The pursuit ended when the fleeing felon crashed his car in a roadside ditch. Both he and a passenger hopped out and began running toward an open field. The passenger turned right at a stand of maple trees. The driver hooked left, aiming for the rear of an elementary school. He carried a pistol in his left hand.

The dispatcher called to the officer to report that the driver was wanted for killing two police officers in a nearby town. The pursuing officer, D.O. Nut, chased the suspect, picking up speed and gaining on the armed man. His partner ran after the passenger.

Officer D.O. Nut felt his heart pounding against the inside of his ribs, its intensity mirroring the rapid rat-tat-tatting of a Thompson Sub-Machine gun. He felt his muscles quivering and he sensed a sudden burst of energy (no way he could run this fast and this far on a typical day).

In spite of his wide open mouth that sucked air as hard as his lungs would allow, he seemed fine, as if he could keep up the pace all day long. His vision was sharper than usual and his mind processed information at lightning speeds. He was invincible.

He caught up to the the cop-killer, an extremely large, muscular man the size of a pro wrestler, and quickly took him to the ground where he aptly placed cuffs around his massive wrists and then pulled the struggling behemoth to his feet for the long walk back to the patrol car. Piece of cake.

Adrenaline is definitely bad to the bone!

The officer suddenly felt a bit dizzy due to the change in blood circulation and oxygen. The temperature was a bit cool out, yet he felt somewhat warm and was perspiring far more than normal.. It was nearly an hour later before the odd feelings subsided.

That’s how it is for a police officer, the rollercoaster ride of adrenaline rushes and crashes/dumps, over and over again throughout a typical shift. From 0-100, time and time again. Guns, knives, fists, pursuits, yelling, screaming, crying, hostages, suicides, murders … STRESS!

The Adrenal Gland

Adrenaline, a simple stress hormone, aka epinephrine, is produced within the adrenal gland, a small gland that’s perched on the tops of our two kidneys. But as tiny as it is, the gland is the powerhouse behind our incredible “fight or flight” responses to fear, panic, and/or perceived threats.

Adrenaline is produced by a very specific layer of tissue within the adrenal gland—the medulla (the middle tissue). The gland also synthesizes many other hormones but that’s for another day, possibly. For now, let’s maintain our focus on adrenaline and how it’s so very important to police officers, victims of violent crimes, and the everyday Joe or Jane.

The Adrenaline “Rush”

An “adrenaline rush” occurs when the Sympathetic Nervous System is involuntarily activated by the brain when it detects that we’re involved in a high stress event, such as imminent physical danger.

When we’re frightened by a life-threatening situation such as an armed robber or serial-killer-maniac, the brain senses the danger and immediately sends an instant message to the adrenal glands. When the adrenal gland receives the alarm, and it’s an instantaneous reaction, it leaps into action and quickly dumps a massive surge of adrenaline into the bloodstream.

Once adrenaline is released and snakes its way throughout the body, it begins to work its magic—releasing glucose into the bloodstream to generate extra energy, speeds up our heart rates and increases the thumping power of the heart’s contractions, and it dilates the blood vessels.

To increase our intake and exchange of oxygen, adrenaline also widens the bronchioles, the smaller airways in the respiratory tract that lead to the alveolar ducts and finally to the extra-tiny alveoli (in the lungs) where gases are exchanged with blood.

Alveoli, by the way, are tiny air sacs located in the lungs at the end of the bronchioles. The alveoli are where the lungs and the bloodstream exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen.

Speaking of Alveoli

I apologize for rambling but, since we’ve brought up the alveoli I’d like to take a brief moment to mention their part in breathalyzer testing. I know, it has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of the day but it’s cool information that could someday be needed in a work of fiction, so here you go.

As blood is pumped throughout the body it passes through the lungs where it is is oxygenated. As a result, when a person consumes alcoholic beverages some of the alcohol eventually crosses the air sacs (alveoli). When it reaches those sacs alcohol is released into the air. This occurs because because alcohol evaporates from a solution because oxygen is volatile.

Therefore the concentration of the alcohol in the alveolar air corresponds to the concentration of the alcohol in the blood. When the alcohol in the alveolar air is exhaled (deep lung air), it can be detected and accurately measured by breathalyzers and other breath alcohol testing devices such as those used by police officers.

The ratio of breath alcohol to blood alcohol is 2,100:1, meaning that 2,100 milliliters (ml) of alveolar air contains the same amount of alcohol as 1 ml of blood.

Whew! That Was Confusing, Right? And I had to endure a week of classroom training about this stuff back during Breathalyzer certification training. Fun times!

Okay, Now Back to Adrenaline

We’ve all experienced an adrenaline rush at some point during our lives. Like when the car nearly crashed into you on the freeway, or during your PIT maneuver training at the Writers’ Police Academy as your car was struck by one driven by Tami Hoag or Craig Johnson, a controlled collision that caused your vehicle to wildly spin out of control.

Fight or Flight

Now, with our bloodstream loaded with adrenaline, we’re ready to either stand and fight or put our feet in action to make a speedy retreat. Fortunately, we don’t have to develop this plan before we act because our autonomic nervous system does it for us. It’s this automated control center of our nervous systems the start the process for us. All we need to do react in whichever method—to run away or stand and fight—our bodies tell us.

If we’re forced to fight during the time when adrenaline is surging through our blood vessels, well, Mr. Bad Guy had better prepare for a wild ride because fear can bring out the grizzly bear in each of us. It is this physical response that can aid in fending off those who mean to do us harm.

Adrenaline is indeed a remarkable thing. Once it’s sent on its way through the bloodstream, it can turn the meek and mild into supercharged versions of themselves.

The Tractor and a Child’s Superhuman Strength

An uncle of mine lost his legs after a farming accident when a tractor he was driving slipped on a hillside and overturned, pinning him beneath it. His young son, just a small boy, witnessed the accident and miraculously lifted the tractor from his father who then managed to pull himself away. The boy then released his hold on the tractor and it fell to the ground. Unfortunately, both of my uncles legs were crushed and had to be removed.

