Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's Okay to Laugh Sometimes

Since the weather has been so great and people are in a good mood, it's time to laugh a little. There can be so much heartache in the day-to-day life of a cop. However, this profession also lends itself to some humor as well. Cops tend to marry other cops or at least someone in a profession that can stand the pressures, long hours, holidays away from the family and some of the wild things we deal with every day that skews an otherwise normal existence.

I' ve been married for 27 years to a wonderful person that puts up with me and our crazy life. Ruth is a RN at a local hospital, working in Labor & Delivery. You might guess that there are many parallels between law enforcement and nursing. A lot of cops are married to nurses.

The hospital where she works gets a lot of interesting people in there to deliver.  Think Honey Boo Boo or Duck Dynasty.  Recently, Ruth was putting an electronic monitor on the ankle of a newborn. They use these to make sure newborns aren't taken past a security point. The baby was crying while the akle monitor was being attached. The baby's father was trying to calm his new daughter and said, "It's going to be alright honey...Daddy's got one just like that."

It's okay to laugh. You just can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How Not to Become a Homicide Victim

Violent crime – especially murders - often lead most newscasts in the St. Louis area.  The 30 second TV report doesn’t tell you much.  An 18 year-old was found shot to death.  A woman was found strangled in an apartment.  Police are looking for a blue Chevrolet driven by two males, armed with an assault rifle, etc.  This is what we hear night after night.

These short bursts of information from the media tend to give one the impression that we live in a very violent community.  We don’t.
After nearly 33 years in this business, which includes a stint in homicide, I have a few suggestions on how you can keep from being a homicide victim:
  1. Don’t involve yourself in the drug trade.
  2. Don’t carry an illegal firearm.
  3. Remove yourself from domestic situations where violence or the threat of violence has occurred.
  4. Remove yourself from a household that has someone with untreated mental illness where violence or the threat of violence has occurred.
If you happen to be in a rough neighborhood and are purchasing narcotics, bad things can happen. However, it has nothing to do with the neighborhood and everything to do with what you were doing when it happened.  Make sense?   
Most of the time, the public never finds out what the victim was doing when the murder happened.  We know what happened, but out of respect for the family, we rarely disclose those facts to the media.  Police work hard to solve these crimes, as nobody deserves to be a homicide victim. 
With all of this said, there are very rare instances where a murder happens and the victim just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  One example I can think of recently was the Megan Boken murder last summer in the Central West End. 

Megan was truly an innocent victim.  Most people who heard about the Boken case said to themselves, “This could have been me or my daughter.”  That’s what made her murder particularly disturbing and tragic.  Any child death also fits into this category - although many of the child deaths are as a result of something the child's parent was doing that fits into 1 - 4 above.

Again, these kinds of random or innocent homicides are very unusual and yes, the police do work these kinds of cases with particular passion and vigor.  Isn’t that what you’d expect of us?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lethal Injection or Gas Chamber??

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster suggested this week that execution in the gas chamber might have to be reinstated.  It seems that we’re running out of the drugs needed to execute condemned killers by lethal injection. 

Barbara Jo Wood's workplace
On a frigid January in 1994, Barbara Jo Wood, a loving mother and grandmother, arrived at South County Mall to work her part-time job.  After she parked her car, two men approached and abducted her at gunpoint from the parking lot.  As it turns out, one of the men was Stanley Hall.  Stanley and his partner needed a car to do a drive-by shooting.  They selected Barbara’s car.  Why Barbara?  She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The two men drove her around St. Louis for a few hours, trying to decide how to get rid of her.  They didn’t want to just release her, fearing she would call the police and they would get caught in her stolen car.  As they drove around, Barbara showed them photographs of her grandchildren, quietly begging for her life.
Stanley Hall and his partner made a decision.  Let’s shoot her and throw her off the McKinley Bridge downtown.  With very little traffic on the bridge late in the January night, Stanley and his partner ordered Barbara out of the car.  Knowing what was going to happen, Barbara fought for her life.  She was shot multiple times.  Stanley picked her up and threw her over the rail into the icy Mississippi.  Scared, Stanley’s partner drove off as traffic approached, leaving Stanley on the bridge. 

Stanley was picked up on the Illinois side of the bridge by the Venice Police, but denied any crimes.  At this point, nobody knew Barbara Wood had been abducted and there was no body recovered.  Investigation soon revealed that the incident on the bridge actually occurred in Missouri.  Stanley Hall was turned over to St. Louis County Police when it was determined the initial crime started in South County.

All of these details are forever embedded in my memory.  I was in our Homicide Unit at the time and Stanley Hall was turned over to my partner and I for investigation.  Stanley eventually told us many of the details.  In 1996, Stanley was found guilty of these crimes and a death sentence was announced.  He overturned a table in the courtroom and tried to run.  Years and years of legal wrangling then commenced. 

Finally, in 2005, Stanley Hall and Lady Justice met at the Potosi prison.  As Stanley’s family flashed gang signs and danced to loud music in front of a large window near him, he received several quick injections and permanently closed his eyes.  As a witness for the state, I was also watching.
Gas or lethal injection?  No matter how Missouri decides to execute our evil killers, it will be too good for them.  I’m sure Barbara’s family is with me on this.  All of us can only hope we die so easily.