Castle: Sucker Punch – A Review
My mother always told us to remain silent if we had nothing good to say about someone, and she, God rest her sweet soul, made a point of practicing what she preached. Therefore, I’m quite sure there were several of my and my brother’s trouble-making friends who pitied us, thinking our mother had been stricken by an awful disease of the vocal cords that had rendered her mute. Well, if I hadn’t promised a few good people that I’d write these weekly Castle reviews I’d certainly zip my lips closed for this episode. I’ve not got a single good word for it.
This show was absolutely horrible from its beginning, where spilled blood of Biblical proportions poured through several layers of building materials (not to mention the victim’s clothing) and then dripped onto the head of a house painter working in a lower-floor apartment. First it gushed, not seeped, through an area rug, then continued its journey through hardwood flooring sealed with a urethane-type finish, a plywood or OSB sub-floor, insulation (since this was an apartment building, insulation is normally used as soundproofing between floors), ceiling drywall, and finally through a coating of paint. What a set of wounds!
I’m baffled. I really don’t understand. Why? Because this episode was written by a real cop by the name of Will Beall. Beall is a wonderful writer, and he’s a veteran police officer. He works in L.A., and he grew up in Walnut Creek, near San Francisco, so it’s not like he’s lived on another planet, out of touch with civilization. The guy knows police work. He knows procedure. And he certainly knows that some things are realistic, and some are ridiculous. I’m still shaking my head over this one. Was he trying to be funny? If so, that too, failed miserably.
Okay, enough said. Let’s get this over with so I can go to bed. It’s already 1:17am. Sigh…
Roll up your pant cuffs and wade in with me, but be careful, it gets awfully deep.
– Even before the first commercial break my email box had begun to fill with remarks about the show. The first comments referred to a statement made by Esposito about the victim’s shotgun ammunition. He referred to it as .12 ga. hollow point. Well, folks, there is such a thing. This one was right. But from here on out…total BS.
12 Gauge Rio Royal Star Rifled Slug Hollow Point
12 Gauge Rio Rifled Slugs 250 round case
Rio Royal Star Rifled Slug Hollow Point, 2 3/4″ 1 1/8 ounce lead slug, 1410 FPS. 250 round case comes in 5 round boxes.
– I’ve seen Beckett and crew routinely pull back the slides on their pistols prior to entering dangerous situations. I don’t know a single real-life police officer who does this. They all keep their weapons fully loaded, with a round in the chamber. Actually, policy normally dictates that officers keep their weapons fully loaded with a round in the chamber.
Besides, if a weapon was fully loaded when the officer pulled back the slide as Beckett did tonight, the action would eject the round from the chamber, leaving her one bullet shy of a full magazine…
– The M.E. said the positioning of the victim’s wounds indicated the killer was over six-feet tall. She didn’t have enough information to make that determination. How’d she know the killer hadn’t been standing on a ladder when he stabbed the victim? Or, perhaps the victim, instead of the killer, was standing on a ladder, or kneeling, when he was attacked?
– Beckett cut open a package of what appeared to be narcotics and tasted the stuff. Freakin’ ridiculous! Cops DO NOT do this. First of all, it’s illegal to consume illegal narcotics. Second, how’d she know she wasn’t tasting rat poison, anthrax, or some other toxic substance? There are simple field-testing kits available and most cops/detectives carry one in their vehicle, or in their evidence kit. The test is really simple and really quick. Remove the top from the provided pouch, place a pinch of the suspected drug inside, break open the tiny enclosed reagent-filled glass ampule, and shake. The mixture changes color as it reacts with a drug. Different colors indicate the presence of certain drugs. For example, blue indicates the presence of cocaine. Pink means the substance is something other than cocaine.
Besides, the purpose of the tongue test for drugs isn’t for the taste, it’s to see if the tongue or gums become numb. Cocaine is a anesthetic; therefore, a numbing of the tongue and gums means the substance “tasted” is probably the real thing.
Hey, how’d Beckett know what heroin tasted like, anyway? Sounds like a month or two in rehab is in her future?
– Here we go. Stupid just got stupider. The ridiculous became ridiculouser. A rent-a-doctor shows up and says he performed a tomographic reconstruction of the victim’s knife wounds. What’s tomography you ask? It’s that cool graphics stuff – 3-D type images of crime scene and object reconstruction. You’ve seen it on CSI and other fake forensics shows that are written to entertain us. I have to say here that those show are very entertaining. They’re fun, and sometimes the scenes are real nail-biters. But not all the science depicted on the shows is real. And none of the networks, writers, directors, producers, or actors make any claims to that effect. For the most part, it’s all make believe.
Anyway, the forensic pathologist produced a plastic knife and said it was made using tomography of the victim’s wounds. He said it was an exact replica of the murder weapon. He also said it was a perfect copy of the same knife used to kill Beckett’s mother, ten years earlier. WHAT???
First, there’s no way possible to fashion an object based on wounds in human flesh, such as the knife wounds inflicted on this week’s victim, and Beckett’s mother. Tissue and muscle does not retain the shape of the object that penetrated, punctured, slashed, or lacerated it. We’re not made of Silly Putty.
And, if it was possible to make this “knife,” the doctor would have had to perform the exact same kind of hocus-pocus imagery on Beckett’s mother’s body at the time of her death in order to make an accurate comparison.
The doctor then said this was the only knife in the world that could have made the wounds. Therefore, the killer was the one and the same for both homicides. Again, BS! The knife in question, a Daggert 1, a knife that’s no longer in production, was manufactured by SOG Specialty Knives and Equipment. It’s a really sleek, and really nice knife that sold for approximately $130. Police and military were the intended targets for sales.
There are a couple of problems with the good doctor’s theory. Like…
…two copies of the Daggert 1. And, stabbing someone multiple times with a knife such as the Daggert 1 is NOT an uncommon means of murder. This could go on forever, but you get the idea, the theory doesn’t hold water.
– Beckett’s upset, and the captain, her boss, offers her a drink of liquor from a flask he pulled from his desk drawer. She’s on duty with a gun and badge on her side, which makes this highly unethical, not to mention very dangerous (guns, bullets, and alcohol are not a good combination). She unscrews the top and takes a swig. Then she makes a face and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand.
What’s next, Beckett and a new guest star partying in the dressing room? Watch out Alyssa Milano!
– Beckett would not be permitted to investigate the death of her mother, especially in her current emotional state. It wouldn’t be good for the case, and it definitely would not be good for her mental health.
– Beckett (any cop) does not have the authority to let someone out of jail, or to make deals regarding sentencing (She promised to eliminate the possibility of a death sentence if the suspect provided the name of her mother’s killer).
– The scene where the bad guy grabbed Castle as a hostage was, like the rest of the show, stupid. There’s just no other word for it. Yep, stupid it is. Police officers would never let the guy out the door.
– After Beckett shot the bad guy/drug-dealing hit man she began CPR (ridiculous), attempting to save his life so he could lead her to her mother’s killer. ARRRGGGHHHH! Dumb, dumb, and dumb.
The civil liability alone was at it’s peak at this point in the show. I’m sure if the cameraman had panned to one side or the other we’d have seen Gloria Allred handing out business cards to the dead guy’s friends and family. After all, the suspect was killed because of Beckett’s personal involvement in the case.
