Surprise Ending for a Crime Scene

BY T.F. STERN

This past week there was a news item that showed up on Facebook about a criminal who accidentally shot himself in the “package” with his own pistol while committing a robbery.  It turns out it happened in Chicago and the story was from 2017 and was making the rounds again.  I know we’re not supposed to laugh; but that’s just too good not to at least smirk as Karma unloaded on that idiot.

It reminded me of a crime scene from back in the early 70s when I worked as a Crime Scene Investigator; before such a designation became popular.  Basically, the department assigned some low seniority patrolman, which would be me, to carry a latent fingerprint retrieval box and a camera in the trunk of the police car for those times when a detective wasn’t available. 

It wasn’t a glamorous job at all, often times being sent to the morgue to lift prints off a ‘John Doe’ to figure out his identity.  Think about having to get up close and personal with a stiff body that had already begun to stink and having to take a ‘dead-man’s spoon’, some ink and then transfer each finger’s print onto a flat piece of card stock. 

Yeah, that was a fun and exciting job.  So glad I moved on within the department, directing evening rush hour traffic; now that really was fun. Somehow that fun and exciting job as CSI became a popular television series; folks will believe anything that comes out of Hollywood.

I did get to take pictures with a fancy 35mm camera at various crime scenes.  As I recall, there was another CSI who had a morbid sense of humor.  When I say morbid, that means much more so than most other police officers since that’s probably a character trait required to be a police officer… where was I?  

Anyway, not a great way to start a sentence; but anyway, this officer would take slide film of his own and take pictures of crime scenes and then drop a slide of a really nasty one in with his vacation pictures when relatives came over asking about how much fun he’d had.  Apparently the department didn’t think too highly of this and he was let go; imagine that…

Getting back to surprise endings for a crime scene… The best one I was ever mixed up with involved several locations all tied in with the same suspect, there having been a robbery, subsequent search for the suspect involving an empty school bus by two police officers, and then the suspect finally being shot by a security guard down the street…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The suspect ‘allegedly’ (I love how that word has to be included) robbed a small convenience store using a pistol and got away with a handful of dollars, a couple of packs of cigarettes and some candy which he’d stuffed under his shirt.  He fled through an apartment complex with several police units that were close by when it went down in the area looking for him. 

A two man unit decided to check out a school bus that had been parked on the street over night.  The lead officer was going through the bus, looking under every seat as he worked his way towards the back of the bus.  His junior partner was standing on the landing of the bus with the door open keeping an eye out for the suspect. 

Sure enough, the suspect came running in the direction of the school bus, pistol still in his hand while looking for any police that might be chasing after him.  The officer in the bus ducked as the suspect took a shot at him and then returned fire.  The awkward manner in which the officer was standing caused him to lose balance and he fell backwards into the bus while the suspect continued on down the street. 

From the evidence at that location the suspect did get hit by the officer’s bullet, striking him in the stomach.  There was a blood trail that was easy to follow; again I’m getting ahead of myself…

The officer in the back of the bus thought his partner had been shot and, putting it delicately, lost his composure.  He was normally an excellent shot with a pistol and had the medal hanging on his shirt to prove it; but that wouldn’t explain the back window of the bus being shot out from the inside of the bus or the multiple bullet holes that exited the roof of the bus. 

Yeah, I had to take pictures of all the bullet holes and I don’t know how it came to be, those bullet holes were listed in the official report as having come from the suspect’s pistol as he shot at the officers inside the bus.

As I mentioned, the suspect continued running away from the bus and towards yet another small convenience store where there were several cars parked and a security guard standing in front of the store.  The suspect began shooting at the security guard and the security guard began firing at the suspect, all the cars in the parking lot sustained damage.

The suspect’s pistol ran out of ammunition; but that didn’t stop him from aiming at the security guard and continuing to pull the trigger, “click, click…and click”.  This didn’t set well with the security guard who still had bullets in his pistol as he shot the suspect several times at close range, “Kablam, kablam and kablam”.  The last shot apparently removed the suspect’s “package” and the rest tore up most of his gut and chest.

The suspect was loaded into an ambulance with a limited chance of survival while I was called out to gather evidence and take pictures.  As mentioned, I took pictures around the school bus to include the spot where the suspect dropped the money along with the candy and cigarettes that were on the ground. 

I then took pictures of the cars that had bullet holes and completed my supplement report, the one that would be assigned with the primary reports filled out by the officers assigned to each location’s criminal report.

Here’s where it got interesting… About a year later I received a subpoena to attend District Court on this incident.  It surprised everyone when the suspect, the one everyone expected to die from his wounds, yeah, that suspect walked into court and pled not guilty.  It later turned out that the State of Texas and his attorney worked out some kind of plea deal so I never got to bring my “Eight by ten glossy color images of the crime scene” into court (a reference to the tune, Alice’s Restaurant).

In my best Paul Harvey voice, “… and that’s the rest of the story…”


t-f-stern-1Self-Educated American, Senior Edi­tor, T.F. Stern is both a retired City of Hous­ton police offi­cer and, most recently, a retired self-employed lock­smith (after serving that industry for 40 plus years). He is also a gifted polit­i­cal and social com­men­ta­tor. His pop­u­lar and insight­ful blog, T.F. Sterns Rant­i­ngs, has been up and at it since January of 2005.


1 COMMENT

  1. You have a son who mows your grass?

    (You may not understand that statement, so just let it be for now. You are, in my humble estimation, a very, very good writer. I think I even know what “package” refers to! Hats of to all police – even the weird ones. Thank the stars we have criminals to bring out the good, bad, and the ugly as part of mortality’s tests. Just kidding.)

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