Murder -  Motives   Friendly Fire

Cleaning after a violent homicide in a residential or business environment takes time. Different viewing perspectives give rise to possible trajectories created by high velocity impacts. Without taking time to check for potential unforeseen's, problems remain behind following crime scene cleanup.

Homicides I've cleaned usually resulted from criminal intent. A crime scene cleanup training page follows some intentional homicides and crime scene cleanups. Rarely were these accidental. Every now and then an accidental homicide comes to my way.

The last accidental homicide, they are all shootings, occurred in 2008, in northern California. Two young men were celebrating the 21st birthday of the older of the two. By the end of the party the youngest of the two, an 18 year-old, lost a large piece of his head from an "accidental" gunshot to the head. During their party the two shared cigarettes, 2 magnums of wine, a Remington 44 magnum handgun, and stupidity.

Both participants knew each other as best friends, having grown up together in the same apartment complex. Both were seated in an apartment living room adjoining a kitchen, and within a few feet of the apartment's one door. The victim sat with his back to the apartment's living room wall, a few feet from a picture window on his left. The door to his right, and the shooter a few feet from his face set the scene for homicide. Allegedly they were "only looking at the gun" when it "went off." The deceased never gave the gun a second glance. (See my comments below on combat deaths and friendly fire.)

Figuring out what went where as the crime scene exploded with bio-debris took a few moments. This job's primary debris trajectory resolved itself within 2 feet. It remained fairly localized as a result. Shotgun blasts under the chin from the center of a bedroom contaminate entire vaulted ceilings, walls, and the floor. I call these "360 top-to-bottom." There's only one way to view such a shotgun wound. That's a 360 degree perspective. Anything less does not constitute crime scene cleanup.

The birthday gun's damage spread covered less than 45 degrees my tests showed. I tested for more. It wasn't there. I would have a short day.

As an accidental homicide, this shooting probably went down quickly as a plea for an involuntary manslaughter charge without hard time (12 months county time, 3 off for good behavior). For my money I'd say the gun and alcohol combination brought this murder into the malice aforethought judicial ring. Nobody but a fool and an idiot touches a gun while drinking or after drinking alcohol.

As it turned out the local police cleaned a good piece of the crime scene in their forensics work. As small departments go, these cops had it together. They took about a quarter of the carpet and carpet padding and cut about a 3X3 piece of drywall as evidence. The coroner's technicians were super too. A little hair and some frags in the wall near the door remained from the anatomical side of it all. Maybe small town people just do good work.

The apartment's operations' manager came in as I worked. His job included moving out those who could no longer move out. As a kindly act I shared my mattress removal technique to help him out.

He told me the story. He said the shooter's father gave the gun to the shooter the night before the homicide as a birthday gift. It turns out the operations' manager had no love for guns and now the loss of these two young men convinced him not to love guns. "Do you have a gun," he asked.

"I hate the damn things."

I worked through the rest and gladly walked out into the winter air and down the stairs when done. "At least this one didn't have a ton of print dust to clean," I recall thinking to myself.

Cleaning this homicide left me unnerved. I kept thinking, "What a waste." I drove slowly through the snow-packed apartment parking lot. The rest of my day crept along with a dull feeling tugging away at my mind. I hated this feeling and knew I let this simple crime scene shake me. "It's as bad as cleaning after a 13 year-old's suicide," I realized.

It's been over a year now. Now that I'm thinking about this crime scene I wonder what became of the shooter and everyone in his social circle, his web-like network of young adult gun enthusiasts. Will the shooter return to the apartment complex or move to anonymity?

Motives for Murder

Both rational and irrational ideas lead to murder. If irrational, a motive must still be found if prosecutors hope to convict a murder suspect. Rage murders may have emotional elements similar to those in abusive behavior as well as suicide.

We list seven broad categories for murder motives.

  1. murder for gain
  2. murder for revenge
  3. murder for elimination
  4. murder for jealousy
  5. murder for conviction
  6. murder for the lust of killing
  7. murder from bigotry

1. Murder for gain may include criminal enterprise murder. These include kidnapping, insurance benefit scams, Mafia operations, gains, goods, and favors in general. These murders often include handguns and the victims receive multiple wounds, which should interest the crime scene cleanup technician.

The FBI gives us the following to help understand a criminal enterprise.

"The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, or Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1961(4), defines an enterprise as "any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, or Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1961(4), defines an enterprise as "any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity."

As we read above, an enterprise includes many organized activities that fall within the FBI's criminal enterprise definition. Include murder in these criminal enterprises and the murder becomes a federal matter.

Latinos and Murder

We often hear stereotypes about "Mexicans" and murder. We surely must think that Mexican gangs constitute criminal enterprises in the context of gang murders. It's not hard to fall into this stereotyping trap when reading newspapers and following the commercial news.

