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Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Jessica Hernandez Case: Police Kill 17-Year-Old Girl in Stolen Car

     In Denver, Colorado at six-thirty in the morning of Monday January 26, 2015, two police officers responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle. The officers knew that the parked car, occupied by five people, had been reported stolen. According to the police version of the story, as the officers approached the vehicle, it lurched toward them. Both officers opened fire, hitting and killing the driver who turned out to be 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez. The car struck one of the officers in the leg.

     Bobbie Diaz, the mother of a 16-year-old girl who was in the stolen car at the time of the shooting was in bed when she heard four gunshots followed by a man yelling, "Freeze! Get out of the car! Get down!"

     When Diaz went outside to investigate, she saw police officers pulling young people from the car. They yanked Jessica Hernandez out from behind the steering wheel and handcuffed the unresponsive girl. One of the teens in the group screamed, "She's dead! She's dead!"

     Another witness to the police shooting, neighborhood resident Arellia Hammock, told a reporter she heard three gunshots that morning. In referring to the teenagers involved, she said, "They shouldn't have stolen a car. But the cops are too fast on the gun. You've got stun guns. You've got rubber bullets. Why do they have to shoot all the time?"

     One of the occupants of the stolen car offered a version of the incident different in a very important way from the official police account. According to this witness, the vehicle didn't move toward the officers until after they killed the driver.

     The Denver chief of police, pursuant to departmental policy in such matters, placed both officers on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into Hernandez's death. The inquiry would be conducted by three separate agencies: the Denver Police Department, the district attorney's office, and a civilian oversight organization called the Office of Independent Monitor.

     At a vigil held that night for Jessica Hernandez, residents of the neighborhood critical of the police  held signs protesting the shooting. One of the signs read: "Your Badge Is Not a License to Kill."

     Two days after the fatal shooting, 200 angry protestors gathered outside Denver's District 2 police station. An official with the independent civilian oversight organization reported to the media that in the past seven months Denver police officers had fired four times at vehicles they perceived as threats.

     According to the Denver Police Department's use of deadly force guidelines, officers in cases like this are urged to step out of the way of approaching vehicles rather than to open fire. Moreover, if the driver of the vehicle is hit, the car or truck could become an unguided missile.

     Because Denver police cars are not equipped with dashboard cameras, investigators of the shooting will have to rely on witness accounts of the incident. It would be helpful to detectives if the incident had been caught on a neighborhood surveillance camera.

     Even if the facts of this shooting turn out in a light most favorable to the police, the killing of a teenage girl will leave a bad taste in this community. In all probability it will also lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Drunk Man Urinates On Waitress

     Even in the freewheeling nightspots of Key West, Florida, a patron is not allowed to urinate onto a waitress…According to police, that is what Orion Jones, 20, did early Saturday morning January 24, 2015 at Ricks Bar. A bar employee flagged down a Key West police officer and told him that a man had urinated on a female member of the staff…

     When officers confronted Jones, he was fighting with club security. They had chased him through the bar and had him pinned down. To subdue him, the officers had to use a Taser on him twice…

     Waitress Tia Cruz, 26, told officers that she was talking with a customer when she felt something wet hitting her body. She initially thought it was rain until a fellow employee pointed out Jones who was urinating on her from a balcony above...

     Jones was charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest. His criminal record included two marijuana possession convictions as well as arrests for burglary and trespassing…

     Jones told the authorities that he needed help with his alcohol problem. [If he can't drink without peeing on people, he has a bigger problem than just alcohol.]

"Patron Relieved Himself Onto Waitress," thesmokinggun.com, January 27, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Drunk, Wrong-Way Driver Kills Woman in Phoenix

     The Phoenix, Arizona man arrested in the wrong-way freeway accident in which a fire department dispatcher was fatally injured had a blood-alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit…Stephen B. Martin, 39, after the January 27, 2015 accident, told officers that he knew he was drunk and shouldn't have been driving…

     Martin told police and hospital personnel that he was on the road because he had to rescue his girlfriend from being sexually assaulted…

     Megan Lange, a 26-year-old married mother of two who'd recently returned to work after coming off maternity leave, was killed when her small SUV collided head-on with Martin's larger vehicle. Lange was driving home after finishing her shift when the accident occurred at one in the morning on Interstate 17. Another motorist whose vehicle was sideswiped by Martin's SUV suffered minor injuries…

     A woman who was a passenger in Martin's SUV said she told Martin they were going the wrong way on the interstate but they couldn't find a place to turn around. Martin had a blood-alcohol level of .313. The legal limit for driving in Arizona is .08…Martin was jailed on the charge of second-degree murder in lieu of $700,000 bond.

"Man Arrested in Fatal Wrong-Way Accident," chron.com, January 28, 2015  

Criminal Justice Quote: Vague Mug Shot Identifications

When you have crime victims look through a computerized mug book of suspects, it's rare that someone makes an identification. You need a "That's-the-guy" moment from the victim to move forward on the case, but what you often get instead are the victims squinting at the screen and saying, of multiple photos, "I dunno. That kinda looks like him."

Adam Plantinga, 400 Things Cops Know, 2014


Writing Quote: What Can You Tell About a Writer From His First Novel?

     First novels are unpredictable. For one author it's the best thing he will do in his career, something into which he empties so much of his heart and talent and experience that he's left with too little fuel to light much of a fire under future work.

     For another the first novel sets the course for an entire career: He's found the key in which his voice is most comfortable and he sticks to it.

     For some writers that first novel gives no hint as to what is to come. Every new work is a departure from the last.

F. Paul Wilson in How I Got Published, edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsay, 2007 

Writing Quote: Dealing With a Bad Review

My favorite Kirkus review labeled my writing as "awkward and repetitious." I framed that one.

Charles Knief, mysterylinkonline.com, August 29, 2001 

Writing Quote: Story-Driven Nonfiction

Story-driven nonfiction is extraordinarily successful, and there's a huge market for it. I think it's partly because when you publish a nonfiction book, especially one that's story driven as opposed to didactic or scholarly, you can target the market in a easier way.

Charlie Conrad, Poets and Writers, May/June 2004 

Writing Quote: Eccentric Characters in a Novel are More Memorable

If you were to examine the surviving novels of this century, you would find that a majority of the most memorable characters in fiction are to some degree eccentric. Eccentricity has frequently been at the heart of strong characterization for good reason. Ordinariness is what readers have enough of in real life.

Sol Stein, Stein on Writing, 1995 

Writing Quote: The Romantic Plot in Women's Memoirs

All of us live with a life history in our mind, and very few of us subject it to critical analysis. But we are storytelling creatures. So it's very important to examine your own story and make sure that the plot is one you really want. When I give talks as a historian about the dominance of the romantic plot in women's telling of their life histories, I'm amused to see women investment bankers and corporate lawyers giving a wry smile, as if to say, "It's true--that's how I do see my life." As a young person it's important to scrutinize the plot you've internalized and find out whether it accurately represents what you want to be, because we tend to act out those life plots unless we think about them. I'm impatient with the postmodern effort to obfuscate the validity of narrative. We are time-bound creatures. We experience life along a time continuum; things happen sequentially in our lives, and we need to understand the causation. But we never really do understand it until we sit down and try to tell the story.

Jill Ker Conway in Inventing the Truth, edited by William Zinsser, 1998 

Writing Quote: Young Writers Don't Write Biographies

Aspiring writers find biography a less attractive form of creative nonfiction because they like to write about themselves, and unlike memoir, poetry, fiction, and drama, biography offers little chance for self-expression.

Philip Furia in Writing Creative Nonfiction, edited by Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard, 2001