Sunday, April 22, 2012

Law enforcement shootings investigations

How carefully do law enforcement agencies investigate shootings?

Certainly, the actions of the Sanford (Fla.) Police Department have been in the spotlight, since George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin on February 26. Police initially bought Zimmerman's story and didn't charge him. Following appointment of a special prosecutor (now, that didn't take two years!) Zimmerman has been charged and jailed.

Closer to home, there was a shooting last June near Marengo. Two elderly residents, John and Audrey Feldkamp, died from stab wounds. Doran Bloom died from gunshot wounds. One person remained - Scott Feldkamp, son of John and Audrey Feldkamp. He suffered stab wounds.

A detective, Travis McDonald, interviewed Scott in the hospital on the following day. Sheriff Keith Nygren quickly held a press conference and announced what had happened on the evening of June 7 in the Feldkamp home.

And on that day, June 8, 2011, the Northwest Herald carried this opening sentence, "The stabbing deaths of an 83-year-old Marengo man and his 81-year-old wife were part of a random act of violence by a suspect with a history of mental health issues, police said."

And the Northwest Herald story contained this: "Scott Feldkamp then broke free from the fight and ran to an upstairs bedroom to get a 9 mm pistol, but Bloom began stabbing Audrey Feldkamp in the meantime, Nygren said."

The article continued, "Leaning over an upstairs banister, Scott Feldkamp was able to shoot Bloom multiple times."

Where did Sheriff Nygren get that? I just re-read Scott's statement to Det. McDonald, and I didn't see that. Maybe it's "between the lines". I'll have to look there.

The conclusion at the Sheriff's Department on the very first day after the deaths? We're done. Case closed.

From the reports in the 260-page file, it appears that the McHenry County Sheriff's Department did little investigation. Apparently, they did not question how Scott could shoot 9-10 times from the second floor balcony and hit Bloom without hitting his father. No reports detailed the trajectory of the bullets or the wounds that Bloom suffered. Why did he carry an unloaded gun downstairs and place it on a small table? The Coroner's report is not part of the sheriff's department report.

The reports do not mention whether (or not) gun powder was found on Bloom's clothing or body.  One report (not from the sheriff's department) indicated the presence of gunpowder, which would only be expected if the weapon were close to the point of impact. The crime scene drawings wouldn't get a passing grade at MCC in a criminology class on a student's first day. No one questioned in the reports why so many casings were found between Bloom and the wall. No drawing compared a logical trajectory of spent casings from the point on the balcony from which the shots were fired with the actual locations of the casings on the first floor.

MIAT should have been called in; it wasn't. What's MIAT? The Major Incident Assistance Team. These are trained cops from around the county with different departments, who have specialized training. Their availability means that any one department doesn't have to maintain the specialties on its staff. When expertise is needed, MIAT is called in. Why wasn't MIAT called for a triple homicide?


The Usual Suspect said...

Which department do you think makes up a large portion of the MIAT? Contrary to your anti- Sheriff twist, this wasn't a huduneit. Well within the capabilities of most of the larger departments within the county, all WITHOUT calling in extra manpower. If MIAT was there, what would they do? OK Mr. Expert, I want to hear how you would utilize this team and what you would have them do?

Info Getter said...

Gus, again you have not made correct statements. In the Zimmerman case the police did want to charge him that night! It was the district attorney’s office who refused to charge him NOT THE POLICE! Do the research and then post accurate information. Place blame to the right office

Gus said...

A reader sent along the following comment:

"Some of your comment people drive me nuts. In response to Mr. "the usual suspect" somebody else from another department could have asked some pertinent questions like.... Was the survivor really "visiting" for almost four months or had he moved back to the nest because he had no job and no means of support? Where and when was his last job? Could anyone else corroborate his story that his parents were planning on "shifting residences" and that he was there to help? Were the parents' friends interviewed to find out how Jack and Audrey felt about their son living with them? Did they do any background investigation into the survivor? Did they re-create the scene of the crime? They should have had another person interview him again several days later to see if his story matched. Would all or any of these findings constitute motive?? Blaming a mentally-challenged person for this crime is too easy, too pat. What would have been D. Bloom's motive? Due diligence was NOT done in this case.

Gus said...

The latest in the Northwest Herald reads, "The police chief in the city where Trayvon Martin was shot is set to permanently step down from his post after enduring strong criticism of his department's decision not to arrest George Zimmerman."

Info Getter, why would the police chief be resigning and not the District Attorney?

Gus said...

A later article, elsewhere, provides this information.

"At a special meeting of the (Sanford, Fla. city) commission, members voted 3 to 2 not to accept (Police Chief) Lee's resignation after the controversial killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin."

Info Getter said...

Ok Gus, again the info is out there about the chief wanting to charge him that night and the DA did not approve it! If the DA said no then the Chief can’t charge! Do some research and then make a correct comment. And as for the resignation, post the whole article on why they would not accept it! Read what council members said! You might be surprised. I believe one said “the only thing he did wrong was hold a bad press conference”. I believe if you read, they were saying they were wrong for giving him a vote of no confidence, when they did not know the facts, much like you when you post info. I believe it is there way of saying they are sorry and we don’t want you to leave. When an ongoing investigation is happening he could not comment on all the facts about why the charge was not filed. And would you want to stay working for an agency who tried to throw you under the bus, when he did it by the book? So please inform me with your wealth of knowledge what the chief did wrong. He did what he was told to do by the office that has the final say at that level.

DColley said...

Gus, this is an excellent parallel of sloppy, lazy and borderline negligent police work. While the case specifics aren't exactly duplicated, the basics definitely are.
As a close family member of one of the deceased, I'm more than a little incensed that the MCSO didn't take this more seriously and do their job as is expected. There were so many errors made and so many opportunities to do the right thing in this case (and I hesitate to use the word "investigation" because the case report clearly shows that none occurred.)
As a former federal law enforcement officer, I'm embarassed for the profession that such a piss-poor standard is considered to be acceptable in the county. The bigger picture, in both cases you mention, is that clearly there is more going on than the media is presently reporting. Because of heavy media involvement, I'm certain the full story will eventually come out in Florida. Because of the commitment of a select few talented and dedicated individuals who have been extremely loyal to my family during the past year, I'm confidant that the truth of what occurred in the Feldkamp home will also come out.
While I certainly understand that under incompetent and often destructive leadership it is not always possible (or wise) to do the right thing, it is the duty and responsibility of those with such knowledge to address such situations appropriately. It is my strong belief that in time, this will occur.
Until then, thank you for keeping this open to discussion. It is clear that the community didn't close the book on this case after only 72 hours.

CB said...

Hey Usual Suspect-
Maybe MIAT would have questioned why all the shell casings were found around the body of Doran Bloom and that he had powder burns even though Scott Feltcamp had bragged he had shot him from the upstairs balcony. Maybe MIAT would have actually checked the phone records & computers? Maybe MIAT wouldn't have told the Blooms that they didn't have time to do an investigation because they were too stretched out with the Millman murder?