He went on to live a productive and active life, though, and never let his handicap slow him in any way. He even enjoyed joining in a game of softball once in a while. He was a killer with  bat and could easily slam a ball into deep center field. Then he’d “run” the bases by using his hands to thrust his torso forward and back much like the movements of a chimpanzee scampering along the ground. My goodness, my uncle was fast, too. He’s gone now, but his story and love of life and family left a lasting impression on many people.

But, my uncle would have succumbed to his injuries had it not been for his son’s quick thinking and and adrenaline-charged super strength. And it is that same “rush” that helps cops survive each and every day.

But those ups and downs can take a toll on the body.

Short term, immediate post adrenaline “dumps” often result in:

  • Nausea
  • Mild to Extreme Muscle Soreness
  • Urge/Desire to have sex. Hypersexual.
  • Winding Down Process – hyper activity such as extreme pacing,  jitteriness, shouting, and incessant babbling.
  • Exhaustion
  • Nightmares and Loss of or Restless/Tossing and turning during sleep
  • Sporadic Adrenaline Rush brought on by a minor incident or thoughts

Long term effects include:

  • weakened immune system
  • ulcers
  • cardiovascular troubles
  • Stress-induced DNA damage that can lead to premature aging, promotion of tumor growth, miscarriages in women
  • depression
  • exacerbated anxiety

 

With nearly every item under the sun, short of the kitchen sink and an anti-aircraft gun, strapped snuggly around their waists, officers today should be safer than ever before, right?

But are they indeed safer than officers of days gone by?

Does carrying a combined array of deadly and less than lethal weaponry truly protect them from harm? After all, electoshock weapons such as Tasers and/or similar devices are powerful enough to bring even the largest person to the ground, transforming the resisting behemoths into jerking and twitching lumps of screaming and squealing human flesh.

Or, is it possible that the mere sight of those electrically-charged weapons is enough to send someone into a rage? And I’m not speaking of a person who’s typically prone to fight the police for fun or sport. Yes, there are many people out there who enjoy fighting police officers. To them, doing so is a hobby much like collecting stamps or butterflies is to others.

Instead, I speak of the average Joe or Jane who’s typically a non-violent person who, upon seeing one of those nearly fluorescent yellow shock devices, is sent into a tornado-like whirlwind of punches, kicks, and other fits of anger.

Weapons Effect

A joint study conducted by London police officers and criminologists at the University of Cambridge found that, electroshock weapons such as Tasers can actually trigger what’s been called the “weapons effect,” a psychological issue that causes aggressive behavior and actions when someone simply sees such a device. This is especially true when the weapon is in the possession of law enforcement officers, including when they’re safely stored in a holster/case attached to the officers’ belts. Aiming one at someone is not necessarily the catalyst that prompts the attack(s).

The weapons effect is not a new finding. Not at all. It’s been around for four decades or so, prior to the onset of Taser use by officers. However, it seems that the number of assaults against officers has increased with the presence of Tasers and similar weaponry.

Triggered by Tasers

The University of Cambridge study states that assaults occur more often when Tasers are present than any other type of weapon.

And, the study found that as a result of the violence toward them, Taser-carrying officers were more likely to use force to bring those situations under control, and to protect themselves from physical harm.

In fact, the study found that in nearly 6,000 incidents that occurred between June 2016 and June 2017, London officers who carried Tasers were 48% more likely to use some type of force than an equal number of officers who did not carry the weapon. For comparison, 400 officers were armed with Tasers and 400 were not.

To put these numbers in perspective, though, from the almost 6,000 incidents, officers were assaulted a “grand total” of only 9 times. Six of those assaults were against Taser-carrying officers compared to 3 assaults against officers who did not possess a Taser.

Of the total number of use of force cases, the 48%, only 9 officers drew their Tasers from its holster. And, of the 9, only 2 applied shock to a suspect.

U.S. Officers Assaulted While On Duty

In the year 2017, 12,198 U.S. law enforcement agencies (not all) reported that 60,211 officers were assaulted while performing their duties or, 0.1 per 100 sworn officers. These numbers reflect 596,604 officers providing service to more than 269.6 million people. Of the 60,211 officers who were assaulted, 17,476 sustained injuries. (FBI stats).

What Now?

The Cambridge/London study, while interesting and perhaps a bit eye-opening, suggests the solution to the problem is simply to conceal the Taser. Make it difficult to see. After all, many are made of a vivid yellow material that brings to mind a large, ripe lemon hanging from an officer’s duty belt.

The weapon, strategically placed among the other tools of the trade—baton, handcuffs, OC spray, flashlight, sidearm and spare magazines, glove pouch, cellphone holder, belt keepers, etc.—stands out like a flashing neon light.

The eyes are immediately drawn to it, sitting there in all its brightness in the cross-draw position opposite the lethal sidearm. It’s like standing before someone who has spinach caught in their teeth, or with their pants unzipped. The eyes are immediately drawn to that particular spot.

Concealing weapons, though, makes access to them difficult for officers, especially when quick reaction time is vital.

Maybe a color that stands out less could be the solution to less aggression. Something like …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As opposed to …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or … a Blue, Blue Taser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does your latest tall tale feature a beginning, middle, and end? How about characters, setting, and dialog? Have you been especially creative by inserting lots of sentences composed of various words with various meanings? Do you know the difference between a police chief and a sheriff? Are you aware that the FBI does not typically investigate local murder cases, that it is the duty of local police to solve those crimes?

If you answered yes to each of the above questions, well, you’ve taken a few of the appropriate first steps toward accurately writing about cops, crime, and crooks.

So, you conduct tons of research by visiting online websites and by participating in your local citizen’s police academy, and those are fantastic resources. But, have you considered going the extra mile by spending a bit of extra research time to develop ways to activate the senses of your readers? After all, using the senses is a huge key to the success of showing, not telling. And the use of the senses creates an important emotional connection between the story and the reader.

How does a writer create scenes that ignite a reader’s senses of touch, taste, hearing, smell, and sight? Well, for starters, they should call on past life experiences.