The final scene of the show was the best of all. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what it was about, I just know it wasn’t offensive. And for this episode, that’s a good thing.
There were many, many things I could’ve included, but didn’t, due to lack of space in the cyber place where this stuff is stored. Nope, not enough room in the world to point out all the errors in this show.
Please forgive the typos and other stuff. I’m exhausted.
Time – 4:14am. Good night…zzzzzzzzzzzzz
*Castle images are ABC photos.
* * *
I found this blog post floating around this morning. It’s from a blog called Doggonedmysteries.
Crossing Castle off my list of shows
That’s it I’m done. When Beckett tasted the drugs that they found in the locker, I was ready to throw a brick at the TV. No *%$#^$ way! The writers of the show seriously need to do some real research or talk to some honest to goodness live police officers.
Hell, Lee Lofland would love it if they came to him for advice or attended the Writers Police Academy. Check out his link on my blogroll-Graveyard Shift.
In the entire show, the only scene I enjoyed was the last one between Beckett and Castle. Geez, that’s bad. Most people who switched channels in disgust missed the best scene. I was busy at the computer-yes, I walked away from the show. Not far though since my computer is in the living room. DH was still watching it and making derisive comments through to the end.
The worst thing is that the premise of this show was good. The writing however, sucked big time. For me it means time to say bye bye to Castle. I have better things to do with my time…like write.
I just registered to attend this year’s Writers’ Police Academy, and I followed the Yellow Brick Road to this Web site. I recently discovered “Castle,” and it has become one of my DVR standards — I must say that after reading through your analyses of this season’s episodes, I was heartbroken to read that you will not be continuing after this season (okay, “heartbroken” might be a little strong; let’s say “disappointed”). I thoroughly enjoyed your posts, and they have been wonderfully enlightening. Thank you!
It’s weird that this is one of the highest rated episodes on both tv.com and imdb. I wonder why.
Ruby – No need to apologize, or to be embarrassed. I rely on you guys to keep me straight, and if you were to ask my wife she’d tell you that’s a pretty tough job. Thanks again for stopping by and I hope to see more of your comments.
Thank you for taking the time to explain this. I actually found this out myself after reading your most recent review and I must say that I’m extremely embarrassed by the review I left on this post. Please forgive my ignorance.
Ruby – Thanks for stopping by. I’m guessing you’re really not familiar with what we do here, so please allow me to explain. The main purpose of this site is to teach writers (and anyone else who’s interested) about police procedure, forensics, and crime scene investigation, and we use shows like Castle as a fun way to do that. I use the show’s errors in police procedure much like a grade school teacher used to use flash cards.
In addition to writers, lots of teachers and students use this site as a research tool. And, believe it or not, a few police officers stop by to brush up on a fact or two.
Like you, I, too, watch TV to be entertained, not to learn. Well, that’s not exactly true. I do enjoy many documentaries.
So, to answer your question…yes, it does matter, but not in the sense you were asking about.
By the way, I really do enjoy the show. I like the relationship between father and daughter, and I enjoy seeing the tension between Beckett and Castle. It’s a fun series.
I watch tv to turn off my brain. I never expect the shows I watch to be accurate. Doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them, even if the forensics/police work is incorrect. Does it REALLY matter? I mean, seriously? It’s TELEVISION.
Yes, I do know you’re not a TV Critic! Really I do. (Though I’m sure with posts titled “a review,” you must be very used to confused readers!)
Since you wrote about everyone wanting to see their own work presented properly, I just wanted to jump in with a perspective from someone so used to seeing my own field massacred by layman writers that it’s become a matter of course, and “No, not like Indiana Jones,” and “No, we don’t dig up dinosaurs,” are basically cliches in the profession. (I’ve seen the latter on a T-shirt.)
Again, I’m glad you’re taking the time to write about this angle, helping your readers avoid these mistakes in their own work. It’s a pity it also spoils the fun of the show for you — for a non-specialist, “Sucker Punch” was outstanding entertainment — but it’s great that you do it.
K’ukMo – Thanks for stopping by and for posting a comment.
I have to say, again, that my take on the show is not about anything other than the police procedure. I am NOT a TV critic. Overall, I like the show and the characters. So, when I say I have nothing good to say, I’m speaking of cops tasting heroin and other such nonsense that, unfortunately, some viewers pick up as truth. And the number of “horrible” police related things Beckett did in this episode was a distraction for many viewers, me included. It took away from the story so much that I would stop watching if it weren’t for these reviews.
By the way, I can’t imagine doing this again for another season. I’d rather go to the dentist for a root canal.
“people, no matter what career they’ve chosen and what level they’re at in that career, don’t normally appreciate it when people make glaring errors when talking about their jobs. It really offends some people.”
True enough. My own profession – archaeology – is one of the relatively few whose details get depicted nearly as often and at least as badly as criminal investigation, and I’ve heard many a groan about it over the years. Worse, TV archaeology often takes the form of apparent “documentary” without coming any closer to the mark.
Yet that doesn’t stop me loving, say, Indiana Jones. In my mind, “Castle” and similar shows are pretty much analogous, just pulp versions of the fields they present: so long as the characters are ‘true,’ I find it easy to forget the rest, which is really only there to prop up the story, to create the atmosphere and give the characters somewhere to be. Those would-be documentaries, on the other hand, are just flatly irresponsible.
As for this episode of Castle, I loved it. I thought it was one of the very best, with wonderful character work building up to the finest closing scene the series has given us. The blood dripping through the floor was laughable, yes, and the heroin tasting was a bit much even for me, (though I liked the line it set up). But the first half of the episode was, I thought, genuinely fun, and the second half was dramatic and exciting and moving and deeply satisfying and full of great character development.
Thus even knowing that this ‘review’ is really only looking at the technical side of things, reading a phrase here like “I’ve not got a single good word for it,” throws me. To me, this still feels like dismissing Indiana Jones outright because Indy didn’t apply for excavation permits, nor did he conduct any preliminary survey, nor set up a site datum for even basic mapping on that one occasion when he actually did dig, and don’t even talk to me about his flagrant violations of fundamental archaeological ethics at every stage of work… (There’s also the fact that the Ark of the Covenant causes guys’ faces to melt, but that’s a topic for another day.) That film series is directly responsible for quite a number of my students coming to class assuming that my job is one half treasure hunt and one half fighting modern-day Nazis. But I still love the films. They get the characters, and the whole concept of adventure, exactly right.
Still, I’ll say this: Where my own field overlaps with the fictional world, (not counting the mummies/haunted tombs angle, which is hopeless), it would no doubt be well served by some accuracy police like you and your readers, setting things straight in the background and trying to keep future authors away from old pitfalls. I could never be one of them — I’ll always say story trumps accuracy — but I’ve certainly learned a lot from reading your take, and it’s a job worth doing. Thanks.
Excuse me, but my last two posting here had very little to do with police work. I don’t think personal attacks are in order at this point.
Best as I can tell from reading my own postings again I said:
1) Ladder? Oh I see you are joking or giving an extreme example of what would prevent height estimates at the crime scene from being accurate.
2) The ME gave the height estimate at the crime scene, oh, I see what you mean then. My fault, thought it was done at the lab.
3) I totally agreed with you on the whole bullet hole caliber thing.
