Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Just seems like it would be easier to... well, maybe not.

The new semester in graduate school has started, and I've started with it, if a little late. I'm taking a class on Advanced Criminal Theory (yawn), and a class on Crime Scene Reconstruction.

The professor who teaches the latter is the same prof who taught my blood spatter course a year ago, and is a professional expert reconstructionist. As this course actually touches on my field of work, it's more interesting.

We discussed in class a case study that involved an undergrad college student reportedly found by his roommates dead in his room, with an N frame stainless revolver (I later found from other pics that it was a 629) next to him and a contact wound that went through his head. On the floor under his supine legs was an open pistol case containing a trigger lock, 5 loose cartridges, and a new box of ammunition missing six. The loose cartridges and the single fired case in the otherwise unloaded revolver were of the same brand and type as those remaining in the box of ammo. Witnesses stated that the deceased always kept the revolver loaded.

The professor waited for a reaction, and when he got none, he said, "Maybe I'm making assumptions here, and some of y'all don't know how a revolver works. Uh, Matt, why don't you explain for the class briefly how a revolver works, and why the picture here is significant?"

Quick: In front of a class of mostly strangers, give the briefest, most concise, yet accurate and understandable description of a revolver, and how it works.

I quickly tried to so, and then explained that traditionally, full-sized revolvers like the N frame in the picture held 6 cartridges (with some notable exceptions), so the facts indicated that the decedent had unloaded the five loose rounds from the revolver before shooting himself, which was unusual behavior for someone who planned to kill himself.*

During the whole time that I stammered through my ad lib description of how a revolver functioned, I was thinking how much easier it would be if I just used the M37 in my pocket as an instructional aide. (Note: If mine were as pretty as Tam's nickeled one, I don't think I could've resisted.)

_ _ _ _ _
*The authorities investigating the case ruled that it was suicide. My professor's hypothesis-- and I agree with him-- is that the decedent had played Russian Roulette... and lost. The difference is seemingly minor, but it's important.

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At Tuesday, January 22, 2008 10:28:00 PM, Blogger William the Coroner said...

I rule all Russian Roulettes as suicides. If you put a gun to your head and pull the trigger, that's a deliberate, self-destructive act, even though there's only (HA!) a 1 in 6 chance of a discharge.

At Wednesday, January 23, 2008 1:28:00 AM, Blogger JPG said...

I wouldn't argue the point without a lot more information, including, probably, interviews with some individuals acqulainted with the deceased. However, I don't think the removal of five rounds from the revolver is conclusive evidence of Russian Roulette.

Several years ago, I read of a suicide wherein the individual used an auto pistol which had been fully loaded. Fortunately, the scene was discovered by a responsible adult who secured the area and called police. At trhe time, I had thought how inconsiderate of the suicide, leaving a loaded firearm where it might be found by a child.

Then, a short time later, I read a fictional account of a disgraced and depressed person who carefully removed all the ammunition from a .45 and replaced the empty magazine before head shooting himself while seated in his car. The other seven rounds were found in the dead man's pocket. Investigating officer theorized that the deceased was at least considerate enough the NOT leave a loaded gn behind, and also to leave the slide locked open to indicate the pistol was now safe.

I realize that a fictional story doesn't mean that this sort of thing has really happened. It does show that at least the author had given the matter some thought.


At Wednesday, January 23, 2008 2:12:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

With regard to "The Rest Of The Story":

He had a BAC of .17
He had a level of dextromophine that indicated possible abuse.
Beers were missing from scene.
Questionable timeline from two apartment roommates.
I'm half of a mind to agree with Wm. The C., myself, but there is a subtle difference. For example, we don't rule it a suicide if a drunk drives too fast without a seatbelt, loses control on a curve, and rolls his vehicle. Sure, it's stupid. Sure, he put his own life (and others') in jeopardy. But it's still not intentionally taking his life. Makes a difference to the parents, and can make a difference to an insurance company.

At Wednesday, January 23, 2008 8:19:00 AM, Blogger William the Coroner said...