For example, Patricia Cornwall didn’t invent rain, leaves, or playing fields, but she obviously drew on her memories to create the passage below. It’s a simple scene, but it’s a scene I can easily picture in my mind as I read. I hear the rain and I feel the cool dampness of the asphalt, grass, and tile roof. The writing also conjures up images of raindrops slaloming down windowpanes, and rushing water sweeping the streets clean of debris. The splashing and buzzing sound of car tires pushing across water-covered roadways.

 “It was raining in Richmond on Friday, June 6. The relentless downpour, which began at dawn, beat the lilies to naked stalks, and blacktop and sidewalks were littered with leaves. There were small rivers in the streets, and newborn ponds on playing fields and lawns. I went to sleep to the sound of water drumming on the slate roof…” ~ Patricia Cornwell, Post Mortem.

Sandra Brown takes us on brief journey through a pasture on a hot day. We know it’s hot because of the insect activity. We also know the heat of the day increases the intensity of the odor of horse manure. And, Brown effectively makes us all want to help Jack watch where he steps.

“Jack crossed the yard and went through a gate, then walked past a large barn and a corral where several horses were eating hay from a trough and whisking flies with their tails. Beyond the corral he opened the gate into a pasture, where he kept on the lookout for cow chips as he moved through the grass.” ~ Sandra Brown, Unspeakable.

Close your eyes for a moment and picture yourself walking into a bar, or restaurant. What do you see? Can you transform those images into a few simple words? How do you choose which words to use? Which words will effectively paint the picture and take the reader with you on your visit to the bar?

Here’s a decent rule of thumb – Write the scene and then remove all of those unnecessary flowery words, especially those that end in “ly.”

Too many “ly” words are often difficult for readers to take in. Besides, they can slow the story and do nothing to further it.

Lee Child is a master when it comes to describing a scene with few words. Here’s a fun exercise. Count the number of times Child uses an “ly” word in the text below. Then consider whether or not you would have used unnecessary “ly” words had you written this scene? Think maybe it’s time to step away from them?

“The bar was a token affair built across the corner of the room. It made a neat sharp triangle about seven or eight feet on a side. It was not really a bar in the sense that anybody was going to sit there and drink anything. It was just a focal point. It was somewhere to keep the liquor bottles. They were crowded three-deep on glass shelves in front of sandblasted mirrors. The register and credit card machine were on the bottom shelf.” ~ Lee Child, Running Blind.

Another example of effectively and masterfully projecting an image into a reader’s mind comes from James Lee Burke. Short. Sweet. And tremendously effective.

“Ida wore a pink skirt and a white blouse with lace on the collar; her arms and the top of her chest were powdered with strawberry freckles.” ~ James Lee Burke, Crusader’s Cross.

Okay, what does all of this have to do with writing about cops, you ask? Well, in the passages above, the authors created a micro world by using a few, but extremely powerful and carefully chosen words. And it’s obvious to the reader that each of the writers called upon their own experiences to write those scenes. They’ve been there and done that, and their imaginations have conjured up memories of things they’ve seen, touched, tasted, heard, and smelled.

Cops live and work in a unique world that’s generally not accessible to the average person, including writers. They experience things that most only read about or see on TV news reports. And that brings us full circle. How can a writer effectively write, and activate a reader’s senses, about something they’ve only read about or heard second and third hand from someone reading to them, word-for-word from a teleprompter?

I think Joseph Wambaugh, one of the best cop-writers of our time, offers a brilliant guideline to follow when writing cops. Wambaugh said, “The best crime stories are not about how cops work on cases. They’re about how cases work on cops.”

Paste Wambaugh’s quote near your computer. Glance it as you write. Keep it in mind while developing law enforcement characters and scenes.

Next, I encourage you to attend local citizen’s police academies and ride-alongs with officers Hang out with cops, interview them, listen to them, watch their mannerisms, etc. Trust me, it’s a world that’s entirely different than the life of someone outside the profession.

Naturally, I highly recommend attending the Writers’ Police Academy. The WPA is an event that’s carefully and meticulously (hmm … I used “ly” words) designed to offer writers the inside experience of what it’s like to be a police officer, investigator, firefighter, EMS personnel, K-9 handler, etc. We do not mix writing craft with hands-on experiences. We feel you can attend any number of excellent writers conferences to soak up that sort of information. Instead, our focus is on providing writers with the best hands-on academy training available anywhere.

We burn things so you can experience the heat and smoke of structure and car fires. We put you, the writer, in positions where you must make the life and death decisions faced by officers. You’ll feel the rush of adrenaline that comes with car chases and shootouts (you’ll participate in both). You’ll see and experience the emotions felt by officers during stressful situations.

We’ve provided the smell of gunpowder and gun oil by teaching writers how to shoot various firearms used by police. They’ve felt the texture, weight, and recoil of an AR-15 as they fired those rifles at the range. We’ve taken writers inside jails and prisons, into the sections that house the worst of the worst inmates, where they experienced the physical sensations of what it’s like to serve time.

At the Writers’ Police Academy, attendees see the flashing police lights, hear the sirens, see and hear helicopters landing. The hear the yells of entry teams (you’re a member of the team, by the way) as they storm a building to search for an armed bad guy. When you attend, you’ll feel your heart thumping against the inside of your chests when you’re placed in situatiosn where you must instantly decide whether or not to use deadly force.

This year we’ve gone far outside the typical WPA box by hosting the 2019 event at the headquarters of Sirchie, “the Global Leader in Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Science Solutions. Sirchie provides quality Products, Vehicles, and Training to the global law enforcement and forensic science communities.”

That’s right, we’re taking writers to the source of crime scene investigation technology. It’s a rare opportunity for writers, one that’s not been done before. The focus of the 2019 WPA, called MurderCon, is homicide investigations, with hands-on classes and workshops taught by some of the top instructors in the world.

Hands-on events such as the Writers’ Police Academy, as well as local citizens’ academies and police ride-alongs, combined with using a real-life experience such as the WPA, or walking through a cow-chip-spattered pasture, is what breathes life into a story.

To sum up:

– Use your experiences to activate the senses of your readers. Let them enjoy tasting, touching, seeing, smelling, and hearing the words on each of your pages.