I see that I use the word experience, but not in relation to police work at all. I mention my experience with scientists, well I work with a bunch of them. I mention high school drop outs that run companies, well I haven’t meet any of those which is why I had to look up some examples and posted links. I mention bums, can’t say if the last one I spoke to smoked crack but he certainly drank a lot and could not give clear directions to where I wanted to go.
I don’t see anywhere in there where I’ve said “You don’t know what you’re talking about with regards to police work, I know better.”
In fact, if you check your email you will find me asking off-line “Hey, that flash light thing you mentioned, glad to hear it bothers someone who knows something about the whole thing. Could you tell me more?”
Therefore, two paragraphs obliquely telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about puzzles me greatly.
tudza – Let’s start over. Perhaps I’m not understanding your comments, as written. I certainly don’t claim to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. On the other hand, you just might be overlooking my odd and wacky sense of humor in many of my responses.
First of all, you mention your experience. Please tell me a little about your experience regarding law enforcement, forensics, and crime scene investigation. Perhaps your background and knowledge of police procedure is far more extensive than mine and the many other experts who provide the information for our site. If so, I’m always willing to learn, especially if I’ve presented something on this site that’s incorrect, and I’m always looking for expert advice for the blog and in my writings.
My comments are all based on first-hand experience in death and other crime scene investigations, including murder and autopsy, as well as the extensive training and research I’ve endured over the years. AND, a good portion of that experience boils down to using good old common sense. If I may, on what are you basing your statements regarding police work?
Defensive? Hardly. My actual point is that you seemed to dismiss as impossible many things I would consider probable from my own experience. Interestingly enough, you put them in order of most to least probable.
A pure scientist who believes in the philosophy of pure science. Very probable. ( I grant you one who follows through and looses all chance of doing such work in well funded labs, very improbable. )
A high school drop out running a major company, less probable but many examples exist. ( I’m not sure how you derive from this that I was offended. I went to college if that’s what you mean.)
Crack smoking bum and genius of biotech, yeah I’d have to dismiss that one out of hand.
An example of something you complain about all the time that I totally agree with from my own experience, telling people the caliber of weapon from a bullet hole. Man, I can’t even tell a 9mm cartridge from a .40 S&W cartridge without a good look.
tudza – My comments above were not directed to you, they were to a specific set of questions posed by someone else. But, now that you’ve brought it up, you just may be correct about when the M.E. made the height statement. I don’t remember. Still, she’d have no way of knowing the height of the attacker without more information. A lot more information than we we saw on the show.
Yes, I was kidding about the ladder comment, but I used it to make a point, a point you seem to be missing. The same with my comment about the scientists. You missed that point entirely if you think I’m knocking people who haven’t completed high school. I’d never do that in a million years. I know plenty of people who didn’t go very far in school, but are quite successful, much more successful than a lot of people who made it through college.
However, how likely is it that a high school dropout could replace your CEO or COO, a nuclear engineer and a chemist? Still, I totally don’t get your point about your CEO and COO.
What I was saying, was that people, no matter what career they’ve chosen and what level they’re at in that career, don’t normally appreciate it when people make glaring errors when talking about their jobs. It really offends some people. Like you, you were offended when I mentioned biotech and people who didn’t complete a high school education. In fact, your defensive comments have proven my point, nicely.
With that said, we need to move on to other topics. Thanks for your opinion, though.
I must have had a lapse of memory, I thought we learned the probable height of our attacker once the body was back in the lab and had been examined further. I still say attacks by ladder, stilts, or pogo stick could have been ruled out at the scene, but I believe you were joking about that anyway.
Your paragraph about what might bother people in the scientific community bothers me a little. I can certainly believe there are many people who do basic research that believe that confidentiality agreements are tomfoolery. I can even imagine that they could believe this and still work for a big drug company. I would *not* believe that such a person would act on this belief and still have a job the next day or find a new one easily in the coming months.
A brief search using Google turns up many famous and successful people who did not finish high school or college. I work for a biotech startup and our CEO is a chemist and our COO is a nuclear engineer, a far cry from being drop outs but they aren’t biologists either. I could not dismiss the possibility out of hand.
The final example I probably would agree is unlikely without the urge to check further.
Kelly – I do this Tuesday blog about Castle for one reason, and that’s to point out true and false police and forensics procedures – what cops really do as opposed to what’s seen on this particular show. I am not saying the show is bad. Not at all. The quality of the show doesn’t enter into these “reviews.” I’m merely bringing the truth about real-life police work to light for the benefit of writers who want to know how things are really done. Some people, I guess not everyone, prefer to make their work as realistic as possible.
We picked Castle because Nathan Fillion plays the part of a mystery writer (the majority of our readers are writers).
Sure, it would be possible, easy in fact, to write good scenes without using goofy and insulting information, or without treating the viewing audience as if we’re barely above the intelligence level of a rock. You reference the M.E.’s height difference statement. Simple common sense would indicate that a doctor would have no possible way of making even an educated guess of the killer’s height based upon a mere glance at the wounds on a victim’s body that’s lying on the floor in a murder scene. Shoot, she doesn’t even know how tall the victim is at this point.
As I pointed out above, they’d need more facts from the scene to make any sort of determination regarding the killer’s height. Was he standing on a chair when he inflicted the fatal wounds, or was he actually 8 feet tall and kneeling? OR, was the victim lying down when he was killed? There simply was not enough information provided. An M.E.’s job is a science, not a spin of the roulette wheel.
Would you not want people writing an accurate depiction of bioethics and the scientific community? How well would it sit with members of your field if a new TV show aired this week starring a research scientist who consistently conducts experiments in new drug discovery while dismissing confidentiality agreements as fly-by-night tomfoolery. How about a guy who flunked out of high school, yet sits at the helm of a biotech startup company conducting cancer research The show climaxes with him presenting to the FDA. Approval, yeah! Or, how about the discovery of a new anti-infective drug by a homeless man who refers to pipettes as devices used for smoking crack?
This is how ridiculous some of what we see and hear on Castle is to us. Would you not want someone to point out those errors so that perhaps the next writer would get it right?
So out of curioustiy, Lee, would it have been possible to have rewritten the troublesome scenes to make them realistic while keeping the basic plot? I’m curious what you would have rather seen. For instance, when discussing the height of the killer, would you have preferred the ME saying something like “preliminary judgment suggests that there was at least an eight inch height difference between the killer and victim”?
I’d definitely be interested in knowing how you’d “save” a bad scene when you’re reviewing the show for accuracy (and I realize that some of this might be part of the writing convention, but that’s sadly very outside my budget for the time being).
Eliana. We all like this show. But we care about the errors and point them out because we’re trying to prevent writers and other people from believing this is the way police officers really operate.
Again, for the umpteenth time, our review is strictly for the purpose of pointing out improper police procedure and forensics. We do so to help our writer friends with their research. I’d love to hang out with any one of the actors on the show because I think they’re terrific, and fun. The sense of humor that comes across in each episode is right up my alley. I’m that kind of nut.
And, we do most of the reviews in a tongue-in-cheek style. We have fun with this stuff and I’m truly sorry if the reviews offend anyone, but we ain’t stopping…
Oh, I’m with you on the reality show thing. I absolutely despise them, all of them.
I love this tv show and I really don’t care about the errors ’cause none on the TV is really perfect.
I hate “reality show”, for me it’s the most manipulated shows on TV that I’d seen, and many people like it(ughh)
Anyway, I LOVE CASTLE!
