A recipe for PTSD

As a follow-up to Special Agent Mike Roche’s article about PTSD and police officers, I thought it would be a good time to re-tell this real-life story.

A Recipe For PTSD: Killing Someone

by Lee Lofland

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

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

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

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

Then it happened. The 911 call and silent alarm, both coming in at the same time. A young man—22-years-old—walked into a bank and pointed a handgun at one of the tellers. He grabbed all the money he could carry in a white, wrinkled, plastic grocery bag. He’d scared the poor teller to tears. She was victim number one.

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

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

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

The robber crouched down near the rear bumper of his car. I called to him, practically begging him to drop the gun and come to us with his hands up. He ignored my orders and fired a couple of shots toward my fellow officers on the hilltop.

The sound of the gunshot activated my brain’s slow-motion function. Time crawled to a near standstill.

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

I turned back to the robber, thinking “center mass,” and took aim, firing a single shot through the rear, side glass of the car and into the side of his head (that’s the only part of the body I could see at the time). He fell on his right side. I thought it was all over. After all, I’d just shot him in the head. Certainly a wound of that nature was enough to stop any man. Instead, the guy popped back up, smiling like a crazed zombie-like psycho.

He fired more rounds, a few seconds apart. This time I had a better view of him, and answered each of his volleys with rounds of my own, all directly into his chest. He fell each time a shot hit him, but each time he only stayed down for a second. And when he came up he came up shooting.

car.jpg

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

After my fifth bullet hit him, he stayed down.

Silence.

Eerie silence.

A pin-drop would’ve been heard for miles.

My heart pounded against the inside of my chest.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I called to everyone on my portable radio, letting them know it was over.

I started a slow, cautious walk toward the robber, keeping my pistol aimed in his direction.

Suddenly, the guy jumped up and ran toward the officers on the hill. I ran after and tackled him (another sport coat and pair of dress pants that wouldn’t be salvageable). With the assistance of a sheriff’s captain who’d arrived on scene at the end of the exchange of gunfire, I rolled the robber over to one side trying to gain control of his hands so we could apply restraints. That’s when we saw the revolver in his right hand, and he was squeezing the trigger repeatedly. Thankfully, the gun was empty.

Click, click, click, click, click…

The sound of the hammer falling against empty brass casings is one I haven’t forgotten, and probably never will.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered…”what if” there’d been one more round in that gun.

Just one more live round in the bad guy’s revolver and I might not have survived to tell the story.

robber.jpg

Paramedics with wounded bank robber.

The bank robber died a few moments later.

I’d killed him. And that’s when my troubles started.

You see, my department didn’t offer counseling and/or de-briefing. No post-shooting administrative leave. The chief didn’t believe in something that was “for the weak of heart and mind”. I was left to fend for myself.

Tough cops were supposed to handle whatever came their way. My boss actually told me that a real cop would just suck it up. In fact, he sent me to the morgue to photograph the robber’s body and to remove my handcuffs from the dead man’s wrists. I wasn’t even given the rest of the day off.

The robber died that August morning and his soul left for wherever it is that troubled souls go. And troubled he was. He’d recently been charged with sexual abuse of a minor, and I suspect he was wrestling with the demons associated what he’d done. Perhaps he’d decided to commit suicide and I’d been there to help him achieve his goal. I’ll never know the entire story.

When the robber’s soul left his body, unfortunately, a part of my emotions were tethered to it. It would be several years before I was able to reel them back in.

A few days after the shooting, my partner and I met with the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on the bank robber. This, by the way, was the same medical examiner’s office where Patricia Cornwell based her Kay Scarpetta series.

Even though I’d watched each of my bullets travel through the air until they hit the robber’s flesh (It’s not unusual for those who shoot a lot have this ability), it still hit like a ton of bricks when the M.E. told me that all five bullet wounds in the man’s body were caused by my rounds. The famous pathologist spared no details when describing the damage caused by each bullet.

The last four rounds I fired were each fatal wounds. The first shot, however,—the round that entered the side of the robber’s head and exited near the jawline—was not a life-ending wound. Sure, it made two nice little holes and knocked out a few teeth and ripped through tongue and other meaty tissue, but he’d have lived if only he hadn’t continued to shoot at us.

All he had to do was surrender. Toss the gun away. Give up. Just STOP SHOOTING and he would’ve lived.

Yes, I recall firing each round. Still can, just like it was yesterday. I smell the smells. Hear the sounds. Feel the heat. It’s with me every day of my life. That simple motion of an index finger, like scratching a small itch five times, was all it took to send pieces of hot metal to rip and tear through human flesh and organs. The same finger-bending action used to indicate you want someone to “come here.” Five gentle squeezes of a trigger took a man’s life and nearly destroyed mine.