– Attend the Writers’ Police Academy. It’s the gold standard of providing writers with the absolute best hands-on training available. If attending the WPA is not possible, consider participating in a local citizen’s police academy and/or ride-alongs with on-duty police officers.

– Read books by established authors who write about police officers and investigations. See how they do it.

– Take advantage of your personal life experiences to help transform flat text into a vivid 3D picture or painting.

– Avoid the use of too many “ly” words. Editor Jodie Renner addressed this and other problem areas in an article she wrote for Doug Lyle’s blog. Jodie’s article is titled, Style Blunders in Fiction.

– Interview and/or chat with cops. Listen to what they have to say, and watch their mannerisms. Does Officer G. R. Done hitch up his pants each time he stands? Ask him if the habit is due to gravity tugging on the weight of his gun belt? Does his wince when he slides into his car seat? The slight moment of pain could be caused by a bit of skin caught between the bottom of his vest and gun belt. Yes, it happens and it hurts. But you have to watch for the little things and you have to ask. Those sorts of things are second nature to cops, so they won’t think to tell you about them.

– Finally, remember to refer to Joseph Wambaugh’s words of wisdom.

“The best crime stories are not about how cops work on cases. They’re about how cases work on cops.”


There are now additional spots available at the extremely rare and exciting event, MurderCon. You owe it to yourself and to your readers to attend. There’s nothing else like it in the entire world, and there may never be another!

Sign up today at …

MurderCon

Before we dive headfirst into the real meat of this article, let’s first begin with a bit of background regarding the crimes of burglary and robbery. Otherwise, some of you who use social media sites and/or watching TV news and crime dramas as your main sources of research, may not know that burglary and robbery are not the same. Not even close.

I know, we’ve discussed this topic in the past, in great detail, but sometimes we forget.

Just today, if fact, a major news source published an article titled “British Olympian says medals were stolen from her home in robbery.”

I read the article thinking I’d see where the unfortunate female athlete was held up at gunpoint in her own home while the armed and dangerous bad guys forcibly snatched her precious awards and other items. This would’ve been a robbery. However, it was not a robbery.

The first paragraph tells readers that the distance runner received the news that her home had been ransacked while she was away. The family member who discovered the mess had gone to the house to check on the Olympian’s dog. This act was a burglary.

See the difference between the two crimes? This is yet another example of how the media so often gets it wrong?

So let’s again clear the air about the differences between the two crimes.

Burglary as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary: “The breaking and entering the house of another in the night-time, with intent to commit a felony therein, whether the felony be actually committed or not.”

In Virginia, where I served as law enforcement officer/investigator, the law governing burglary there in the Commonwealth, states:

§ 18.2-89. Burglary; how punished.

If any person break and enter the dwelling house of another in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony or any larceny therein, he shall be guilty of burglary, punishable as a Class 3 felony; provided, however, that if such person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.§ 18.2-90. Entering dwelling house, etc., with intent to commit murder, rape, robbery or arson; penalty.

If any person in the nighttime enters without breaking or in the daytime breaks and enters or enters and conceals himself in a dwelling house or an adjoining, occupied outhouse or in the nighttime enters without breaking or at any time breaks and enters or enters and conceals himself in any building permanently affixed to realty, or any ship, vessel or river craft or any railroad car, or any automobile, truck or trailer, if such automobile, truck or trailer is used as a dwelling or place of human habitation, with intent to commit murder, rape, robbery or arson in violation of §§ 18.2-77, 18.2-79 or § 18.2-80, he shall be deemed guilty of statutory burglary, which offense shall be a Class 3 felony. However, if such person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

VA Code § 18.2-91

If any person commits any of the acts mentioned in § 18.2-90 with intent to commit larceny, or any felony other than murder, rape, robbery or arson in violation of §§ 18.2-77, 18.2-79 or § 18.2-80, or if any person commits any of the acts mentioned in § 18.2-89 or § 18.2-90 with intent to commit assault and battery, he shall be guilty of statutory burglary, punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than one or more than twenty years or, in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, be confined in jail for a period not exceeding twelve months or fined not more than $2,500, either or both. However, if the person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

§ 18.2-92. Breaking and entering dwelling house with intent to commit other misdemeanor.

If any person break and enter a dwelling house while said dwelling is occupied, either in the day or nighttime, with the intent to commit any misdemeanor except assault and battery or trespass, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. However, if the person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

Clear as mud, right?

Notice that I highlighted a brief portion of a sentence in red, and three specific words in blue—with intent to commit larceny or any felony other than murder, rape, robbery or arson …” I did so to emphasize that robbery is not a portion of, or related to the basic crime of burglary. It is a separate offense.

Burglary and Robbery are not the same!

Okay, still confused when I say that robbery and burglary are not the same crime? You ask, how could this be the case when sooooooooo many TV news reports and fictional television shows time and time again tell us that “Ms. or Mr. Crime Victim’s” house was robbed?

Sit back and clear your mind for a second.

We learned just a few lines back that burglary involves the breaking and entering the house of another, and only a burglar, or burglars, are involved. No forcible taking an item or items from a victim.

Now, on to robbery.

Black’s Law definition of robbery.

“Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property In the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear. Pen. Code Cal.”

Traveling back to Virginia, we see that robbery there is:

Virginia Code § 18.2-58. How punished.

3D-printed guns, firearms made from plastic, using 3D printers, can be fashioned in such a manner that they’re undetectable by typical metal detecting technology. Obviously, such guns pose a serious threat to law enforcement’s ability to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals.

Some people who make these firearms include the proper metal parts to meet federally mandated requirements. They do so to comply with a federal ban on weapons that aren’t revealed by metal detectors.

Unfortunately, there are many people out there who bypass federal laws and produce 3D guns that will certainly be used to commit crimes. This is especially so for people who are unable to purchase firearms legally.

This type of weapon, the guns that can potentially go undetected by metal detectors, could be carried into high security areas, causing a nightmare scenario for travel security personnel, such as TSA, courtrooms, jails, etc.

The nightmare continues for investigators who’re working to solve homicide cases, robberies, assaults with deadly weapons. I say this because the 3D-printed, plastic firearms bear no traceable serial numbers. And, yes, plastic bullets are available for use in these guns.

