Tag Archive for: Arson

Most cops have dealt with a few criminals who aren’t, well, you know, playing with a full deck. They’re not the sharpest knives in the drawers. One donut short of a full dozen.

Some of these intelligence-challenged folks, bless their hearts, go the extra mile on the dummy scale. For example:

Dumb Crooks of the Day

  • Douglas Kelly, a Florida resident, purchased and consumed what he believed to be methamphetamine, an illegal drug. Then, after consuming the meth he felt as if the drugs didn’t quite meet his expectations—didn’t deliver the high he’d hoped to achieve.

So he did what any level-headed person would do when they believe they’ve been cheated in a business deal—he called the local sheriff’s office to file a formal complaint. He asked to have the ILLEGAL meth tested for purity so he could file appropriate charges against the person who sold the drugs. Of course, deputies from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office were more than happy to oblige.

They politely asked Mr. Kelly to bring the substance to the sheriff’s office, and he did, and the deputies there did indeed test the drug which, by the way, field-tested positive for methamphetamine. Therefore, Dumb Crook Number 1, Douglas Kelly, was arrested for possession of methamphetamine.

  • The title of Dumb Crook Number 2 goes to 25-year-old Ruddy Rodriguez, who was operating his ATV illegally and extremely recklessly on city streets. While driving at dangerously high speeds he maneuvered in and out of and around traffic. He even zipped through intersections when the lights were red.

To top off his careless behavior, this dummy of the day pulled up next to responding officers and actually laughed at them, then said, “You’ll never catch me or stop me!” Then he revved up his engine and took off, driving straight onto the sidewalk where he immediately crashed into a large concrete planter box. Karma…

  • Cops often throw a nice party when one of their fellow officers is about to retire. They’re lively affairs that often take place in a local bar or pub. Such was the case when a Baltimore County PD sergeant’s retirement party was held in a back room at Monaghan’s Pub in Baltimore which, by the way, is across the street from a police station.

Enter Dumb Crooks Number 3 and 4 who picked the absolute worst time in the world to rob Monaghan’s cashier at gunpoint. Both men were instantly placed under arrest, the hard way, as evidenced by the black eyes and bumps and bruises prominently displayed in their mugshots.

  • Dumb Crook Number 5 is one of my arrests. It started with a silent alarm triggered by a clerk working in a local convenience store. When I arrived the doors were locked and the clerk who’d set off the alarm turned the key to let me inside. She was shaken to core. He hands trembled, tears spilled down her cheeks, and words rolled off her tongue at 100 mph.

After a few minutes of “Officer Friendly” smooth-talking, her anxiety eased enough to allow her to describe what had taken place. She said a man entered the store and very slowly walked up and down each aisle while nervously glancing around the place. His gaze met hers a few times and once in a while locked in on the security cameras.

Finally, the man walked to the rear of the store where he opened a cooler door and withdrew a can of beer. Then he approached the counter. The clerk said she asked to see his ID, which he produced. She studied the driver’s license and saw that his date of birthplace indicated that his age as well above the legal limit to purchase alcohol. She also confirmed that the face in the ID photo matched that of her customer. She rang up the sale and he paid in cash. The clerk then placed the man’s ID on the counter and slid it toward him.

It was then when the man pulled a pistol from his jacket pocket and demanded that she give him all the money in the register. Well, apparently she wasn’t moving quickly enough so he grabbed the entire machine, snatching it free from its cables and mount, and ran out the door.

When she’d finished her narrative I started to go outside to grab my handy-dandy Sirchie fingerprint kit. On the way out I stopped to have a quick look at the countertop, and there it was, the robber’s driver’s license.

He’d not only shown the license to the clerk, providing her the opportunity to later identify him, he’d given me his name, date of birth, address, a nice photo of his face, and his social security number (Back in those days, Virginia used a person’s social security number as their driver’s license number. That is no longer the case).

So I hopped in my car, called for backup, and drove to the suspect’s home where we found both him and the stolen cash register. Oh, the gun was a pistol that had been stolen a few months prior to the robbery. And, we found crack cocaine on the stack of wooden pallets he used as a coffee table. I don’t believe he’d ever watched HGTV.

Believe it or not, this, the driver’s license thing at a convenience store robbery, also happened a second time but with a different dumb crook.

In another instance I found a driver’s license at the scene of an arson. Somehow the fire-starter dropped it on the ground. I found the ID while poking around the area as firefighters battled the blaze. He was from out of town so I enlisted the assistance of the local cops in that city to help me with the arrest. The firebug confessed to the arson after a lengthy interrogation session.


The investigation of criminal cases is often a time-consuming process that involves numerous hours of leg work, interviewing potential witnesses and/or suspects, evidence collection and, well, you know the drill. It’s intensive. However, there are also the cases that practically solve themselves with little or no investigative skills needed.

For example …

It was a dark and non-stormy, but bitterly cold night.

I was on call and, as my luck goes, my pager sounded off, beeping and buzzing on the nightstand next to my head. Hoping it was an informant I could ignore until morning, I reached for the device and saw the number for dispatch on the tiny screen.

My next wish was for it to be something I could handle by phone. After dialing the number, a perky female voice answered and told me that I was needed at a structure fire, one that a patrol sergeant had reason to believe was arson. Great. Just great, I thought. Not only was it 3 a.m. and as cold outside as a well digger’s hind parts, but the freakin’ case was an arson, and I absolutely despised working arson cases. They’re dirty and stinky and I despised getting dirty and stinky, especially at 3 a.m. when the outside temperature is hovering at one notch below “Brrr and Shiver.” Give me a good old murder to solve, any day. At least there was a good chance the body would’ve been indoors.

I rolled out of bed, apprehensively, and slipped on some clothes I wouldn’t mind tossing in the garbage a few hours later, and headed outside where the frigid air slapped my cheeks and launched an instant assault on my eyes nose, ears, and lungs. Even my unmarked Crown Vic seemed pissed off and protested by withholding heat for at least ten very long minutes.

I arrived at the scene, an agricultural-based business, where fire crews were still hard at it, spraying water at yellowish-orange flames that reached heights well above nearby trees and telephone poles. As horrific as all fires are, the heat from this one was not at all offensive. My toes were cold, cold, cold.

The patrol sergeant who’d requested my assistance waved me over to where he was engaged in an arm and hand-waving, finger-pointing conversation with the fire chief and a couple of shivering bystanders.

The Evidence

On my way, I saw something on the ground that reflected the brilliant colors of the dancing flames. You’d never guess, in a million years, what it was, so I’ll tell you (yes, crooks are often as dumb as a rock).

The reflective object was a driver’s license. So I picked it up, told the sergeant and fire chief that I was pretty sure I knew who’d started the fire and that I’d give them a call in a little while. I turned around and walked back to my car. I’d been at the fire scene all of two minutes.

It wasn’t that I was some sort of super-detective, or anything close. Not at all. You see, the drivers license I’d found belonged to a man who’d served time in prison for setting a couple of previous fires. I drove to the man’s house where I promptly told him I had solid evidence that placed him at the scene. Then I bluntly asked if he’d set the fire.

He first patted his pants pockets as if feeling for something that “should’ve” been there (a driver’s license), and then slowly looked down at his muddy shoes and nodded his head (a classic sign that a confession is about to spill from the lips).

I told him he’d need to do better than that. He looked up until his gaze met mine, and said, “Yeah, it was me. I set it.”

On the way to book the arsonist I called the patrol sergeant to tell him that I had the firebug in custody. It was not quite two hours after I’d received the page from the dispatcher. All without getting dirty, or stinky.

By the way, my car still refused to put forth any heat on the ride home. My toes were still cold.