Compare El Paso, Texas and Miami, Florida and a clear fact appears. Miami, Florida rivals the highest murder rates across the United States numerous crime scene cleanup companies do business in the area. Of course, there's a high number of elderly contributing to unattended death decompositions in Miami, too. Their numbers account for much of the crime scene cleanup word from unattended death with decomposition.

Nevertheless, for our purposes, El Paso, Texas has one of the lowest murder rates for all ethnic groups. With the growing drug war El Paso's Mexican population falls victim to an increasing number of drug related homicides, but still remains below Miami's Cuban Latino population.

With a raging drug war within a mile of its border on the other side of the Rio Grand, we might expect even more murders in El Paso. These murders belong to an economic gain type murder, not revenge as we might find in Los Angeles' gangs. None of these geographical areas have high income residents in great numbes. The crime scene cleanup technician cannot expect to establish a business simply because homicides occur; discretionary income or insurance money are the keys to crime scene cleanup business setups.

2. Murder for revenge takes the form of a gang's retaliation against rival gangs. In Los Angeles many gangs take part in murder for the sake of protecting an imagined gang territory. A gang transgressing against another's turf may suffer a deadly attack. In return the attacked gang counter attacks in a deadly manner. This for of gang warfare would seem to benefit crime scene cleanup companies. I suspect that the Los Angeles Coroner's Department has the same or similar crony problems as Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Although gangs exist over generations protecting their territory, their honor, and so forth, none seem to mind that their territory consists of rental property owned by absentee landlords. If this seems to place the gang murders in an irrational category, it does, but in terms of irrational murder, I mean something a bit different.

3. Murder for elimination includes assassination potential unfriendly witnesses and business partners, for example. This form of a rational motive for murder involves contract killing. Occasionally we hear of children murdering their parents to speed up their inheritance.

4. Murder for jealousy occurs often enough that sensationalist tabloids make a fortune from celebrity murders.

5. Murder from conviction includes religious right wing killers of abortion doctors. The Sibanese Liberation Army killed for conviction in the 1970s. President Kenney died at the hands of an ideologically generated assassin.

6. Murder for the lust of killing includes sociopathic gang members for certain, but it also includes loners intent on an adrenalin rush from murder. The simple act of killing somehow gives these killers libido energy displaying itself trough knifing and strangling victims. The close-up contact appears to satiate the killer's lust for murder, at least momentarily.

7. Murder from bigotry includes racism, homophobia, and religious ideology. Although not a professional killing, these murders do include crime scene cleanup issues. Baseball bats seem to be a weapon of choice among bigoted teenage killers. At times arson killings committed against churches leave little for the crime scene cleanup company to concern itself.

Friendly Fire:

Friendly fire is a form of manslaughter, homicide. It does not qualify as murder.

To get a grasp of what happens in friendly fire accidents, one must understand the utter confusion and deafening noise experienced by today's combat soldiers. Not counting those killed by aircraft or artillery (a terribly high number for certain), friendly fire among infantry soldiers kills many soldiers.

Automatic weapons do not forgive the anxious and terror stricken soldier wielding an automatic burst before finding his target. Soldiers run into and across comrades' line-of-fire inadvertently. Hand grenades bounce off trees, vehicles, and walls and find the wrong victims.

Accidental discharges from foot soldiers' weapons occur frequently. It may be hard for civilians to picture the environments in which foot soldiers carry their heavy, deadly equipment. At times environments covered by eight foot elephant grass in Asia brings moving soldiers to a crawl. Weapons once placed on "full-auto" remain so when threats no longer exist. Pushing through elephant grass with a weapon on full-auto eventually leads to an accidental weapon discharge.

In Afghanistan's tribal warfare in boulder covered mountains pockmarked by caves, soldiers encounter steep climbs. The incidence of accidental weapon's discharge increases with the number of soldiers climbing, their duress, and their exhaustion.

Officers enforce fictional stories to hide friendly fire deaths. Army officers must keep their records spotless if they expect to move up the chain of command. A private accidentally shot in the back and killed by a communication's sergeant while on patrol "died in combat," KIA.

For every one hundred soldiers killed by enemy fire, the number killed by friendly fire is a large percentage of KIA's. Ask an honest foot soldier and you'll find a similar opinion.

These are the sort of facts presidents need to consider before pressing the make-it-happen homicide button. (return)

Oakland Tribune Contra Costa Times (California)

By Harry Harris and Sean Maher
Oakland Tribune

CHP officer ossibly hit by friendly fire.

"OAKLAND, Calif. -- A California Highway Patrol officer shot Wednesday by an armed robber who was later killed by police may have been wounded by a fellow CHP officer, authorities said."