I believe it was sometime in 2013 when blueprints for 3D firearms began to appear on the internet. The first 3D gun was named the “Liberator,” and blueprints for it were posted online. Within  a period of just two days, those plans were downloaded over 100,000 times.

The U.S. State Department soon contacted the gun-smithing group responsible for posting the plans, Defense Distributed Company, to request that they remove the blueprints from the internet. The company complied, however, the information was out and  was still made available through pirate-type sites.

For example, Ivan the Troll, the informal spokesman of an underground group of 3D-printing gunsmiths, told Jake Hanrahan of the website WIRED, that “he knows of at least 100 people who are actively developing 3D-printed gun technology, and he claims there are thousands taking part in the network. This loose-knit community spans across the whole world.”(Quote from a  Wired article titled 3D-printed guns are back, and this time they are unstoppable).

Ivan has recorded and posted online several videos showing how to make/print/assemble these illegal 3D firearms. However, YouTube, Facebook, and other social media sites remove them practically as fast as they go live. Still, sites still exist where those videos may be viewed, and they show and explain precisely how to make an illegal 3D printed firearm. For obvious reasons, I choose to not post the links. But they’re easy to locate. These “how-to” videos make it extremely easy for criminals to make their own untraceable firearms.

Fortunately, reputable companies and top scientists have evaluated the differences between 3D-printed guns and conventional firearms and then used a technique of analytical mass spectrometry to identify the various types polymers found in 3D-printed gun evidence.

Next, they created a reference library/database of the various polymer samples for future comparison of polymer samples found at crime scenes to found 3D firearms and to other locations where they polymer traces may be located. They could possibly be traced back to the source of fabrication.

A new technique, direct analysis in real time (DART), is available to detect and identify a large number of compounds found in Gun Shot Residue (GSR). DRT uses mass spectrometry to conduct analysis in real time. The process detects and identifies traces of polymer and GSR compounds on the bullets, casings, and in the GSR collected from the clothing of victims and suspects.

In short, in addition to investigators collecting and testing the usual GSR found at crime scenes, on a victim’s body and clothing, and on the clothing and hands of suspected shooters, CSIs and detectives should also search for material such as the polymers of various types and colors—ABS, PLA, PETG, and CPE.

Homemade firing pins are not the standard type and/or material found in traditional firearms. Those made in a basement workshop range from drill bit blanks of machined 1/800 steel, to the shafts of roofing nails. The machining of firing pins can easily be accomplished using using a simple Dremel tool purchased from a neighborhood hardware or big box store, or from online outlets such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc.

ATF Q&A Regarding 3D Printed Guns

Is a firearm illegal if it is made of plastic?

It is unlawful for any person to produce a firearm as proscribed in 18 U.S.C. 922(p).

“It shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm—

(A) that, after removal of grips, stocks, and magazines, is not as detectable as the Security Exemplar, by walk-through metal detectors calibrated and operated to detect the Security Exemplar; or

(B) any major component of which, when subjected to inspection by the types of x-ray machines commonly used at airports, does not generate an image that accurately depicts the shape of the component. Barium sulfate or other compounds may be used in the fabrication of the component.”

What does “any other weapon” mean?

The term “any other weapon” means any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive, a pistol or revolver having a barrel with a smooth bore designed or redesigned to fire a fixed shotgun shell, weapons with combination shotgun and rifle barrels 12 inches or more, less than 18 inches in length, from which only a single discharge can be made from either barrel without manual reloading, and shall include any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire. Such term shall not include a pistol or a revolver having a rifled bore, or rifled bores, or weapons designed, made, or intended to be fired from the shoulder and not capable of firing fixed ammunition.

If an individual makes an item that falls into the “any other weapon” category, is that individual required to register the item?

Yes, an “any other weapon” category is an NFA classification which requires an individual to register the item with ATF.

How does one apply for a license?

The applicant must submit ATF Form 7(5310.12)/7CR(5310.16), Application for Federal Firearms License, with the appropriate fee, in accordance with the instructions on the form to ATF.  This form is for all FFL types, including type 03 Collector of Curios and Relics.  An application packet may be obtained by contacting the ATF Distribution Center.  If you have more than 1 Responsible Person (RP), you must also submit a Supplement to ATF Form 7/7CR, for each additional RP.

Can an individual now manufacture these firearms and sell them?

Any person “engaged in the business” as a manufacturer must obtain a license from ATF.

The term “engaged in the business” means— (A) as applied to a manufacturer of firearms, a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to manufacturing firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the sale or distribution of the firearms manufactured.

What is ATF doing to make sure this technology is monitored so it is not used illegally?

ATF makes every effort to keep abreast of novel firearms technology and firearms trafficking schemes.

What is ATF doing in regards to people making their own firearms?

An individual may generally make a firearm for personal use. However, individuals engaged in the business of manufacturing firearms for sale or distribution must be licensed by ATF. Additionally, there are certain restrictions on the making of firearms subject to the National Firearms Act.

What say does ATF have in the technology used to produce firearms?

ATF enforces Federal firearms laws and, currently, these laws do not limit the technology or processes that may be used to produce firearms. However, ATF enforces existing statutes and investigates any cases in which technological advances allow individuals to avoid complying with these laws.

Is ATF aware of the new 3-D printing technology producing firearms?

Yes. ATF routinely collaborates with the firearms industry and law enforcement to monitor new technologies and current manufacturing trends that could potentially impact the safety of the public.

(Above Q&A from atf.gov)

*Note: It is NOT legal for felons or somebody otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms, or  to build their own guns from any material.

*Featured image – FBI.gov

 

In the days before DNA testing became available for use in criminal cases, cops, prosecutors, judges, and juries relied on other physical evidence to send bad guys to jail—fingerprints and footprints, soil, glass fragments, trace evidence, etc. Those things along with confessions and eyewitness testimony were the building blocks used to convict the guilty.