I see your point. It DOES make a difference to parents and insurance company payouts, and whatnot.

The convention amongst most coroners/me's though, takes into account the "Don't point the muzzle at anything you don't intend to destroy" rule and the purpose of projectile weapons. The only purpose of which is to propel a missile at the target.

In re driving drunk--I'm sure we miss some suicides, particularly single car/no seatbelt/into the bridge variety.

Matt is right, you have to look at intent. AND the assumption of risk. A 1 in 6 chance of getting shot is a lot higher than the risks of driving drunk, and really, getting shot if playing Russian Roulette isn't really a surprise. I can see not expecting to crash a car, even driving when stupid.

If you argued, and if there were witness statements, I might call it Undetermined. But that'd be pushing it. Coroners argue about things like this a lot at conferences. There's a series of cases in the orange journal written by Greg Davis of Kentucky, Mind your Manners you might find it interesting.

At Wednesday, January 23, 2008 8:41:00 AM, Blogger Barbara said...

First of all...Russian Roulette was my guess before I got to the end *smile*

I'm more intrigued with the "Advanced Criminal Theory" though. Ever since the years I spent surrounded by nasty felons and some higher-profile sociopaths, I've been fascinated by what makes them tick, how they got that way, what -if anything- can be done about it. In another life I'd have studied criminology, in another life I'd have been a prosecutor.

At Wednesday, January 23, 2008 9:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that I thought the same thing as soon as I read that there were five loose rounds, and he "always kept it loaded."

Add in the "rest of the story" about the alcohol, and it's practically a slam dunk that he got drunk, got stupid and played Russian Roulette.

I think you nailed the subtle difference between a full-on suicide and RR--intention.

People do stupid or unwise things all the time, but they don't intend to die from it. People who are committing suicide usually intend to die.

At Wednesday, January 23, 2008 12:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heh. I have a multimedia professor who likes to put me on the spot like that. I've gotten pretty good with either coming up with an accurate answer quick, or if I have no idea what the hell he's talking about I can BS him enough to throw him off my trail.

At Wednesday, January 23, 2008 2:38:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Oh, one more aspect to "the rest of the story": this case was in Utah, and he was a Morman.

This would possibly explain why there was almost no beer and only three beer cans found on the scene (not nearly enough to get him to that BAC).

Shrimp, there're a lot of gray areas, even to those who "want to commit suicide." Statistically men are more successful than women at suicide, because we're more likely to use a firearm. Woman, on the other hand, often take a big handfull of pills... and then are found or call someone. Fatal activity, yes, but calculated to provide an out for them. I worked an attempted suicide once, where the guy sent messages on Yahoo chat to all his friends and family saying he was going to kill himself (his girlfriend had up and gone lesbo), and he drove his car into a bridge abutment at 100 mph with his seatbelt off. Thing was, at the last second, upon arriving at the abutment off the road, he saw that he was driving into a steep ditch, and swerved. He rolled his car about 3 times, missing abutment and ditch, and went to the hospital for minor cuts and bruises. I tagged it as "attempted suicide," because he admitted to me that's what it was, but we both knew he chickened out at the last second. As he was only about 20, I was pretty glad for that.

At Wednesday, January 23, 2008 4:20:00 PM, Blogger Not Afraid to Use It said...

I would have paid money to have been sitting in that class and have had you said, "Here let me show you" (insert sound effect for whipping out a gun). LOL The eye-popping and sudden straightening of backs would have been priceless.

At Wednesday, January 23, 2008 4:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the fact that he "always kept it loaded" and had removed 5 of the bullets, Russian Roulette was my guess, but I HIGHLY doubt that he was "playing" it alone. I'd pretty much want to bet that those roommates who provided the sketchy timeines were "playing" along with him, but either a.) got really lucky, or b.) decided to call it quits after their buddy ended up blowing his brains out. So sad...these kids think that they're indestructable, but end up finding out the hard way that it just ain't so.


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