I think there would have been signs of a ladder used in a killing, or a ladder on the premises, and the position of the body and the patterns of blood from the body ought to tell you if the victim was on the ground etc.
I think you might be joking about the ladder actaully, since who kills people while standing on a ladder, especially people with a shotgun and a pistol at hand. Let’s say the victim is kneeling, then the angle of the stabbing would be very great, unless your attacker was also kneeling, in which case you are back to how tall attacker was.
Really, the whole thing just told me it was a girl friend or his brother, and the height ruled out the girlfriend. Case closed with another 20 minutes or so to go in the show.
About the pulling the slide thing, anybody ever watch BBC crime shows? I’ve seen several shows where the officers do this not before entering some building but just before they are ready to fire. The worst was on MI-5 or something where an officer is threatening someone with a gun to their head for some time *and then gets really serious by actually chambering a round*!
What was the little knife she used to cut open the drug package?
I blog Castle for another website. I found your site via Google and enjoy reading about the technical errors I’m a complete civilian, so my blogs are a little more basic, and even I called out the WTF-ness of her tasting the drugs!
I love watching Castle. I have been reading this blog for a few months…just never put a comment out here. Monday’s are busy nights for my wife and I we just tape it and normally watch it on Tuesday’s. I normally wait to read your review until afterwards…not today. When my wife asked if I was ready to watch it when I got home I told her that I would have to pass. Dang it! I should not read the Castle entries until Wednesday mornings. I’m sure I’ll watch this episode someday.
I personally really loved this episode, I respect everyone who didn’t like it though cause it’s an opinion. Although the procedure was pretty lame and unlikely, I thought it was an intense and gripping episode. The beginning was funny as usual but when they found out about Beckett’s mothers connection, things got really sad. Despite the unrealistic plot, I personally think the acting was great (especially on Stana’s part, who play Beckett at the very end) and I can’t wait to see more. Please don’t hate me, I just wanted to say what I think.
I just re-read RhondaL’s comment.
I agree about the variable standards of accuracy.
But I wonder… I read one of the many Star Trek tell-alls, perhaps Shatner’s “Star Trek Memories”, and apparently it was quite common for Gene Roddenberry to completely re-write a script after the final draft had been turned in by the writer. (I can just imagine the production notes. “To casting and costume: Ignore the scripted description of the blue alien girl. She must be at least 38D, as per Star Trek standards. -GR”)
In 2010, on a series with multiple writers working independently, how much editorial tweaking takes place that is beyond the writer’s touch or authority to control?
I’m glad I read the other comments before posting.
Yes, Castle is sort of romantic comedy, far more so than police procedural. But if they’re trying for parody, take a lesson from Mel Brooks – the more true the parody is to the original, the greater the comedic effect.
I mostly ignore the procedural errors – I enjoy the show in general, and hope they manage to save it. (Maybe they should cast Conan O’Brien next month as a talk show host who kills to keep his show on the air?)
Regarding ceiling drips… Okay, I laughed at that. Silently, but I laughed. Not at all realistic, but a hilarious way to find the body. (I did once have an upstairs neighbor with a leaky sink, which resulted in a collapsed ceiling. It was not a thin dribble – a 4-foot circle of ceiling dropped onto the living room floor.)
Since the knife reconstruction was mentioned – I’ll point out one thing that I think Lee missed. Even if the technology could recreate a 3-dimensional model of the knife from body scans, the only way you’d end up with the version in the ME’s hand was if the assailant stabbed the victim fully to the blade hilt. And then reversed the knife, holding it by the blade, and plunged the handle into the victim enough times to allow a reconstruction of the handle.
This week’s big problem for me, though, was flagrant misuse of technology. They found the victim’s cell phone, which had taken a bullet. Beckett said something like “Take the SIM card, and check the call history.” Nice idea, but call history is not stored on SIM cards; they contain information to authenticate the cell phone subscriber to the network, and optionally may contain address book entries and recent SMS (text) messages.
One of the other detectives (or a CSI, I don’t remember which) commented later that they tried to get the information on recent calls, but “due to the damage, we didn’t get the last two digits [of the phone number the victim dialed].”
Sorry, but a flash memory device isn’t like a piece of paper – you
can’t selectively delete information by shooting bullets through it. Particularly if the “bullet” is a 12 gauge deer slug. Even if the call history were stored in the SIM card, the number dialed would be written, for all intents and purposes, in a single
operation. If the slug hit at the exact instant that the numbers
were being written to flash memory, which is in itself highly unlikely, and would imply the victim had just pressed “send” to place a call, the most likely outcome would be one of the following, in no particular order:
a) none of the dialed digits are successfully stored
b) all of the dialed digits are stored
c) the mechanical damage during the write operation results in further electrical damage to the SIM card; all stored information is lost.
But even if the SIM card and the phone itself are rendered inoperable, it is considerably less likely that the SIM card contents, the serial number printed on the SIM card, and the printed IMEI number label inside the phone would all be destroyed. The IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a unique identifier for that specific handset; if you move a SIM card between two phones, the SIM card allows you to authenticate to the network (hence your phone number stays with the SIM), but the cellular carrier will also request your IMEI number when the phone signs on to the network. Assuming the investigator has any one of the IMEI number, SIM serial number, or a working SIM card, as well as the appropriate warrant, the cellular carrier should be able to identify the phone number and retrieve call history. In some cases, the phone manufacturer’s serial number, also printed on a label inside the phone, may provide a fourth link to that information.
I wasn’t 100% certain of this when I started writing this comment. A single Google search, followed by a visit to four Wikipedia pages was sufficient to confirm the information with a high degree of confidence. For someone completely in the dark about cell phone technology, but who knew the term “SIM card”, another 10 or 20 minutes of cross-checking could have been sufficient.
Given the realities of phone company bureaucracy, it is highly unlikely that information would have been available while Beckett was still at the crime scene. On the other hand, I’m willing to ignore that as a matter of time compression required for the format.
Ignoring all the procedural/technical details, though, I do like the way the Beckett/Castle relationship is developing. As they approached the possible solution to her mother’s murder, I felt a fair amount of tension (perhaps produced as much by past history as the present episode), because the instant that murder is fully solved, I believe there will be an irreversible change in their relationship. This episode led us to the very edge of the abyss, let a few pebbles fall in, and then yanked us back. In my mind, that is the strength of this episode, and yes, I’ll howl at the errors, but I’ll still come back for more. I’ll even watch the re-air later this season.
Hi, Lee —
Since we’re not in the new season of Castle in Australia yet, I have this episode to look forward to.
BUT, you said: “Besides, if a weapon was fully loaded when the officer pulled back the slide as Beckett did tonight, the action would eject the round from the chamber, leaving her one bullet shy of a full magazine…”
I saw this very situation in a rerun of CSY:NY last week where Stella is attacked by her supposed artist boyfriend. He is coming at her, she points her weapon at him, pulls the trigger and click, no shot. He starts coming toward her, grin of satisfaction on his face, she pulls back the slide and blows him away. It was a really dramatic moment, but I, too, was surprised that a trained officer would find herself without being able to fire immediately. The only way it would have been more dramatic would have been if her attacker had tried to shoot her and the gun didn’t fire, but she somehow gets the gun and arms it and kills him. Probably didn’t fit the timing of the scene, or they would have!
