • When officers finally do make an arrest, and they usually do, they should always ask the offender about other crimes in the area. Sometimes, officers solve several cases by merely asking a simple question or two.

And then there’s the number one tactic … common sense. Using it goes a long way toward solving a case. It’s also a great tool to use when writing cops.

So, if you’re writing a scene where your cop protagonist does something that doesn’t exactly seem right, or, if your common sense tells you it’s wrong, then I’d suggest doing this …


MurderCon registration is still open. Please do yourself and your readers a huge favor by attending this fantastic and rare opportunity. There’s never been anything like and there may never be again.

 

https://www.writerspoliceacademy.com