Then, when DNA arrived on the scene, well, it soon became apparent that somehow officials had made a few boo-boos along the way and had sent more than a handful of innocent men and women to jail for crimes they didn’t commit. DNA testing of old evidence, in fact, exonerated people like our friend Ray Krone who served ten years in prison, three of which were on death row, for a murder he didn’t and couldn’t have committed.

Ray as an inmate at Arizona State Prison in Yuma

Ray Krone could’ve easily been eliminated as a suspect had DNA testing been conducted at the time of the investigation. Instead, his conviction was based on bite mark evidence, a test/examination/comparison method that’s been found to be unreliable.

DNA test results were used in court cases as early as the mid 1980s. Ray was convicted in the early 90s, without the benefit of DNA testing, a simple test that would have prevented him from serving time in prison as an honest, clean-handed man.

Nowadays, to weed out the innocent, DNA testing is routinely performed in the early stages of criminal investigations. And it helps … some. The use of DNA tests in post-conviction cases and appeals sometimes leads to exonerations, such as, for example, Ray Krone’s release from prison.

Electropherogram – a chart produced by testing equipment after DNA sequencing is completed.

Unfortunately, and what most members of juries do not understand, is that during a typical criminal investigation, in only about 10-20 percent of all cases do cops find testable biological evidence. In spite of this low percentage, some juries still expect a case to hinge on DNA results. However, without something to test, of course, there’ll be no electropherograms pointing to a specific suspect.

Sometimes, even with the presence of DNA, those results are not always definitive.

Electropheragram showing tested DNA of two subjects, and a mixture of DNA collected from a victim. Results showing a mixture make it difficult to point to any one suspect.

But let’s go back to the 10-20 percent figure, the number of cases where testable biological evidence is located and collected by investigators and then subsequently tested by laboratory scientists and other experts.

At the upper end, the 20 percent range, that leaves 80 percent of all criminal cases that are solved by using other means of crime-solving, such as the aforementioned fingerprints and footprints, soil, glass fragments, trace evidence and, of course, detectives going about the business of good old-fashioned door-knocking and talking to people. The combination of the physical evidence and confessions and eyewitness testimony is what leads to the majority of criminal convictions.

Sadly and dismally disastrous, without mostly foolproof scientifically tested evidence, courts must rely on human testimony, humans whose memories often fluctuate. Police investigators who enter a crime scene with a serious and dreaded case of tunnel vision. Prosecutors who do the same once the already skewed/tunnel-vision-tainted, unreliable witness’ flawed statement evidence is presented to them,

Overworked and underpaid public defenders aren’t always up to date on current scientific practices and the laws governing them. Those same attorneys carry heavy caseloads which stretches their time to a breaking point so thin that they can’t possibly devote the amount of time needed to decently defend their appointed clients. Their budgets are minimal, meaning expensive testing and other necessities for their clients’ defenses are practically nonexistent.

Post-conviction procedures (motion for new trials, ineffective assistance of council, appeals to address the lack of scientific testing to prove innocence) are a huge uphill climb for people who’ve been incarcerated. This is especially so for the poor.

Those of meager means often have no alternative other than to wade through prison law libraries, hoping to make sense of the legal jargon that fits their situation. They sometimes employ a jailhouse lawyer to help, paying for his services by whatever means available—cleaning his cell, cooking meals, shining shoes, and even purchasing items for them from the commissary, or having family members on the outside send money to the amateur legal eagle.

The wealthy, of course, have outside resources to help with the filing of necessary paperwork. But there’s sometimes a bad egg in this bunch, such as the high-priced, fancy-smancy defense attorney I overheard telling his client who’d just received 37 months in federal prison for possessing crack cocaine worth little more than $100, that for an additional $25,000 he could arrange to have him serve less time on home confinement. That’s fair, right?

And, there’s the Innocence Project who helps the wrongly convicted.

Aside from the obvious, there’s a real problem with the aftermath that’s sure to arise after retroactively clearing prisoners of their crimes based on DNA evidence.

Yes, when all the dust settles after all the men and women who’ve been wrongfully convicted and then cleared by the use of DNA evidence are out of prison with their recoreds expunged and their names cleared, there will still be hundreds if not thousands of people still behind bars because their convictions were based on the bad memory of a witness, a cop or prosecutor with tunnel vision, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a mistake made at the lab during evidence analysis (mislabel an item, etc., tainted evidence, such as the accidental transfer of a fingerprint or even DNA evidence).

Someday soon there will be a false sense that DNA has cleared ALL the innocent people, leaving  those behind who  surely must be guilty of their crimes because there was no scientific evidence to prove otherwise. But we know this can’t be so. Why not? Because of human error.

Yes, it is indeed possible to transfer a fingerprint, even accidentally.

Tertiary DNA Transfer

It’s possible that DNA can be accidentally transferred from one object to another. A good example could be the killer who shares an apartment with an unsuspecting friend. He returns home after murdering someone and then tosses his blood-spatter-covered shirt into the washer along with his roommate’s clothing. The machine churns and spins through its wash cycles, an action that spreads the victim’s DNA throughout the load. Police later serve a search warrant on the home, seize the clothing, and discover the victim’s DNA on the roommate’s jeans. The innocent roommate is arrested for murder.

The list of human error possibilities is extremely long and, unfortunately, there’s no magic DNA bullet to help clear the innocent folks convicted based on an accident. Their battles are practically hopeless. Laws and courts make it nearly impossible for people already serving time to have a judge revisit their cases.

Odds are, that hopelessness follows a few of the condemned all the way to the execution chamber, where it is indeed conceivable that an innocent man could be, and most likely has been, put to death.

And, well, I suppose it’s possible that given the right/wrong circumstances, anyone, even you, could find themselves behind bars for a crime they didn’t commit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for Classes on Police Procedures or Paranormal Stuff? Check out our April Classes. Now OPEN for Registration!

Yes, I’m once again teaching a fun and informative month-long COFFIN class. This one is called “Murder One: You Can’t Make This Up: Oddities in Police Procedure.” Please sign up to join in on the fun. Classes begin today and are open to the public.

Note: COFFIN is the name of the online workshop program through Kiss of Death. All classes are 100% online via an email loop and open to anyone.

Again, classes are open to the public!!

