*This is an excerpt from my book Street Cop. It is full of true stories from my law enforcement career!
My First Homicide
Every officer remembers their first Homicide investigation. Mine started with a call to a home in the predominantly African-America section of the little town of Buford. The call came out as an Assault. The dispatcher merely told me that one brother had assaulted another. She also told me that there were no back up units available. It was almost 11:00 at night and I had just started my shift when the 911 call came in to the police department.
When I pulled up to the house, I noticed several people milling about in the front yard. I asked them what happened. One of men said, “He’s in the house and he needs an ambulance. Freddie’s hurt bad.”
I asked who hurt him and was told, “His brother, George, did it, but he done left.” I went into the house and found about twenty people standing around, all of them looking very concerned. Someone pointed to the couch. I saw a male who turned out to be Freddie lying on the couch. A young woman named Mary was cradling his head in her lap. She was holding a rag to the side of Freddie’s head.
I thought, Freddie must have gotten beat up pretty good. When I looked closer, however, I realized that this was much more serious. This was not just the case of two brothers fighting. When I looked at Freddie’s face, I saw that it was covered with blood. He was bleeding from the right ear and his right eye was bulging unnaturally out of its socket. Mary pulled the rag back so I could see the wound to the side of Freddie’s head. There was a long, deep wound running from just behind his right eye to above his right ear. The gash was about five inches long and deep.
I asked Mary if she knew what had happened. She told me that she was the cousin of the two men and lived one street over. Mary then said, “George hit Freddie in the head with an axe while he was sleeping.”
An axe? I wondered. I thought people only got hit with axes in movies. Wow!
At this point, the paramedics arrived. They took one look at the severity of the wound and quickly loaded Freddie into the ambulance for transport to the hospital. He was still alive but I was doubtful that he would be for long. I notified my supervisor, Sergeant Larry, of the severity of the incident. Detectives and the CSI Unit were also requested.
Freddie and George were both in their forties but still lived with their parents. Their father, Johnny, told me that the two brothers had been arguing earlier in the evening. Both brothers had been drinking heavily. Freddie had pulled a .22 rifle on George and threatened to kill him with it. Johnny took George and they left the house so that both brothers could cool off. They were gone for over an hour and when they came home Freddie was sleeping, or passed out, on the couch.
Johnny had then gone into his room to go to bed and thought that George had done the same thing. A little while later, however, Johnny said that George came into his bedroom and said, “Daddy, you need to call the police to come get me, ‘cause I just killed Freddie.” George then left the house, got in his car, and drove away. When Johnny checked and found his other son with his head gashed open and unconscious on the couch, he called 911.
With all of the family members at the house, this was a very difficult crime scene to control. Normally, we would just order everyone out and lock it down until CSI had processed it. There were two problems with that here. First of all, it was January so it was cold outside. The second problem, though, was that the two brothers’ mother, Johnny’s wife, was an invalid and was bedridden. She could not be moved and someone had to stay with her. I got rid of as many people as I could but there were still a number of people in the house.
I still had not seen the axe that had been used in the assault. I mentioned this to Mary. She said, “I know where the axe is.” Without another word, she stepped into a bedroom and came back out with a full size axe. It looked like the blade had been recently wiped off. Mary motioned to the room that she had just come out of and said, “That is George’s room. The axe was on the bed.”
Normally, the detectives would have secured a Search Warrant to go into George’s room to find the weapon. Mary, however, was not subject to the Search and Seizure Rules that police officers are. With all of the people milling about the house, it would have been very easy for that axe to “disappear.” With Mary’s help, I was able to secure it for the detectives. I took it outside and put it in the trunk of my police car for the time being.
While still waiting on the investigators to get there, another family member showed up at the house. She was Mary’s mother and the boys’ aunt and lived on the next street over. She said that George had just driven up to her house and had told her, “I killed Freddie and I know the police are going to be looking for me.” He then drove off. At this same time, several of the people in the front yard started yelling that George had just driven by.
Another officer, Officer Randy, one of my academy mates, had come to the scene to help me try and maintain some order. When it became obvious that George was still in the neighborhood, Randy started to go looking for him. As he was about to get into his police car, George came driving by again. Randy just motioned for him to pull over, which he did. He actually stopped in his own driveway. He was quickly taken into custody and secured in one of the police cars.
While we were arresting George, Randy and I both observed that he was very, very drunk. Randy went ahead and charged him with Driving Under the Influence and several other traffic charges. He registered .30 grams on the intoximeter. That is a staggering number. It is over three times the legal limit. Randy would transport George to police headquarters where the detectives could interview him. I would stay at the crime scene until CSI was finished processing it and the investigators who were on scene had finished interviewing witnesses.
On the way to the headquarters, George told Officer Randy, “Freddie was drunk and had been threatening me and Daddy with that gun. When he come at me with the gun, I hit him with the ax.” George was initially booked on Aggravated Battery, as well as the traffic charges.
Freddie managed to hold on to life for about three weeks before he died. George’s charges were then upgraded to Murder. When his case went to trial a few months later, his lawyer said that he was going to plead that he acted in self defense. All the evidence, however, indicated that Freddie was asleep on the couch when George hit him with the ax. In the end, just before the trial started, George pleaded guilty to Murder. He received a Life Sentence, which is a bit deceiving. George was eligible for Parole after seven years. In reality, he served less than ten years, and as far as I know is back home in Buford, minus his brother.
If you enjoyed this book excerpt and want to read more true police stories check out Street Cop!
David and Annie have been serving the Lord in the US, India, South America, and beyond since he retired from the police department. They are training leaders and helping plant churches. You can be a part of the their ministry. Just click here to get involved. Thanks so much!