Regarding Beckett saying she’ll get the death sentence off the table, could that be one of those ‘we can lie to suspects if we want’ things? Or are there limits on lying? Again, I didn’t see the show, so I don’t know the context of that scene, in terms of where it took place, in the field or in the department as official interrogation.
Thanks for the review! I’ll look forward to seeing this one later this year.
I know, Lee.
And I appreciate and enjoy your reviews of what they get right and wrong on the show.
When I want to know the right way police do it, I turn to a book called “Police Procedure and Investigation’ by Lee Lofland. Do you know him?
After having just watched two heavy-duty angst-ridden wild&crazy hours of 24, I was ready for some witty repartee from my favorite investigators. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
More heavy drama and angst from, of all places, Castle. I was so strung out after the show that, when I finally checked Twitter, I cried because I saw where Rachel Alexandra had beaten out Zenyatta for Horse of the Year. I know – even for horse-crazy me, that’s waaay over-the-top. I mean, WTF??
What frosts my cookies is that, the show’s police procedure been steadily improving up until last night. But all that positive goodness got wiped out by an episode written by a former cop???
Sorry. One of my pet peeves is that we novelists, especially aspiring novelists, are held to a higher standard, but film and TV seem to be allowed to play the “oh-reality-wouldn’t-be-dramatic-enough-for-the-story” card.
I think I’m so upset because I love to watch this show. I love the cast, the precinct, Castle’s family. When this show is good, it’s very, very good. But last night’s episode? OMG.
Maybe it’s time I went to run like a hamster on the treadmill and followed that with a soothing cup of chamomile tea?
Dave, Dave, Dave…Here’s what I wrote in response to a similar question I saw posted on a writer’s group loop:
I don’t do the reviews as an actual “review” of the show. This started last season when someone, from this loop, actually, asked if the police procedures used on the show were accurate. Of course, they’re not. The show, as you’ve pointed out, is a light comedy. So, we started pointing out the errors for fun, and so writers won’t make the mistake of using something they’ve seen on the show in their books. Our reviews are sort of tongue in cheek and not intended to be taken as serious reviews of the show as a whole.
The title of this episode says it all: Sucker Punch.
The writers, producers, and directors sucker punched every viewer with this lame story.
Or we could look on it as how NOT to do it whe it comes to anything relating to police procedures!
Having said that, I have to ask, “What’s wrong with watching a show just for the hell of it, just for mindless entertainment?”
We all know TV is the modern equivalent of a fairy tale: No correlation to the real world.
Well, I’d never want to be in the position of having to take the time to stop and chamber a round when someone was shooting at me.
Inviting the writers, producers and actors of Castle to the Writers Police Academy might be useful, but it wouldn’t have prevented this show. As Lee pointed out, it was written by an LAPD veteran of at least 17 years. He knew better but all I can guess is he went for dumbed down entertainment rather than facts.
Oh, and the comment that cops always keep one round in the chamber doesn’t hold true for the cops in London, Ontario where I come from. I specifically asked that of a homicide detective sergeant a short while ago and he emphatically said no cop here does that. Period. He was rather put out by the idea, as though it would mean London police are trigger happy. But then he also bristled when I asked about SWAT and was told never to call our Tactical officers that. It wasn’t PC.
I love your blog Lee, don’t stop reviewing Castle. It’s almost as much fun as the show itself and is always good for a laugh.
Lee, I was so surprised to hear there really are hollow point shot guns shells. New to me. So I learned something. See your work does pay off for us writers.
I can’t agree that this show was supposed to be a spoof, not with the topic of finding Beckett’s mother’s killer, so I don’t understand all the errors. The drug tasting really got me. And then the captain dropping his gun–come on. That was the last straw for me with tonight’s show.
I’ll still watch the show for entertaiment value and to see where it goes with C & B’s relationship. I agree that the writers better keep them apart or the show is history. I hope the tech errors are corrected down the road, but I doubt that will happen.
At least you know between 10 and 11 on Monday night now many people are thinking about you making notes for the review. You’re a very popular guy! I never thought to e-mail you during the show. I guess my Mom taugh me concideration to well. Thanks again for all the time you put in on this.
Sigh. Just when I thought the writers were getting things right, multiple goofs, from the goofy ME (where is her male counterpart? He lent a certain dignity to the show),who seems intent on pushing Kate and Castle together with meaningful glances, to the bus locker scene. And who would believe Beckett’s boss would really even suggest she stay on the case (um…if the guy had lived, wouldn’t there have been a huge issue of conflict of interest?). Like some, I watch it more for the relationships than the accuracy, but this episode’s last scene was the best; Castle wanting to quit and her assuring him she wanted him to stay. Nathan Fillion and Stania Katic have great chemistry. Now if the writers could just get the other stuff right.
I hope the viewers are also sending the emails to ABC. And the show’s writers and producers.
Melanie brought up a good point. They seem to think viewers are dumb. Based upon the over 200 emails I’ve received since this episode aired, I’d say the viewers are more angry that what could’ve been a good, log lasting show is gradually falling apart. It’s destroying itself from within and they don’t seem to care what we think. Hey, wait a minute. Is Karl Rove producing this show? Come on, tell me it ain’t so…
So much was wrong that you have to wonder if this wasn’t an attempt to spoof the masters of spoof movies – Scary Movies 1-100, any Mel Brooks movies, and Naked Gun 1-100.
Also, I’m really starting to worry about the thing between Castle and Beckett. The “alluding to” has already begun to cross the line. Once they get to first base the show is toast.
Yes, all bad, but you got to admit one statement about the use of the shotgun and the bullets,
‘They could take out a Kodiak in Kelvar’
created a stop and imagine moment.
The image should be used on the side of a tank.
Back in the 60’s in a training program for therpists working with Nam vets with PTSD and/or substance abuse we were given a handout list of the current drugs and the effect to expect when tasted. I gave that idiot psychariatrist a tongue lashing and then personally collected the entire bunch, plus his extra copies – seems like nothing has changed.
I’ll stick to drag racing and Monster Trucks and your reviews. Thanks Lee.
It’s always fun to watch with my crit partner via IM and try to pick out which things you’ll blog about, Lee.
The show really stunk it up this week, but once again the Castle/Beckett chemistry won out for me. Like Marie, I’m a romance writer. Can’t help it. Good chemistry is so hard to come by!
Really liked Rourke – wish they’d given him more of a part in the ending of the episode. He just sort of disappeared, and he was a really cool character.
Lee, thanks for continuing to do this even though it’s sometimes a form of self-inflicted torture for you. It’s part of what makes watching the show so fun, and just look how many writers are cringing at the mistakes now! See? We’re learning!
(Warning – shameless plug ahead)
BTW, people – SIGN UP FOR THE WRITERS POLICE ACADEMY. You guys have NO idea how cool this is going to be. The website can’t possibly do this justice – I’m on the planning committee, and I can assure you it will be the best $$$ you ever spent on a conference.
Don’t forget to check out the writing contests that are taking place in conjunction with the event. Fabulous opportunity to get your work in front of agents and even Alfred Hitchcock Magazine!
DO NOT MISS THIS!!!