To sign up: https://rwakissofdeath.org/coffin 

To View Upcoming Classes: https://rwakissofdeath.org/coffin (signup is always open so signup early).

April Classes:

Murder One: You Can’t Make This Up: Oddities in Police Procedure (by special request)

Lee Lofland, founder of the Writers Police Academy and the 2019 special event, MurderCon, returns to the Kiss of Death Chapter to expand on his most popular articles of THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT, one of the top five of the thirty best police blogs. During this class, this renowned instructor will discuss thing writers miss or things writers get wrong in books. Come prepared to learn and ask questions about Death Investigations, Police Procedure, Police Tools and Equipment, Courts and Research, and more.

Instructor Bio:

Lee Lofland, a Medal of Valor recipient, is a veteran police investigator who began his law-enforcement career working as an officer in Virginia’s prison system. He later became a sheriff’s deputy, a patrol officer, and finally, he achieved the highly-prized gold shield of detective. Along the way, he gained a breadth of experience that’s unusual to find in the career of a single officer.

Killer Instincts: Beyond Boo!: Using Paranormal Creatures, Plots and Elements in Your Romantic Thrillers

NYT Bestselling author Megan Hart guides you through how to create your best monsters, figure out what perilous situations will horrify your characters most, and how to get them to fall in love while on the run from things that go bump in the night. You’ll learn how to decide what paranormal elements you want to incorporate in your suspense and thrillers to give it the edge you might not have expected.

Instructor Bio:

Megan Hart writes books. Some use bad words, but most of the others are okay. She can’t live without music, the internet, or the ocean. She writes a little bit of everything from horror to romance, though she’s best known for writing erotic fiction that sometimes makes you cry. Find out more atmeganhart.com, twitter.com/megan_hartand www.facebook.com/readinbed

For the day when you need just the right word to enhance a crime scene.

A.

Abrasion Collar – The circular pattern and charred, blackened skin surrounding the area/wound caused by a gunshot.

Adhesive Lifter – Any tape-type material containing an adhesive backing that’s used to retrieve prints from a surface.

Adhesive lifters manufactured by Sirchie

Atomized Blood – Patterns of blood stains that appear to have been caused by a fine mist, or spray. Think of the mist that expels from an aerosol can, such as paint or deodorant.

Adipocere – A waxy substance with a texture that’s similar to soap. It’s formed on the dead, decomposing bodies of animals and humans that are typically found in moist, damp locations. Also called Grave Wax.

Antemortem – Before death.

 

B.

Bilary Tract – Pertains to bile or the gallbladder and the ducts that move bile throughout.

Blow-back – Tissue and blood that’s found on the surface of a firearm that was in close proximity to a victim’s skin when a shot was fired. Blow-back material may also be found inside the barrel of the weapon. For example, a gun barrel is held close to a victim’s temple area when the trigger is pulled. Biological material then “blows back” toward the shooter and the weapon, adhering to those surfaces.

Bradycardia – Abnormally slow heartbeat that sometimes cause dizziness and chest pains due to low cardiac output.

Burking – Smothering a victim in such a manner where there are no telltale signs of the crime. The body is then sold for anatomical dissection.

The term “burking” was named after William Burke, who, in 1815, killed several intoxicated people after following them for the purpose of murdering them. He and a friend participated in the macabre activity. One of the two held a hand over the victim’s nose and mouth, using the other hand to hold the jaw up, while the other sat on the victim’s chest. The held this position  until the victim, either a man or woman, died of asphyxia. The sold the fruits of their crimes, the dead bodies, to medical schools in Edinburgh, Scotland.

[Titlow v. Burt, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111459 (D. Mich. 2010)].

 

C. 

Cadaveric Spasm – A rare form of muscular stiffening that occurs at the moment of death, continuing into the rigor mortis stage. In fact, it can and has been mistaken for rigor mortis. The cause is unknown, but is thought to occur with violent deaths in conjunction with intense emotion. Also known as postmortem spasm, or instantaneous rigor.

Some scientists state that cadaveric spasm is a myth.

Bedford PJ, Tsokos M. The occurrence of cadaveric spasm is a myth. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2013 Jun;9(2):244-8.

However, in an April 2013 article for Forensic Science and Medical Pathology, Dr. Marcella Fierro, , former Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia, said in the 30-years she served as a medical examiner she’d seen the occurrence of cadaveric spasm only three times. Note that she specified “only three times” when speaking of how often she’d seen the condition occur. But she had seen it.

“Do I believe in cadaveric spasm or accelerated or instantaneous rigor? Yes, but it occurs very rarely.” ~ Dr. Marella Fierro, former Chief Medicl Examiner of Virginia (1). You may know Dr. Fierro and not realize it. She is the inspiration for Patricia Cornwell’s lead character, Dr. Kay Scarpetta.

The three cases she spoke of were:

“… a smothered infant who was discovered grasping the asphyxiating blanket enclosing him so tightly in front of his body that it could only be removed with great difficulty.”(1)

” …a young man who died in a supine position during a seizure. His hands were fisted next to one another, symmetrically, high on his chest under his chin.” (1)
 

” … a couple found drowned in a swimming pool. They were facing one another. Her right foot was placed on his flexed left knee and she was grasping his head as she pushed him down. He had his hands on her waist. They were grasping each other tightly when found
and remained together as they were pulled from the pool.” (1)

(1) Resource – Fierro, Marcella. (2013). Cadaveric spasm. Forensic science, medicine, and pathology. 9. 10.1007/s12024-013-9414-x.

 

To take a journey back in time to retrace the footsteps of a police officer would be much akin to cracking the covers of a multitude of books, all of various genres from humor to horror, and then to combine each of the author’s voices along with their collective imaginations. But no tale could ever accurately detail, in writing, such bizarre goings-on created by man and woman, and sometimes beast, or any combination thereof.

Fortunately, crime writers are able to create wonderfully-told imaginary tales from tiny bits of factual intelligence they’ve gathered over a period of time. It’s what they do and to do it successfully they know how to effectively utilize scraps of information by transforming fact into a work of written art that is both realistic and entertaining—words that stimulate images in the minds of readers.

