Can I get a W, a T, and an F over here?


I was woken up this morning at an hour I like to refer to as Why Did I Want To Become An ME Again O’Clock by a persistent and incessant noise  that was not, in fact, my neighbor’s demon-Affenpinscher spazzing out because somebody dared to open their door at an unapproved time. Rather it was my phone, and on my phone was my boss, Dr. Weller, calling me in to join her on a suspected multiple-homicide call. Or, to be more precise, to get my ass out of bed and get to the crime scene as I lived much, much closer to it than she did and she’d be there as soon as she could be.

This was a first. I am, in fact, the most junior examiner in the office. When I’ve gone out on call up to this point, it’s always been with a more senior examiner to hold my hand oversee the bulk of the operation while I helped out with recording his or her dictation in addition to the film and audio records, coordinating with the uniformed officers and the police detectives, making the necessary phone calls, that sort of thing. Managing a crime scene in order to preserve its forensic integrity during the course of the initial investigation is a pretty labor-intensive process, no matter how many hands you’ve got involved in it. So, needless to say, I got my ass out of bed, applied caffeine in the necessary dosage to achieve functionality, and hauled down to the scene, which was about ten minutes from where I live.

There were multiple black-and-white units already at the scene and a good dozen uniformed officers, including the patrol team whose beat covered the area in question. The crime scene lines were up and most of the officers in question were at the edges, keeping back the gawkers — there’s never not gawkers, no matter how late or how early, not with that much police activity in one spot — and letting people who needed to be there in. The police photographer had arrived a minute or two before I did and was hauling up her equipment, setting up for the exterior scene preservation shots. The homicide detective called by the patrol officers came over as I was getting my bag out of the car to give me the brief: abandoned house known to be a drug hangout, the patrol unit rolling by just after midnight found a single victim huddled in the middle of the street, covered in blood and pulled over to investigate. The single victim was in his early-to-mid-teens, in shock, injured and bloodied, and they couldn’t get any sense out of him. One of the patrol officers stayed to stabilize him and call an ambulance while the other investigated the blood trail, which led back to the house, which stands a little way off by itself in a small but heavily overgrown plot at the edge of a tiny municipal parking lot that hasn’t been regularly used or maintained since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The detective got the “homicide, multiple victims” call shortly thereafter, which is…pretty much what he found, actually.

I would like to take this opportunity to pause and make an observation: homicide detectives are not, in my experience, the sort of people who do a lot of turning green and getting teary in stressful or upsetting situations. Much like medical examiners and forensic pathologists, point in fact. The job doesn’t allow for it — after the first couple times of being called out to offer your expertise at a scene painted in someone else’s life, you either harden up or you go into a different line of work. Which isn’t to say that you become soullessly cold and incapable of compassion but, for the most part, you don’t look like you could chuck your cookies at the soonest opportunity and would if more people weren’t looking. This detective — and older guy, lots of gray in his hair — looked like he wanted to hurl. His hands were shaking, and he kept blinking and repeating himself and it took me a second to realize he was actually in a species of shock himself. Some of the uniforms, too. Asking questions did not improve the situation. It took a full half-hour to get the information that there were four downstairs and an unknown number upstairs. The words “too many pieces” were used. I have to admit that I was beginning to find the whole situation more than a little WTFworthy by that point alone, and the photographer and I hadn’t even gotten inside the building yet.

I was loading a fresh cassette into my recorder and pulling on a couple pairs of gloves when the MiBs arrived. You laugh, Rin, but that’s exactly what the fuck they were. A black sedan and two black SUVs, no insigniae of any sort on the doors, carrying a bunch of people wearing — you guessed it! — black. Except for the one who wore the most obnoxiously red tie in the history of clothes meant to attract attention. That’s the one who walked up to the photographer and I and ordered us off the porch and back behind the police lines. I pointed out to him that I was the representative of the county medical examiner’s office and that I had sole jurisdiction over the crime scene as the forensic investigation was in progress. He informed me that the forensic investigation would be handled from that point by their office and I would hand over any recordings I had made and any documentation of the scene, and so would the photographer. I believe that my response to that was something to the order of asking him who the fuck he was and who the fuck did he think he was and, btw, what “office” precisely had the jurisdiction to supercede the department of the medical examiner at an active crime scene?

Are you ready for it?

The fucking Department of Homeland Security.

I pointed out, very graciously I thought, that I’d worked with the DHS before during the forensic investigation of Pan-Oceanic 332, and that he was full of shit. DHS does not have the authority to supercede the local investigation of a crime unless there’s a national security interest involved. When, exactly, did a multiple homicide in a known crackhouse become a matter of national security? He declined to answer. Instead he had a couple of rather large, unfriendly gentlemen escort me off the porch. When I objected, they handcuffed me and shoved me in the back of the sedan, where I waited until Dr. Weller arrived to convince them not to arrest me for….Actually, I’m not entirely sure what they actually could have arrested me for, since I wasn’t exactly a meaningful impediment to their activities. They seized the crime scene and sealed it. They seized the film the police photographer had already shot. They took my tape, which had only contained a few minutes of contextual observations at that point. Then they cut us all loose, including the uniforms and the detective. Dr. Weller took me to get breakfast and then told me to go home and get some sleep, and that we’d talk about the situation later. Hopefully the today “later” and not the when we get around to it “later” because, seriously, WHAT the FUCK?


~ by Dr. Nate Harada on October 6, 2011.

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