Missing chemistry? I don’t get that at all. I saw plenty of chemistry between B & C, but I didn’t like the episode–with the exception of these scenes: Beckett with her dad, when she went to Castle’s apartment, and when the two of them were together at the precinct at the end–because of all the blatant errors. I was cringing from the beginning with the blood dripping from the ceiling. Even my cat would know that was over the top. The drugs, Kate working the case even though she was so involved, the stupidity with the knife…
And why didn’t Coonan disarm Kate when he pulled the gun on Castle? What a DUH moment for a master assassin. I mean, seriously.
I’m still going to watch the show for the Castle-Beckett interaction. I just hope the writers get a clue about police procedure. Or maybe they just blatantly ignore it because they think viewers are dumb. It irks me.
Lee, I almost emailed you last night when Beckett cut open the drug packet. I knew what you were going to say.
Last night’s show was the worst of the few that I’ve watched. I didn’t make it to the end. The police procedure was ridiculous, and the usual chemistry between Beckett and Castle was missing.
I did like the old, creepy Irish guy, though. He was probably the best part of the show.
If I promise to never use Castle as a writing resource, can I still watch it for Castle and Beckett moments? Of course I can and will. I’m at heart a romance writer and love the two leads.
So much was wrong, but they are so right.
Good morning, Lee.
(or is it early afternoon as you read this)
I think you summed up the episode early in your blog (perhaps it sums up the entire series)
“Beckett – one bullet shy of a full magazine.”
Ya’ gotta love it!!
Lee– I’m chiming in late but wanted to let you know how very much I appreciated you sharing this powerful story with us. It reinforced my suspicions that you are an amazing person–not because you handled this situation as you did, but because you handled yourself so well afterward by getting help. Recognizing problems and having the courage to change them is a life skill that successful people must have. You’re a gift to the online community.
but of course, don’t let that go to your head….(jk)
Lee-I will be there if the creek don’t rise. Plus, McMennamin’s on the Columbia is calling my name. Burgers ‘n beer are one of life’s simple pleasures.
Timber Beast – Feel free to ask away. By the way, are you going to the conference in Portland again this year?
Thanks Lee. I’ve wanted to know ever since we met. I never could ask.
I was very moved by your story and your extreme generosity in sharing such a personal account. I’m grateful everyday for people like you who take on the hardest job in the world. Thank you.
GypsyGirl – I wish I could say this story was a work of fiction. Unfortunately, it’s not. I was firing a 9mm with hollowpoint ammunition, and yes, he bled to death. Stopping someone with a single shot is a huge misconception many writers make. You pretty much have to hit a vital organ or vessel to stop someone cold. Ask any hunter who’s hit a deer at point blank range and then had to track the wounded animal for hundreds of yards until it finally bled to death. I apologize for the imagery, but it’s the same situation.
And the comments about an editor’s reaction is precisely the reason I wrote my book, why I write this blog, and why I travel from coast to coast speaking at writers conferences. Writers do their homework and so should editors. How would they feel if we wrote big fat lies about their profession?
I’ll never forget a phone call I got from my editor. I think she’s super sharp, super sweet, and one of my favorite people in the world, but I had to laugh when she questioned something I wrote in my book about police procedure and investigation. Her comment was, “Lee, are you sure what you wrote is correct because I was watching Law and Order last night and that’s not how they did it.”
Again, Do NOT use television as reference source. 🙂
Here’s another thanks for your story, Lee. And I must agree that your sense of humor is a constant delight.
When I read how the guy kept getting up, I thought the department carry must have been .38s or 9mm’s. Is that right? Even so, the shot to the head and his startling recovery amazed me. Was the velocity so impaired by going through the window that it allowed him to get up? The rounds to the torso–which ones killed him or would have had him bleed out eventually? The other writers on this blog must also be smiling, shaking their heads, knowing an editor would say wha-a-a-t? In movies, the guy jumping up after being shot has been used so much that it’s just corny. Bo-o-o-o/Surprise!, Bad Guy rises again! Your real-life scenario, surrounded by enough explanatory info, could convince the most doubting reader.
I liked what you said about people in other professions also suffering from PTSD. Ya know what? Life is hard. I never make fun of people with depression, no matter how trivial their complaint may be. To quote a poet who perhaps “saved my life” (to be a little dramatic here), “It hurts. It hurts either way.” (Barry Spacks, in “An Emblem of Two Foxes” — you can find it even online.)
That’s a story that hits home every time–definitely NOT rambling.
2008? 2009? I thought YOU knew. I was just daydreaming today (while I should have been working, yes) about posting a photo of the book on my blog, when it does come out. That’s going to be so cool. 🙂
Kellie – I really feel for the soldiers. It’s difficult to imagine what they’re going through.
You know, people don’t think about cops in the same way as they do soldiers. But their PTSD is the same PTSD that’s experienced by soldiers and rape victims, and victims of child and spousal abuse. Pain is pain, no matter where or how you acquire it.
No, the robber’s toxicology report was negative. I think it was a case of suicide-by-cop.
By the way, it’s good to hear from you again, Kelli. Don’t be a stranger.
God, Lee, that was a harrowing story. And it can translate into other settings as well … battlefields, for example. I shudder to think of the trauma soldiers (and cops) endure on a daily basis.
Was the guy on drugs? He seemed to have had an uncanny constitution.
Thanks for sharing this incredible, poignant and personal journey with us.
Debra – No problem. Sometimes it’s best to point out a detail like that again because most people don’t realize that cops handcuff injured and even dead suspects. you never know.
kennac – You might find it difficult to believe, but there are still departments out there that still don’t have a policy regarding officer shootings. Most do and I applaud them for it. I just hope no one has to go through what we did. By the way, just because I was the one who actually killed the guy doesn’t mean it was any easier on my fellow officers. PTSD can rear its ugly head at any time, for any reason.
Okay, Lee. I went back and reread. The handcuffs are right there in your story. Sorry I missed it on my first read through. Thanks for sharing your story with us.
Peg – You’re a true friend (the check is in the mail).
My wife is so, so glad that I’m no longer in the cop business. She was quite weary of wondering if I’d make it home each night.
Actually, my wife really hated me doing this for a living after riding with me one Christmas Eve. I was in charge that night so I figured I wouldn’t have to get involved in too much weird stuff. Well, around two in the morning one of the patrol officers called for assistance – a suspect had gotten the upper hand on her while she was trying to arrest him and he’d gotten away from her. He was armed with a knife.
When I arrived there were two other officers on the scene and they were trying to talk the guy into putting down the knife. To make a long story short I stepped in and TOOK the knife from the guy, handcuffed him and turned around and got back in the car with my wife. She looked at me and said, “Do you do this every day?” I nodded and said, Sure, doesn’t everybody?”
This is what cops have to face every single day. To them it’s business as usual.
Joyce – You’re the reason we’re wearing our boots.
Debra – When we rolled the guy over after tackling him (he charged toward the other officers), I took the gun from his hand and then handcuffed him. He was still alive and considered a very real threat at this point.
I always keep my waders handy around here.
There are some cop’s wives who decide that the life is not for them. The divorce rates are high. When my hubby wanted to go through the police academy I fully supported him. We both went into it with eyes wide opened. He still has nightmares from a couple of incidents but wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. Lee you rank right up there with him on my people I am proud to know list.
What a sad and tragic story Lee. I do have a question though. On your blog,
you said: My chief actually told me that a real cop would just suck it up.
In fact, he sent me to the morgue to photograph the body and to remove the
handcuffs from the dead man’s wrists. Am I missing something? How did the
bank robber come to have on handcuffs?