I. Do. Not. Understand. How. People. Can. Kill. Without. Remorse.

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

This was no downward spiral. No time for something that easy. This was a free-fall straight to hell. Fortunately, just before I hit bottom, I sought help on my own.

It took a few years to climb and crawl out of that dark pit, but I made it back and I actually think I’m a stronger person because of the experience. If nothing else, I have a real-life horror story to share.

Sixty-eight rounds of ammunition were fired during this shootout. The robber was hit five times, all five rounds were fired by me.  One police car was destroyed by gunfire. No police officers were injured…physically, that is. However, soon after that day, one officer suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 44. One of the other officers later resigned and three retired. Two of the retired officers have died since that day—one at 54, and the other at 63. I’m nearly halfway between 54 and 63.

None of us had received any de-briefing or counseling.

Five more victims.

me-at-car.jpg

Police car destroyed by gunfire. That’s me with the cop/porn-star mustache. I believe I was reloading my magazine at the time this picture was taken. I remember thinking that I was not thinking—my mind was blank, if that makes any sense at all.

Pictured to my left, two special agents from a three-letter-agency—were in a discussion near the robber’s wrecked car. Notice the Kevlar vests on the outside of their clothing. One of the two agents pulled up and got out of his vehicle and quickly discovered he was caught in a crossfire situation. He grabbed his vest from the backseat and rolled beneath his SUV to put it on. Adrenaline, tunnel vision, and/or fear often cause people to do strange things. Why he didn’t move his vehicle to a safer location we’ll never know, because he, too, died just a few years later. The survival/longevity rate following this incident has not been promising.

*A newspaper photographer caught the above image just minutes after the robber had succumbed to his wounds.

Violence and murder

There’s an unwritten rule here at The Graveyard Shift, and that’s to avoid the controversial topics of religion, gun control, politics, and racism. It’s not that those topics aren’t important to me, because they are. And, sure, I have my personal beliefs and opinions like everyone else. But this blog is mostly in place to bring you factual information regarding law enforcement and criminal investigations. This is a place where you can visit and leave the heated discussions behind.

However, there are times when law enforcement crosses paths with the controversial topics, and the subject of racism v. justice is what prompted today’s post.

The criminal case of Michael Dunn recently ended with Dunn being found guilty of three counts of attempted murder. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the 1st degree murder of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn is white and Davis was black.

For those of you not familiar with the case, here’s a brief recap. Dunn and his wife stopped at a local convenience store to get gas for their car. They parked at the pumps beside an SUV occupied by four black teens. Music coming from the SUV was loud, in the way that many young people like to play their tunes. Apparently, the song selection was rap—it’s believed that Dunn referred to it as “thug music.” Dunn asked the teens to turn down the music and what happened next is where Dunn’s story does not match the accounts of witnesses.

Dunn, a 47-year-old software engineer, claims one of the teens displayed a weapon. In response, Dunn drew his pistol (he had a concealed weapon permit) and began firing into the SUV. In all, Dunn fired 10 rounds into the teens’ vehicle. Jordan Davis was struck by one of the rounds and died. No weapon was found in the SUV or in the possession of the passengers, including Jordan Davis.

Dunn claimed he fired in self defense. Was he acting in defense of himself or others? Was his action a case of premeditated murder? Well…

First of all, it seems that somewhere and somehow along the road to 2014, the word “thug” has become a derogatory term equal to the “N” word. I must not have received the memo to that effect, because I use thug as a blanket term to describe crooks, gangsters, bad guys, bank robbers, and, well, you get the idea. The word thug, to me, is not related to any race.

Next, we can’t have a discussion about the Dunn case and others like it, while tip-toeing around racial issues, pretending they don’t exist, and while fearing we’ll hurt someone’s feelings. I’m sorry, but those feelings are nothing new. In fact, they were first hurt a long time ago, and a great example of that is in the photo at the top of the page. I don’t think I need to explain how degrading and hurtful it must’ve been to that young man who was only allowed to quench his thirst at a “Colored Only” fountain. By the way, the location of that image was in Halifax, N.C., not far from the Va./N.C. border along I95.

Was Dunn’s shooting racially motivated? Some say it was, while others say it wasn’t, and I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to know the majority of who believes what. And that brings us to the big question…WHY? Is it that whites absolutely hate people of color? Do people of color hate whites because they’re white. Or is it that the hatred and distrust stems from the way people were treated many years ago, long before we were born. Another question at the top of the racial question list is, “Do cops target black people, especially young black men?” If so, why?

I can’t begin to speak for others and their beliefs and knowledge of racial issues. I can only speak to what I’ve experienced and witnessed with my own eyes. What I observed during my career in law enforcement and the years since and those preceding (most of which was spent well below the Mason-Dixon line), is a basic lack of understanding of races and cultures other than our own. Sure, we may all live in the same towns and even in the same neighborhoods within those towns. HOWEVER, there are barriers that divide the races. Those barriers prevent us from completely understanding our differences. We’re confused because those on the other side of the barriers don’t do as we do and we don’t do as they do. And what is it that rears it’s ugly head when we’re unsure about something…FEAR.

