Archive for July, 2012

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I want to first say that my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families of the Aurora, Colorado shooting.

The news is filled with stories of the shooting, the victims, and the gunman.  One comment made by the media was about how Columbine forever changed the way we react to armed shooters.  Much like 9/11 changed the way airlines respond to hijackers.

I was working for General Motors Acceptance Corp. (GMAC) in California in 1990 when a branch office in Jacksonville, Florida was the scene of a massacre.  James Edward Pough walked into a large office of 85 employees and opened fire, killing eight, before turning the gun on himself.  Survivors talked about the victims who tried to hide under their desks, only to be killed by the gunman who went from desk to desk, shooting them one by one.

I work on a college campus, and after the Virginia Tech attack by Seung-Hui Cho, campus police put together a workshop about what to do if an armed gunman was loose on campus.  The first thing they said was “if you think you hear gunfire, then it is very likely that what you’re hearing is gunfire.”  Do not run outside to investigate.  Barricade yourself in a room (preferably one without windows) and stay there until law enforcement arrives and gives the all-clear.  The officers conducting the workshop explained that a shooter, or shooters, are out to kill as many people as they can as quickly as they can.  They will generally fire into a room, but will more likely move on to easier targets, rather than taking the time to break in.

As we walked into the workshop, we were all handed ping-pong balls.  Later, as part of a simulation exercise, we were told that one of the officers was going to come through the door with his arms up as if holding a weapon.  We were told to throw the ping-pong balls at him the second he opened the door.  His reaction was to raise his hands to cover his face.  Obviously, this would not have worked in the Aurora situation, but I believe preparation for whatever situation you find yourself in is helpful.

The workshop also included a video of actual footage from the Columbine massacre.  It showed the killers firing their weapons, not the actual killing of victims.  But it was still very chilling in spite of that.  At one point you see the two shooters spraying bullets and then pausing to yell at someone to “stop!”  And you hear the voice of the would-be victim yelling back “F**k you!”  That student survived.

I know I’m better prepared for having attended the workshop.   I hope that none of us ever have to make that kind of split-second decision, but I’m glad to be able to share these possible life-saving measures.

Take care.

My daughter and I had the privilege of attending a citizen’s academy put on by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office in partnership with the Sacramento Police Department and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.  As part of the academy, all attendees were invited to a preview of an independent film titled Heaven’s Rain, which tells the true story of Brooks Douglass, who survived, along with his sister Leslie, the home invasion and murder of his mother and father in October of 1979.  The movie preview included a speech and a meet and greet with Mike Vogel, who plays Brooks in the movie.  Later in the month, at a breakfast hosted by the citizen’s academy, Brooks Douglass was the keynote speaker.  To say that he is a powerful speaker is a gross understatement.  The tragedy that defined his life radiates in every word he speaks.  And he is a staunch supporter of victim’s rights legislation (with good reason).  I’ve noted some of the victims’ rights legislation he’s authored below.

I found the movie to be a powerful story of love, unbearable loss and, ultimately, a story of forgiveness and triumph over tragedy.  While listening to Brooks speak, I found myself wondering if I have it in me to forgive like that.

After missionary work on the Amazon River in Brazil, Brook’s father moved them to Putnam City, Oklahoma, where he became the Baptist minister of the First Baptist Church.  In October of 1979 a drifter named Glen Ake and his partner, Steven Hatch, entered the Douglass home, drew guns and tied up Richard, his wife Marilyn, and 16 year old Brooks.  They then repeatedly assaulted Brooks’ 12 year old sister Leslie.  When they were done, they shot the family and left them for dead.  Brooks’ father and mother died at the scene, but Brooks and Leslie managed to escape.  Brooks drove Leslie to the hospital in the family car.

Above, I mentioned that Brooks became a victims’ rights advocate.   In addition to having to endure the horrific loss of their parents, their terrible ordeal continued for years.  The first part of which was having to pay for the medical costs associated with the attack.  Their family vehicle was impounded, and they had to pay to get it back.  They ultimately suffered the loss of their family home as well.

Ake and Hatch were caught, convicted and sentenced to death in 1990.  But, for the next sixteen years Brooks and Leslie were dragged into court time and time again to testify, each time having to relive that night.  Finally, on August 9, 1996, Steven Hatch was put to death by lethal injection.  But in a 1986 retrial, Glen Ake was convicted again, but that time received life in prison.

I believe a lesser man would have fallen and never picked himself up again.  Brooks, however, earned his law degree.  At the age of 27 he became the youngest state senator in Oklahoma history.  The following is just a small sampling of the legislation he authored:

Senate Joint Resolution 24 – Victims’ Rights Amendment

Senate Bill 610 – Victims’ rights Act defining Oklahoma Crime Victims’ Compensation Act

House Bill 2056 – Victim/Family allowed to witness execution

Senate Bill 631 – Amending legislation requiring presentation of victim impact statements in plea bargain proceedings

A statement Brooks made during his speech really resonated with me and helps explain the drive behind his fight for victim’s rights:  “the system must no longer step over the body of a victim to read the criminal his rights.”

Forgiveness – in 1995, while Brooks was on a legislative tour of a state prison, he saw Glen Ake and requested a meeting with him.  In his speech Brooks said he walked into the room with it in mind to somehow go after this man who’d caused him so much pain.  Instead he sat and listened to Ake apologize for what he’d done.  When he finished talking, Brooks got up and walked to the door.  He paused and then turned around and walked back to Ake.  He then told him he forgave him.

Am I capable of that kind of forgiveness?  I honestly don’t know.  I pray I never have to find out.

If you are interested in seeing this inspiring movie, you can purchase Heaven’s Rain at:

http://heavensrainmovie.com/store.php

I believe it’s also available to rent from Blockbuster on line.

As a side note:  Brooks plays his father in the movie.  He wanted to do it to honor his father’s memory; however, he confessed that it was one of the most difficult things he’s ever done.  I can only imagine.

Choos of the Week, pretty in pink!

Posted: July 15, 2012 in Shoes
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THIS AND THAT…

Posted: July 11, 2012 in Forensics
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I’m finally back on track. I apologize for the delay in posting.

Writer’s of crime and mystery, check out the Writer’s Forensics Blog by D. P. Lyle, M.D. @ http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/

 Do you have a question about a body in your book?  He’ll answer your questions.  The site is also a great source of information, check out his links, listing useful sites for writer’s. 

Samples of questions addressed on his blog:

Can a blow to the chest kill an adult male?

How would my 1925 detective determine that a stain was human blood?

What injuries might cause my character’s amnesia and how would it be evaluated and treated?

And it’s not all forensics.  Guest bloggers talk about such topics as:

Point of View

Creating tension and pacing.

Caution to check your facts and why it’s important.

This blog is a gold mine of information!