I need a pair of those boots to wear to work everyday.
Not if you’re one of those field guys…
I guess that’s a compliment, Jordan.
Coming from the energy industry and many many trips into the field, I know my way around shit. You guys would probably be a breath of fresh air.
Jordan – Hip boots are required anytime you’re in the company of more than one ex-cop. Where’s Sgt. Howden? I’m sure he’s got a scoop or two handy, too.
Becky – I know you’ve heard this story at least a hundred times. you’re a good friend to listen to my babbling.
Does everyone know Becky? She and I are co-writing a kid’s book that’s scheduled for release in early 2009. Right, Becky? 2009? Or is it later this year. I’ve lost track. Anyway, you can visit Becky’s website and blog by clicking the link on the right side of this blog’s main page.
Jordan, it’s good for the roses.
I think I’m smelling 450 lbs of bullshit…
Every time I read this story, it gives me the chills. Half because of what happened, and half, I think, because you are able to write about it. I think its incredibly generous and strong of you to share it with others, to give us some of the insight we need.
Lee – this was a truly moving post. Thank you so much for sharing.
At this time, I trust that officers receive better post-trauma care than you receive. It would be very interesting to hear about the infrastructure that has been created to help officers cope with these types of life-altering events.
Oh, did I give the impression that I could lift that much weight? I meant that I could press down on it. 🙂
Lee, you can bench press 300 lbs? That’s nothing. I can do 450 lbs. (I just can’t do it all at once.)
Dave – I wholeheartedly agree. I’m not a fan of Tasers. Not at all. Pepper spray, yes, Tasers, no. Officers have to spend way too much time trying to decide which trinket to go for in a time of crisis. But, I think the real problem is that they’re trained to go for something other than words and that makes them quicker to shoot. I was an academy instructor for officer survival so it takes a lot to make me think this way. Just a thought.
It’s a scary world out there.
Danny – But the rewards are so great. After all, I got a spiffy little gold-colored collar pin when I left the department.
I did get a couple of commendations. I received medal for bravery and I received the Virginia Chief’s of Police Medal of Valor. That’s the highest award law enforcement has to offer. I tossed them both in a box and that’s where they stayed for years. They’re on a wall in my office now, but for a long time I didn’t want to look at them.
pabrown – Strong? I can still bench press over 300lbs. Not bad for an old geezer… Seriously, thanks.
Lee, I think firearms are more prevelant on the street in the hands of those who absolutely should not have guns, i.e. criminals. Firearms seem to much more accepted in today’s youth culture. Gone are the days of the “hood” with a swicthblade knife or brass knuckles.
Actually, I think officers today are probably less likely to shoot, which is not necessarily a good thing.
One thing that concerns me is the extra steps that are being addd to the use of force continuum. With the addition of pepper spray and taser guns, officer have added options in that split second decision. A decision that will be torn apart and examined in tiny peices by those who will have the luxury of months to judge what you did in a second.
I’m glad officers have non-lethal options, but I would be afraid an officer might grab for that taser when he really needs to use lethal force, and only discovers that after it’s too late.
That’s an incredible story, Lee. Thank you for sharing it. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to cause someone to lose their life. Seems to me questions of guilt or innocence of the victim take a back seat to the cold hard reality. You’re a very strong man, and I’m proud to know you.
I always say, Lee, it’s a helluva price to pay for a civil service job. Law enforcement staff put themselves in scary, comprimising situations each day no matter how routine they might seem. And they give a piece of themselves–whether it be trust, faith, family time, etc–throughout their careers.
Danny – Your blog gave me the idea to write this short piece. By the way, I’m still receiving comments about your post, and the site is still getting hits on it. You’re a popular young man.
mfmakichen – My little story is just one tiny drip in a huge bucket. There are many more out there. I was lucky and got to go home at the end of that day. There are far too many police officers who don’t get that option.
The average person just doesn’t realize what goes on in their safe little towns when the sun drops behind the trees.
Dave – I know what you mean. I came close many times. There were times when some thug pointed a weapon at me or someone else and I could have shot, but didn’t. You just have to make that call when the situation arises.
I guess I was exposed to shooting situations more than most since I did a lot of search warrant service for narcotics and other high-risk entries. What a way to make a living, huh?
Don’t you find that officer involved shootings are happening much more frequently than ever? I wonder if officers today are quicker on the trigger, or is it that they’re just getting shot at a lot more than we did? What do you think, Lieutenant?
Yesterday when you said you were going to blog about this I thought about it a lot. I thought about what it would be like to have been cut, stabbed and shot.
Then I thought about what it would be like if all those things had happened to my husband. If every time he left for work the possiblity of those things happening existed.
I came to the conclusion that I do not have and would not have the temperament to deal with that life. I would probably be on tranquilizers all the time.
On top of that add in what you went through from proctecing yourself and shooting someone. We need people in our society who do have the temperament to do the job–to be a cop. The conclusion I came to is that the human spirit is remarkable.
You are such a kind and generous person. I wonder if you are like that inspite of what you’ve been through or because of what you’ve been through. In either case it’s an honor to know you.
Also, I really admire your wife and the wives of all the cops out there. I’m not sure how they do it. — Mary-Frances
What a powerful, insightful story. This , of course, continues the dialogue we had on Tuesday here at The Graveyard Shift and confirms my belief in the power of human story–as well as our attraction to it.
I was speaking at a Chicago area library last night and we touched on this exact topic in our discussion of ON THE JOB. In the movies, Dirty Harry shoots the bad guy and walks into the sunset, right? Much as I found with the Chicago officers I profiled in the book, your experience runs parallel. There is a reconciliation process that takes place with any officer faced with such a situation and we all grieve differently.
Your story is a wonderful one to share in that it’s ultimately a triumphant tale. You’re here. You’ve made your peace. And you’ve found your new vocation.
Hi, Lee. Thanks for sharing that story.
We just had an officer forced to kill a man about two weeks ago, after the man had robbed a store, ran from the police and pointed his firearm at the officer, twice. Fortunately, officers are provided with after incident counseling now a days. It wasn’t all that long ago that that was not the case.
I came close a few times, but never had to pull the trigger. And I am thankful for that.
Lee, didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s not nice to tease the newcomers?
The blog topics are great. I enjoyed the two-parter on Kinesics. Although, I have to admit, that kind of thing makes me paranoid. Not that I get questioned by police so often. Or, ever.
I did jaywalk in Rehoboth early Saturday morning, right in front of a police car. He waved. Beach cops are nice!
Ramona – So, you decided to do a little slumming today, huh? See, it’s not bad on this side of the tracks.
I’m fairly certain the robber decided to commit suicide-by-cop. His toxicology report was clean. I truly believe he had decided to end it all because of the criminal charges he was facing.
The blog is doing well. I’m very pleased with the response so far. We have tons of folks in the background who read everyday and the list is growing. I just hope the topics are helping.
What a powerful story, Lee. It is mind boggling that anyone would choose to shoot it out against five policemen.
It’s a shame you had to go through the aftermath without help, but good that times have changed and counseling is available to officers after traumatic events.
This blog is great. I wish you a lot of success, and many readers.
It might be textbook from a cop’s training manual, but like you’ve said before on other blogs–writing about it is so much easier than living it. Finding a way to write about it would still be interesting.