Where there’s fear there’s often an overcompensation of our defense mechanisms and defensive posturing, and that’s often the case in the males of our species. Blacks and whites both often enter situations with chips on their shoulders, ready to “defend” their skin colors against all who dare to approach. In many instances it’s assumed that the a person of a different skin color is out to harm another of a different flesh tone.

We can pretend it doesn’t exist (prejudice) but it’s out there no matter how hard we all jump up and down and declare it’s not. Still, and I’ve seen it, a great portion of the racial divide is caused by the aforementioned fear. Self-induced, stereotypically-induced, ignorance-induced, historically-induced fear. And nothing but.

And that brings me back to Michael Dunn, a white man who encountered a group of four young black men. Davis “asked” the teens to turn down their music, but after a moment of discussion they refused. They liked the music and they liked it loud. Should they have turned it down? Well, maybe. But not because Dunn told them to turn it down. Instead, there’s more than likely a city ordinance that governs loud music and other noise pollution, and it is the job of the police to enforce the law. Not Mr. Dunn.

So the teens opted to leave the music as is. In response to their actions Dunn drew his weapon and shot at them, killing Davis. Would Dunn have fired into an SUV occupied by four white teens whose music, perhaps a Maroon Five song, was blasting at top volume? In my opinion, probably not.

Why do I think this incident occurred? Well, the loud music was being played on the other side of that imaginary barrier. To Dunn, he saw black kids playing their “thug” music and when confronted they bristled up because it was someone from the other side of the cultural barrier who’d demanded they reduce the volume. Dunn then felt threatened by people he didn’t understand, or he may even have been appalled that they (the black teens) had questioned his request/demand. So, a line was drawn in the sand at the precise location of “the barrier”.

Dunn, ignorant of reality, was probably scared of the black kids. And, his pride was possibly in jeopardy. Well, that and the fact that he seriously appeared to feel as if he were the victim in the incident.

Michael Dunn (L) raises his hands in disbelief as he looks toward his parents after the verdicts were announced in his trial in Jacksonville, Florida February 15, 2014.

Credit: REUTERS/Bob Mack/Florida Times-Union/Pool

The jury could not reach a verdict on the charge of 1st degree murder, and people are angry, crying that he got off because he’s white and there’s no justice for blacks. First of all, juries are charged with using only fact to reach their decisions. Race and opinion should never enter into the equation, unless, of course, race is an issue that was introduced as motive. In Dunn’s trial, it was not.

Next, to reach a guilty verdict for first degree murder, the prosecution absolutely must prove that the murder was premeditated, meaning that Dunn thought about and planned to kill Davis in advance of the shooting. In this case premeditation was not proven beyond all reasonable doubt. However, there is no set time frame when premeditation must occur. That planning and thought could actually be in as short a time period as it took for Dunn to go for his gun and then pull the trigger.

I imagine we’ll see Dunn tried again for 1st degree murder. After all, this one ended in a mistrial. The door to a new trial is wide open.

A smiling Michael Dunn talks with his lawyer Cory Strolla after the jury began their deliberations in Jacksonville, Florida February 15, 2014.

Credit: REUTERS/Bob Mack/Florida Times-Union/Pool

You know, until we, as intelligent humans of all races and cultures can come together to share and learn about one another, and to overcome the fears of what we don’t understand, well, I “fear” there’ll be scores of funerals and murder trials in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.

Remember, kids aren’t born despising and fearing other kids. Someone has to teach them hatred. Until then, they love everyone.

*For the record, I don’t like rap music. But not because it’s predominantly performed by people not of my skin color. Instead, it’s because it doesn’t sound like music to me. It’s noise with someone talking really fast about killing cops and and abusing women. You know, like the conversations in any and every cell block across the country.

I prefer four or five people who can actually sing a song and play an instrument. You know, like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin. Janis, The Temptations, Clapton, Aretha, The Oak Ridge Boys, etc. Hell, I’d take The Partridge Family over rap music…any day. Do I hate the people who enjoy rap? Of course not. Would I like to see it banned from the planet earth. Sure…and it couldn’t happen soon enough. And, please, take auto-tune with it.

California here I come

It’s a rare occurrence when I’m unable to publish a police/crime-related blog post for the day. Unfortunately, today is one of those times. And here’s why…

As some of you are aware, we’re in the process of selling our home. Then, after all is said and done, we’ll be moving back to California.