Real life is a writer’s university. It’s never-ending college study without graduation. Every day is a lesson and the world is the classroom.

Today’s convoluted (believe me, it is) article is about taking something very small and using it to transform a humdrum scene into a dazzling array of stunning imagery. Well, maybe not quite that grand, but it will help to take your writing to a higher level. First, though, you must allow your own minds to take you to deep into those crime scenes you write using terms such as fingerprints, gunshot residue, bullet trajectory and, of course, bloodstain patterns. It is the latter, bloodstains patterns, that is the focus of this blog post.

Everyone knows that when a liquid strikes a solid surface it immediately changes shape. Prior to hitting a surface, as they fall, water droplets constantly oscillate between a vertical and a horizontal elongation.

Water droplets falling vertically, and how they behave upon impact with a solid surface.

As a result of a water drop’s inertia, its viscosity, or surface tension, the heads of the drops resist changes of shape during a collision with a solid surface.

Of course, the type of surface the droplets strike affects how well, or not, the liquid “dances” across the impacted surface.

Water droplets falling horizontically, and how they behave upon impact with a solid surface.

Blood behaves similarly … sort of. But then again, maybe not. How’s that for a definitive statement? But I was merely speaking about droplets of falling blood and water.

Actually, blood flows differently than water. It flows viscously and rather inconsistently. Its flow properties change, though, depending on surrounding conditions. For example, it becomes less viscous when pressure increases and it is this that allows blood to flow into the thinnest of capillaries. The flow of water, on the other hand, is largely constant.

Red blood cells account for about forty-five percent of the blood’s volume.

There is no DNA red blood cells

Blood plasma is the liquid in which the blood cells are suspended. It’s made up of approximately ninety-two percent water. Plasma plays an essential role in regulating how blood flows. Plasma displays a sort of elastic behavior when distorted, forming threads that cause it to exhibit an extensional viscosity, a trait that’s typically not seen in water.

And so on and so on and on. Yes, blood behaves differently than water … sort of.

I’ve mentioned all of the above to say this … there’s a new method of crime-solving using blood, which contains a lot of water.

Sure, there are bloodstain pattern investigations that tell us where a shooter stood when he fired a lethal round. Bloodstain patterns tell us where a victim was when he was killed and later dragged to a different location. Blood spatter shows us velocity and angle, and it even tells us if flies trampled through a victim’s blood and then transferred bits of it to a lampshade, an act that could cause a rookie CSI to confuse the groupings of tiny droplets/bloody fly footprints with those caused by high-velocity impacts.

High-velocity bloodstains are created when the source of blood is subjected to a force with a velocity greater than 100 ft/s.

Recently, Paul Steen, a Maxwell M. Upson Professor in Engineering, created a periodic table of droplet motions that was inspired by similarities between the symmetries of atomic orbitals.

An atomic orbital is:

  • derived using the mathematical tools of quantum mechanics
  • a representation of the three-dimensional volume (i.e., the region in space) in which an electron is most likely to be found

While an atomic orbital cannot be observed experimentally, it is possible to experimentally observe the density of an electron.

And, while it is not possible to define the exact location of an electron in an atom, the probability of finding an electron at a given position can be calculated.

The higher the prospect of finding an electron at a given location, the larger the electron denseness at that position.

Okay, I know that’s about as clear as mud, but the brains behind this new “periodic table” used this to atomic orbital gobblygook to measure the effortlessness with which droplets move back and forth across a surface.

The scientists then realized that the routine motions of specific types of droplets could be classified by their distinctive shapes and similarities. For example, droplets that form the shape of a orange stars would all be in one group, while droplets that form the shape of yellow quarter-moons would be in another group, and so on. They call those groups “motion-elements.”

Possible uses for this periodic table, for example, could help scientists and crime scene forensics experts understand where a particular droplet comes from by applying the table’s classifications to the found blood sample pattern, along with the relevant surface (from a list of standards) to identify the powers involved. Then they might have an idea as to what caused the spatter patterns found at a crime scene.

I have to say, writing this gave me a bit of a headache, thinking about what it took to come up with this method—all the research, atoms, tables, math, and chart, and science and labs and buzzing and whirring equipment.

Then it hit me.

They spent all that time, money, and energy to basically deliver a description of the marshmallow treats inside a box of Lucky Charms.

Why not stick with the old-fashioned method of … the hole in the dead guy’s forehead was caused by the gun found in the possession of the jealous lover. Works every time.

Atomic orbital … puhleeze.


In August, at MurderCon, renowned instructor David Alford will present a spectacular hands-on class on bloodstain pattern investigation.

A Bloody Mess: Search, ID, and Document Blood Evidence

MurderCon attendees will be exposed to proper methods to locate, identify, and enhance blood evidence. Also included in this workshop are chemical search methods using luminol and Bluestar. Attendees will also receive an introduction to blood patterns and what they can tell an investigator about a scene, as well as instruction regarding the identification of blood by using chemicals to enhance suspected blood patterns.

David Alford is a retired FBI Special Agent with 21 years of experience investigating violent crimes, terrorism and other cases. He was one of the founding members of the FBI Evidence Response Team (ERT) and conducted crimes scene searches on domestic and international violent crimes and bombings, including the Polly Klaas kidnaping and murder, the Unabomber’s cabin and the 9/11 Pentagon scene. He worked in the Denver and San Francisco field offices and completed his career at Quantico in the FBI Lab ERT Unit. During the 6 years in the FBI Lab, he was primarily responsible for overseeing and teaching basic and advanced crime scene courses throughout the US and many other countries.

In the 6 years before the FBI, David was a Forensic Serologist, Hair and Fibers Examiner and Bloodstain Pattern Analyst for the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab. After retirement, David taught crime scene courses around the world on behalf of the FBI and US State Department. David has been with Sirchie as an instructor and sales representative for Sirchie’s RUVIS and ALS products for the last 10 years. David loves teaching and allowing students to learn through hands-on training.

https://www.writerspoliceacademy.com

Sign up today while there’s still time. Believe me, you do not want to miss this rare and exciting opportunity. You may not have this chance again!

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-…/