I once critiqued a writer who had lived through an incident where he was shot in the back by a woman suspect who he thought was only a witness. He had to kill her. When he wrote the scene, I didn’t know he had been writing about his own experience and I kept asking him more and more questions to draw details out for the reader. But we both learned that he simply didn’t know the answers and had a hard time writing enough emotion to the scene to make it effective fiction.
So when I hear your words on this blog, I know it will be different for you. I think your work will be damned good.
Jordan – No, actually I was over the worst of it when I started writing professionally. Now, the memories are a part of my history that does seem to find its way onto a page or two. You’ll see some of that in the novel I’m getting ready to shop.
My perspective of the event has changed a little. I know it couldn’t be prevented, and I also know that if I were placed in the same situation today I’d wouldn’t change anything. It was pretty much a textbook case.
Melanie – New England CrimeBake is a great writers conference that’s held in the Boston area. It’s sponsored by our local MWA and SinC chapters.
Last year we had Lee Child as the guest of honor. On Saturday night we held a mock trial of Jack Reacher, Lee’s protogonist. Lee Child played the part of Reacher, I was the DEA agent, Michele Martinez was the prosecutor, Julia Spencer-Fleming was the defense attorney, Hank Phillippi Ryan was the news reporter, and California Superior Court Judge Ken Freeman played himself. It was great!
Thanks for sharing this, Lee. It couldn’t have been easy. Do you find that by writing about it that it helps you deal with it? And has your perspective & memory of the event evolved over time?
Wow, Lee. You told this story at Forensic U and it rocked me then, and it rocked me now. Incredible. Thanks so much for sharing and giving us that glimpse into the mind of a police officer who’s shot a man.
On another note, what is Crimebake?
Donnell – I recall a similar experience. I answered a call one day about a man who’d placed the end of a shotgun barrel under his chin and pulled the trigger. His teenage daughter heard the shot, found her father lying in a pool of bone, tissue, and blood, Half his head was gone.
She called 911 and I was the first officer there. The man was a friend of mine and I’ll never forget seeing what looked like something out of a horror movie. It took me a second to realize his chest was rising and falling. He was alive and he survived. I’m not so sure about his daughter. She’s suffered quite a bit since that day.
I also received a call one night about a young man who was planning to commit suicide. The caller, the man’s father, said his son had a gun. When I went into his home I found the suicidal man sitting in the floor with the barrel of a loaded shotgun tucked under his chin. He was crying. He had pulled the trigger back a little so I knew it would only take another nudge to make the weapon discharge.
I talked and I begged for over an hour. I sat down beside him and we talked about everything under the sun, but he just wouldn’t let go of the trigger. I couldn’t grab the gun because I knew the slightest touch would set it off. Anyway, he finally relaxed his grip and I quickly took the gun away. This was one of the toughest nights I ever had on the job. When it was all over I felt as if someone had beaten me to a pulp. My nerves were shot.
Elena – It took a lot of crawling around at the bottom of the pit before I ever looked up. I’m glad I did. There are far too many stories about those who don’t.
Donnell – Beg is exactly what I did because I truly felt that someone was going to die. I didn’t want it to be one of us, and I certainly didn’t want to hurt the robber. That’s not a cop’s job. Most people don’t realize how difficult it is to inflict physical pain on another person as part of your job. It’s not pleasant. The public doesn’t see the compassionate side of police officers, but I assure you that it’s there.
I’m really looking forward to speaking at the Pikes Peak Conference. Please stop by and introduce yourself.
Lynette – I assure you there are no dumb statements or questions on this site unless you count the ones I make. Welcome.
People getting up when they should stay down: Where I’m from, I’m close friends with our deputy coroner. She told the story about a victim who wanted to commit suicide. Poor guy shot himself in the head and he didn’t die. So he kept wandering to the mirror and pulling the trigger. Took him three tries. I kept thinking this young man’s spirit didn’t want to give up even when he did. Sometimes life’s tragedies are just unexplicable. 🙁
Bobby – Great. See you there.
Hey, I’m new…:) And just wanted to say thanks so much for sharing, Lee. I can’t even imagine what it takes to recover from something like that. I write Inspirational romantic suspense for Harlequin and this place has been an answer to prayers!
Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone. I also don’t have a background in the law or police procedure etc, so I apologize in advance for anything that sounds dumb…ha.
Lee, wow, thank you for sharing your story. Powerful writing. In books we see the macho cop telling the suspect to drop his weapon. Your use of the word beg hit me hard. My son’s near this young man’s age. I appreciate your use of that term. I also wonder if you were a writer at this point of it writing became your therapy. I’m sorry for your loss of your colleagues. I gained a whole new perspective by your account. I look forward to meeting you at the PPWC.
You are a very strong person – I know the work it takes to crawl out of that dark pit – most people can’t do it. I am glad you were able to both recognize the need, and then find the help when your organization hadn’t gotten there yet.
And, I have the liveliest appreciation for the person you are now!!!
Thanks so much for sharing, Lee. Putting one’s emotions out for public view is never easy.
In one of those moments of synchronicity, the cop-hero of my first novel also shot a bank robber and killed him, and he’s carried that burden around.
Unless some unforeseen thing happens, I will definitely be back at CrimeBake this year.
Bobby – Thanks for stopping by. Sometimes, I tell this story in detail at writers conferences. I didn’t have the time at CrimeBake. Maybe next year. You coming back?
Wendy – I know what you’re saying about your editor, but I think everyone would be very surprised at the number of people who’ve been shot that get up, run away, start fighting, continue standing, and just keep shooting. I recall one particular case where a young man was shot 33 times with 9mm’s during a gun battle with police. He never fell. In fact, he walked to the police officers to surrender. They drove him to the hospital.
Wow. Your story gave me chills. Thanks for telling it like it is, Lee. More people need to hear about the huge affect and toll this kind of thing takes on law enforcement.
I do have to say if I wrote a story where the gunman kept getting up after getting shot, my editor would say I was pushing my luck an make me cut it out.
That’s quite a story, Lee. Hearing about it from someone who went through it is certainly different than what is shown on television, where killing someone is like “another day, another dollar.” I’m glad that you sought out help and were able to work your way through it.
Joyce – The difficult days are long gone. Now, it’s just a sad, unpleasant memory.
Carla – Actually, I think it was the other way around. I believe it was the other officers who protected me. They gave me the time to do what I had to do. There were five of us there that day and we all had a job to do and we did it.
The end result wasn’t a good one, but who knows what could have happened if we hadn’t intervened. The guy had checked into a local hotel the night before and that hotel was packed with teenage girls who were in town for a nationwide softball tournament. When I ran the guy’s information through the computer I learned he’d just been charged with sexual assault on a young girl in another state.
Wow. What an amazing and incredible story. Let me just say thank you for sharing that story with us, and for what you did in protecting your fellow officers at such an intense personal cost. They say God only gives us burdens He knows we can carry. I guess He knew you were the only one of the five that could carry a burden like this. (I bet there were times you think He overestimated you, too.) As the song goes, what a long strange trip it’s been.
Thank you again for giving me so much to think about. I’m glad you were able to work throgh what happened and rise above. You’ve certainly had an impact on my way of thinking about police work. (And in all honesty, the pornstar mustache looked pretty good!) 🙂
Lee, thank you so much for sharing this. I can only imagine how difficult it is.