This morning marked the beginning of inspections, including a guy underneath the house searching for termites. He didn’t run out screaming so it was safe to assume he didn’t cross paths with any of those gigantic and extremely ugly, ugly, UGLY Palmetto bugs.

Georgia Palmetto bug

Next came a man to inspect the pool and its equipment. I’m pretty sure I’d seen this guy wandering around a downtown park just a few days ago.

I’m serious. He looked just like this guy

Actually, I’m pretty sure I’ve driven by the pool inspector’s home a few times over the years.

They say he’s qualified, but I’m thinking a pool guy should at least go near water at some point. I’m just sayin’.

To be on the safe side, though, I’ve hired my own pool inspector. I don’t want any unexpected surprises. Thankfully, our guy really seems to know his way around a pool.

So, one more inspection, and an appraisal, and if all goes well we’ll soon be singing…

 

 

What do handcuffs and an anniversary

Six years ago today I posted the very first article on The Graveyard Shift. My book on police procedure had been out for a few months and was, to my surprise, doing extremely well. So, I thought a blog about cops and robbers might be of some interest to a few people, and maybe even a nice compliment to the book.

The first article was quite simple, actually. In response to a writer’s question about handcuffs, I posted a picture of two pairs of restraints along with a brief description of each. Believe me, I had no clue what I was doing. But I managed to get the information out to a whopping sixty-eight people that day, and I was very pleased with the overwhelming response to my first attempt at blogging.

Today, well over 3 million individual people have visited The Graveyard Shift, and I’ve long ago stopped counting how many clicks come to the site and its archives. People from all walks of life visit, including writers (of course) readers, doctors, lawyers, police officers, teachers, directors, producers, actors, screenwriters, showrunners, school children (they use the site as research for class projects) prison officials and inmates, and, well, you get the idea. A whole lot of people visit this site.

After writing and posting articles to this blog everyday for six years, without fail, including while I was in the hospital for surgery and a subsequent MRSA infection that resulted in the infectious disease doctor telling my wife and me that I needed to get my affairs in order because I would not survive (whew! talk about a run-on sentence…), I decided the blog wasn’t enough. Writers needed to see this stuff in person. They needed to touch and smell and hear all things cops, firefighting, and EMS. So, along comes the Writers’ Police Academy.

Now in it’s 5th year at the Guilford Technical Community College Public Safety Department (police, fire, and EMS academy), the WPA is a phenomenal event. Our first year at GTCC, we had a little over 100 recruits (attendees), and I was sweating bullets up until the day of the event, hoping we had enough people to break even and still have a little bit of cash left to donate to the criminal justice academy. We squeaked by by the skin of a single tooth.

To date, we’ve donated slightly under $50,000 to the foundation, with more on the way this year!

Yesterday was the opening of the 2014 WPA registration, and the response was totally out of this world. The event sold out in less than thirteen hours! And when I say sold out, we’re talking well over double the number of attendees we saw five years ago.

The WPA is now a huge event that takes place in several buildings and covers a pretty large piece of real estate. It’s a massive event that’s like no other on this planet.

Anyway, back to the blog. As I said, today marks the sixth anniversary and the following is the very brief article that started the ball rolling. We’ve certainly come a long way together since this post first appeared.

By the way, I cannot begin to thank you for all the support you’ve provided all these years. Here’s to at least six more…

Handcuffs

handcuffs.jpg

Each day I receive many interesting questions and comments about police procedure, CSI, and forensics. So I thought it would be fun to share my answers and experience on a Q&A blog. I welcome your questions and comments.

Question: Do all cops use the same type of handcuffs?

The two main types of handcuffs used by law enforcement are pictured above. The top image is of a pair of chain-link handcuffs. Most police officers prefer to carry and use chain-linked cuffs because the chain between the bracelets swivels, making the cuffs flexible and easier to apply to the wrists of combative suspects.

The lower image is of a pair of hinged cuffs. These are more commonly used when transporting prison or jail inmates. Hinged cuffs are not flexible (the hinge between the two bracelets does not swivel) which greatly reduces wrist and hand movement. This type of cuff is sometimes difficult to apply to the wrists during a scuffle.

Both style cuffs operate using a ratchet and pawl locking system. Both are equipped with a second lock (double-locking) to prevent any further tightening of the ratchet which can injure the wrists of the cuffed suspect.  The second lock also prevents prisoners from picking the lock.

waste not, want not

We, as good citizens of the U.S. of A., try our best to conserve natural resources. We recycle. We do what we can to reduce food waste. We turn our thermostats up a notch in the summer and down a click or two in the cold winter months. We drive smarter vehicles, such as the hybrid Lincoln my wife drives—no more idling on gasoline power, and it basically runs on self-generated electricity when driving at speeds of 45mph or slower. Actually, I understand there’s a mandate coming in the future that will require all cars to idle gasoline free.

