Investigations can hinge on that 'one lucky break'
We asked for your best examples of that one totally unexpected turn in an investigation that was the lynchpin in the prosecution of an offender, and your response was overwhelming
In our last installment of the PoliceOne Investigations Newsletter, we talked a little about the fact that sometimes a successful investigation comes down to whether or not you encounter one ‘lucky break’ in the case. We asked for your best examples of that one totally unexpected turn in an investigation that was the lynchpin in the prosecution of an offender, and the response was so overwhelming that may be forced to do this in two parts. Part one, which follows below, will feature excellent examples from five PoliceOne Members.
If you want to add your voice to the conversation, just post your comments below or, as usual, send me an email. Okay, let’s get to it.
Something I Call ‘Rattling Cages’
I make an educated guess at what group is most likely responsible for the crime and start knocking on their doors and asking why I would have reason to be concerned they were involved. This technique has generated a lot of information from people who know what happened, but were not involved and do not wish to have the police taking an interest in them.
One of my most memorable “lucky breaks” created by using this technique involved the theft of a vehicle. The case was cold from the start, I rattled a few cages without any luck and a couple days later, the system-savy perp with an extensive record turned himself in and gave a full confession. When asked why he felt the need to confess, he advised me he knew I was working the case and I would be knocking on his associates’ doors until it was solved. This was one of my favorite “lucky breaks” and a reminder that a little bit of effort can crack a cold case.
The Day I Caught the Armed Robbery Suspect
Of course my luck being as it was, a Deputy was coming from our left toward the same traffic light. I could see that he had no emergency lights on, but he was moving. I had enough time to put my left arm up and say ‘Oh SH—.” I did not have time to finish before we were hit. To shorten the story a little, I ended up in the hospital for about 12 days. The traffic crash was worked as a Fatality as they did not know if the two of us would make it or not.
Time past and due to the political climate at the Police Department I left and went to work the County Sheriff’s Office. I was assigned as the School Resource Officer. One year to the day later, as I was driving to my assigned School, I stopped at the store that was robbed that night. I just wanted closure as I never made it to the call. It so happened that the clerk on duty was the same one that was robbed. We started talking about the robbery of the year before. She added that she was surprised that the robber was never caught as she had given the robbers name to the initial officer a year ago.
I decided that I would reopen the case myself. I located the suspect of all places, in the County Jail on another charge. I made a photo lineup and both clerks/victims made an ID. I walked a warrant through and arrested the suspect that same day. I cleared the case one year to the day after the robbery.
I have always been proud of this arrest as I almost died going to it. The suspect was found guilty and got a few years. Never assume that a case is done until the gavel falls.
The Other Matching Glove!
The second case occurred shortly after the same car thief was released from prison and returned to our community. A car was stolen in the middle of the night and left, up on its side, in a frozen plowed field (it was winter). Upon pushing the car back onto its wheels, I discovered a winter ski-type glove, black with teal zig-zags underneath the car, pressed into the frozen ground. Within minutes, we located the aforementioned car thief, walking a couple of blocks away, wearing the other matching glove!
Can You Hear Me Now?
Because of this when they were arrested, the suspect helping the main burglar was played the tape and told investigators from all agencies everything about every burglary he was on with the main suspect. Talk about dumb luck, or burglars. I have always said that solving major crimes is 10 percent good police work, and 90 percent luck.
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