Global warming, either man-made or naturally occurring, is a very real threat to the planet. By the way, I’ve yet to understand how global warming is a political issue. Are donkeys more sensitive to permanent climate change, or is it the thick skin of the elephant that prevents the large beasts from sensing changes in the weather? Could it be that elephants can see the future and know everything is going to be okay, while donkeys are nothing more than stubborn mules stuck on the notion of climate change? Who knows.

Either way, our government tells us to conserve. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Read the signs. You know, waste not, want not.

Well, methinks it’s time for the government to follow it’s own directives. For example (and this one really burns my biscuits), the Department of Defense had this really cool idea to use a blimp to fly intelligence missions. The craft was to carry 2,500 lbs. of surveillance equipment—cameras and other spy-type equipment—and the birthday balloon with thyroid troubles was to lumber through the skies for up to three weeks at a time.

I have to question the logic of using an overgrown Thanksgiving Day parade balloon as a secret spy craft. I’m pretty sure our enemies would notice it crawling slowly overhead, even on a cloudy day.

You couldn’t miss it. After all, it was seven stories tall and a football field long. It. Was. Huge!

Anyway, the DOD spent just under $300 million on the Kevlar-covered blimp (contractors built it for approximately $300,000), officially known as the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV).

Northrup Grumman image

The LEMV was handed over to the DOD in a ready-for-action state. But things went downhill from there. The craft was soon over 12,000 lbs overweight (pork weighs a lot, you know) and the project was scrapped after one 90-minute test flight. The DOD sold the big balloon back to the contractor for $300,000. Not a bad deal for the balloon-maker. Built it for $300k, sold it to the U.S. for $300 million, and then bought it back, pocketing a little over a $299 million profit.

So, this major fiasco and loss of taxpayer dollars joined another failed military purchase—a $211 million airship the Air Force trash-canned.

This sort of thing really angers me. In fact, I’m thinking about tossing a piece of plastic in with the regular garbage this week as a form of protest. But that would be stooping to their level. Instead, I’ll have a look at the daily news. Maybe something there will help calm my nerves. Let’s see, there’s…

– a possibility of electromagnetic-pulse attacks

– a new search tool that can locate us even in untagged photos

– Texas officials have linked chewable African plants to terrorism (I’m still scratching my head over this one)

– U.S. Air Force is lacking volunteers to operate drones

– Homeland Security has become involved in Indiana’s water conservation

– some U.S. cities require subscription to emergency services – you don’t pay the fee, they’ll let your house burn down

Finally, and this is the scariest of all…Pamela Anderson cut her hair and is now a pixie-cut brunette. Now I’m sure our world is doomed. How will we survive?

Never fear, I’m sure our government has a $100 billion answer to that $64,000 question.

 

Bloody night in Georgia

What comes to mind when you think of Savannah, Georgia? Perhaps images of Spanish moss lifting in the trees as breezes push in from the rivers and surrounding marshes? Maybe glimpses of dolphins as they break the surface of the water, showing off for children leaning against the railings of tour boats. Many visitors to the city enjoy seeing the filming locations for the Forrest Gump movie, and watching shrimp boats trolling slowly across the horizon.

Maybe your imagination takes you to where Sherman’s soldiers came ashore at Coffee Bluff, near the site where former slaves later purchased 200 acres of land and started their own community. A city-owned marina now stands overlooking the waters at the Bluff.

Savannah area wildlife, a bit different than what many of you are accustomed to, is a site to behold.

Sure, there’s plenty to do when visiting Savannah. Tourists often meander through historic cemeteries, pausing to reflect at grave sites of confederate soldiers.

Or the burial site of Little Gracie Watson.

The final resting place of Mr. Moon River himself, Johnny Mercer, is also a favorite.

There’s the cathedral.

And Fort Pulaski where southern soldiers fought a hard battle, but were eventually defeated and those remaining alive were captured and imprisoned

Yes, Savannah, Georgia is rich in history, with a story to tell like no other.

Today’s tales, though, are about a present day battle taking place in Savannah. A struggle that, like the conflicts of the 1800’s, involve gunfire and bloodshed. Here’s the tourists don’t see while they’re strolling along River Street while stuffing their pudgy faces with sweet praline candy and sweet iced tea.

– 20-year-old Gregory Eugene Griffin murdered 19-year-old Rasheem Alexander at a downtown intersection.

– Bank and convenience store robberies are practically weekly news. Convenience store robberies have occurred so often that police are frequently stationed inside walk-in beverage coolers throughout the city (the ones where customers open a door to reach in for the products they wish to purchase—beer, wine, soft drinks, milk, etc.

– Crazy Clown drug sends over a dozen teens to hospital ER’s.

– Antwan Hayward is accused in the recent shooting of 23-year-old Jamon Cody at the intersection of West 34th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. That’s just a few blocks from where tourists catch the site-seeing trolleys.

– 13 prostitutes were arrested just this week while operating out of local hotels in an area called Gateway Savannah. Perhaps you’ve been there since Gateway is located at the junction of I95 and Hwy 204. It’s a spot where tourists stop for dinner at the many restaurants located there. Many tourists also decide to stay in the big-chain motels in this heavily visited area that’s often (unknown to tourists) in the news for prostitution, shootings, drug busts, and for some reason, several wanted suspects from other states have been captured while hiding out in the motels. Usually, it’s the U.S. Marshals leading the manhunt, but they’re assisted by by local special ops police units.

– Ironically, city officials were meeting with members of the public a couple of days ago to discuss ways to combat Savannah’s growing murder rate and rise of other violent crimes, when shots rang out across the street. A man in his early 30’s was transported to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries as a result of gunshot wounds. Again, the shooting happened directly across the street from a city-held meeting to calm the public’s unsteady nerves about the frequency and intensity of violent crime.

– Three days ago, the occupants of two cars began shooting at one another while traveling along a busy city street where many doctors’ offices are located. It was a scene reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde days. The area is a fairly well-to-do location, where in addition to the many prominent physicians’ offices, other big businesses have office space there as well, such as a main headquarters of Bank of America. Not what you’d consider a dangerous area…until this week.

And, of course, I there’s the murder trial that’s taking place just down the road in Brunswick. I’m sure you’ve heard about this case, the one where two African American juveniles approached a white woman who was pushing a baby stroller on her way to the post office. The woman thought it was nice day out and wanted to take her baby so they both could enjoy the the time outdoors.

When the two youths approached, the older one, 17-year-old De’Marquise Elkins, demanded the woman’s purse. When she refused, the boy hit her and then shot the baby in the face from point blank range. Then he shot the mother in the leg. The two juvenile thugs then ran away. Later, the shooter’s mother and sister were charged for helping destroy/dispose of the weapon and lying to police.

Ten days earlier, Elkins shot Wilfredo Calix Flores in the arm. Flores is a pastor of a Hispanic church in Brunswick.

Witnesses have positively identified Elkins as the shooter in both cases. Even the boy who was with Elkins when he murdered the 13-month-old toddler identified him as the shooter. However, defense attorneys have accused the mother of murdering her own child to collect a $5,000 in life insurance money. Then, they say, she pointed the finger at Elkins, fabricating the attempted robbery/shooting story. They’ve also said the mother’s PTSD that stemmed from the incident has clouded her memory, causing her to confuse the events that occurred the day her innocent child/baby was gunned down in the street.

I guess the pistol that was positively identified as the murder weapon, the very gun Elkins’ mother hid/tossed in a lake to protect her son, was merely a remarkable coincidence that it had been in Elkins’ possession during two separate shootings.

Katrina Elkins, the shooter’s aunt, lied to police investigators, saying that her nephew was with her and her family at the time of the shooting. Therefore he could not have committed the murder.

A witness at the time of Elkins’ arrest testified to the the spontaneous comments made by the accused shooter. As he was walking out of his house in handcuffs, Elkins said to the police, ‘Y’all ain’t got **** on me. Y’all ain’t got no gun. Y’all ain’t got no fingerprints. All y’all got is a ******* acquittal.”  When Elkins saw another detective smile he said, “Oh, got the gun?”

Interestingly, a city commissioner was also arrested after he approached the shooter and his family, telling them not to/they didn’t have to talk to the police regarding the murder case. The 59-year-old politician, a representative of the area where the accused baby-killer and his family reside, was charged with influencing a witness and obstructing law enforcement.

Sherry West is now in court facing her baby’s killer. I imagine jurors will have a difficult time remaining impartial after hearing West describe pleading with Elkins, begging him to not shoot her baby.

The grieving mother told the court, “I tried to stop him. I put my arms over my baby but he still shot him,” cried West.

Many area residents say they’re still waiting for Al Sharpton to lead a vigil for justice for the murdered baby, another victim of senseless violence. So far, though, he’s a no show. I’m sure most of the comments are sarcastic since the murdered baby was the child of a Hispanic father and white mother, and the good reverend usually devotes his time to the African American community and fighting for their civil rights. But I think, since there doesn’t seem to be an end to the bloodshed, anything’s worth a try.

So, Reverend Al, if you have the answer or the means to stop the young people of our country from dying, then I’m begging you to head our way and make it happen. People of all races need help from somebody. Anybody…

Update – It took a jury only two hours to find Elkins guilty of all charges. His mother was also found guilty of tampering with evidence.

Miley: In the thick of it

I’ve seen more than my fair share of horror. I’ve been to crime scenes and car crashes. I’ve seen spilled blood and viscera. But never have I witnessed anything as ghastly, unpleasant, or as sickening as the train wreck that Miley Cyrus dished out on the VMA awards show.

You may wonder why I, the cops and robbers guy, am addressing an MTV performance by Cyrus, but the answer is simple…I was assaulted, and assault is a still a crime, right? Yes, Miley Cyrus’s over-emphasized gyrations and tongue waggings and wigglings are something I can never un-see. I’ve been harmed by another person and I may never recover.

The overdose of Cyrus’s near skin and bones and somewhat freakish and boyish look, and her appalling gestures were so bad that my brain is threatening to pack its bags and leave home, and it assures me that it’s taking my eyes with it. They’ve each indicated the desire for a transfer to a safer location.

I try to remain current with today’s trends. Well, I at least like to know what’s going on in the world around me, even if I don’t like what I see and hear. But there isn’t enough water in the entire Atlantic Ocean to wash and scrub away the sense of “ick” I felt after seeing this garbage. In fact, I didn’t watch the entire performance. I couldn’t. I opted out just after Cyrus’s X-rated solo session with a foam finger.

More important than the irreparable damage to my psyche, is to warn readers of The Graveyard Shift of things that could be harmful to them and to their children. Well, believe me when I say that there should be a huge warning label tattooed on Miley Cyrus’s forehead that reads…“Warning, the surgeon general of the U.S. has deemed Miley Cyrus to be extremely harmful to all teens of that impressionable age.” And, Ms. Cyrus’s CD’s, posters, and videos should be kept out of the reach of young minds.

Of course, I’m still up in the air about which was the worst, the foam finger solo session, or when Cyrus, practically in nothing but her unmentionables, went through the motions of several sexual acts with singer Robin Thicke.

Thicke bothered me too. He showed up to the Cyrus hoochie-mama show dressed in his best Beetlejuice-go-to-preachin’ outfit, joining little Miley onstage where he participated in the assault on my poor brain. My eyes, bless their little hearts, didn’t have the smarts to turn away from the video.

Well on his way to 40-years-old, Thicke is married with children. I can’t imagine that his wife appreciated seeing her husband like this, with any female, much less a 20-year-old bizarre woman-child (I wonder if Cyrus is what Bradley “Chelsea” Manning sees in his mind as what he’ll look like after his transfer to the female gender).

How could Robin Thicke possibly explain his actions to his young children? “It’s okay, kids, Daddy was just playing horsy with Hannah Montana’s trashy big sister.”

Speaking of kids and their siblings, I’m pretty sure the ghosts of the entire cast and crew of the Captain Kangaroo show are more than likely already on their way to Cyrus’s house to begin some serious haunting. Dancing Bear is most likely the first in line to grab the chains and bedsheets, and has been practicing his best “BOO’s,” since it was his reputation that was most harmed.

Cast of the Captain Kangaroo Show. Dancing Bear is pictured on the far left. Then there’s Bunny Rabbit, the Captain, Mr. Moose, and Mr. Green Jeans.

In fact, there’s a rumor floating around that a few of Dancing Bear’s grandchildren were on stage with Cyrus as backup dancers, and he’s not happy about it. I don’t blame him.

There was so much packed into the Cyrus and Thicke mess, that it’s difficult to pinpoint the most troubling parts.  Now, you tell me, was this something young kids should be watching? Oh, and I haven’t talked about the lyrics and the references to doing drugs at parties.

MTV bleeped the reference to using ecstasy, but not the image of Hannah Montana with her face buried between the buttocks of a seven-foot-tall black woman, an act that many are calling extremely racist. Well, I’m not sure if there was racial intent, but I do know that it was scene that’s not meant for children, or for my poor pitiful eyes and brain.

I think I’ll watch a bit of the real Dancing Bear to help cleanse my mind of the filth. No “twerking,” no foam fingers, and no gold, rubber underwear. Ah, the good old days…

Shaaliver Douse

Last Sunday, two rookie police officers in New York City shot and killed a 14-year-old boy. The kid’s aunt is calling the boy’s death an unnecessary killing. She says the police gunned him down for no reason and she wants the officer who shot her nephew in the face charged with murder.

“They’re making it all up. There was no gun. It’s all a cover-up. It’s what the police do. They kill us and cover it up,” the boy’s aunt, Quwana Barcene, told news sources. “It’s not fair,” she continued. “It was my sister’s only child. You shouldn’t have to bury your child. My beautiful nephew got shot in the head. A mother of one now has to bury her only child. I’m tired of the police getting away with murder. Trayvon Martin is never going to end. This rookie cop—please bring him up on charges as a murderer.”

Others are asking why the police shot the youngster in the face. Why not an arm or leg? Better still, why not shoot the weapon out of his hand. One person even went so far as to ask why use lethal force at all since the shooter was a mere child of 14. Why, she asked, didn’t the police wait until the boy was out of ammunition and then tackle him? Isn’t that what they’re trained to do?

Another person commented, “So lemme get this straight… we can put a man on the moon and bring him back safely, but we can’t find a way to disarm a 14 year old without killing him?”

And then there was…”He was black and running. That’s all it took for the cops to gun down an innocent kid.”

So, let’s go back to Sunday night/early Monday morning to see exactly what happened just prior to the police officers’ encounter with 14-year-old Shaaliver Douse.

The two officers in question were assigned to graveyard shift foot patrol as part of a special assignment to help stop violence in the area. At 3am the officers heard gunshots and responded toward those sounds. That’s when they saw Douse firing a handgun at a man running away. The officers took cover behind a parked automobile and yelled for the shooter to drop his weapon. They also identified themselves as police officers. Douse turned and fired again. The officers returned fire, with one round striking Douse in the jaw. He died on the scene as a result of that wound.

The incident was captured on video, a video that clearly shows Douse firing his weapon at a group of men, then chasing after one of them while still firing his weapon. The police have the video. They recovered Douse’s gun, a black 9mm Astra. And there are witnesses who’ve provided statements backing the officers’ statements.

NewsOne photo

The two officers did everything right. They identified themselves as police officers. They took cover. They ordered the shooter to drop the weapon. He didn’t, and fired again, either at the officers or in the direction of a man running in the street behind the officers. The officers returned fire and stopped the threat to them and to others.

At the time of the shooting, no one knew the age of the shooter. But age is not a factor in this case. Six or sixty, a gunman was trying to kill another person, therefore the use of deadly force was indeed justified.

As far as shooting the gun out of the attacker’s hand, well, that’s strictly a TV thing. Police officers are trained to shoot center mass of their target, and the reason for doing so is that you don’t have time to take a proper stance and slowly aim for the “bulls eye” while people are shooting at you. Even if you thought you might have the time to do so, it would be a foolish and probable fatal mistake. So no arm, hand, finger, shoulder, or leg shots. Besides, not many people are capable of accurately delivering a round to a tiny target, even without the stress of incoming rounds.

The race issue…well, I’m sorry if what I’m about to say shocks anyone, but the color of someone’s skin has nothing to do with having to shoot at a person who’s shooting at you, or at someone else. All that’s on a cop’s mind at that point is how to stop the suspect (white, black, blue, or purple) from trying to kill them or others.

Here’s another statement that might anger some of you. There is indeed a foolproof method of stopping a good number of the shooting deaths of teens of all races, and that’s to keep their young butts off the streets at 3am. They’re kids, and they don’t belong out of the house at all hours of the night.

And, what about the guns they so boldly carry? When’s the last time parents set foot in their kids’ bedrooms? What about having a conversation with them? Talked to them about their friends and associates? When’s the last time someone gave a flip about them?

You want the violence to stop, then keep your teens at home. Offer them guidance. Teach them right from wrong. Do things with them. Don’t wait until their blood stains the concrete walk at the corner to decide that suddenly you’re a parent.

It’s the adults’ job to be a parent all the time, not just when it’s convenient or when the press is interviewing you beside a makeshift memorial where your child died in a barrage of gang-related gunfire. That’s not the time to be pointing fingers, unless you just happen to be standing in front of a mirror.

In the case of young Shaaliver Douse, well, I certainly want to express my condolences to the family of anyone who loses a loved one, including the Douse family, but I also want to let the officer who fired the fatal round know that I’m thinking of him/her too. Because, now he/she will have to live every day from this point forward, knowing they killed someone’s son…a child. Sure, the shooting was definitely justified, but that does little to ease the pain, a pain I know all too well.

Will you know where your child is tonight after midnight? I certainly hope so, for everyone’s sake.

Believable Characters

We’re having such a good time meeting and hanging out with new friends, such as my new buddy above, that I’ve decided to take one more day off from the blog. Actually, this has turned into quite the research trip. Believe me, you won’t believe the stories I’m hearing from a group of people who…well, let’s just say these folks are a bit on the odd side as you’ll soon see.

But, all good things, even the weird ones, must end at some point. Therefore, things will be back to the usual business of cops and robbers on Thursday. Thanks for hanging around while I’ve been goofing off.

 

Taking day off

I’ve posted a blog every single day for over five years, even while I was in the hospital having surgery. So, I’m taking today off from the blog, from the WPA, from writing, from cops and robbers, and from life in general. And I’m going to relax and enjoy spending time with my wife for the next couple days.

By the way, I took this photo around 8pm last night. Anyone have an idea where I was when I took the picture? You can post your guesses on my Facebook page, if you like.

*Due to recent offensive and threatening messages, the comment feature on this site has been temporarily switched off. Sorry for the inconvenience.