How does a retiring NYPD veteran, bad DNA, a Glock 9 mil and a hockey stick all combine to result in the senseless killing of three (3) innocent people on the mean streets of Winnipeg?
Crime reporter Mike McIntyre put a few pieces of the puzzle together this weekend in his story documenting the movements of a Glock 9 millimetre pistol that was once owned by a veteran NYPD Officer who retired in 2008. McIntyre’s report shed light on a little known policy in the United States that gives retiring Police Officers the option of keeping their service weapon upon their retirement.
There are no limitations or restrictions on what the Officers can do with the firearms once they turn in their badges.
In this case, the Officer is believed to have moved to Florida and legitimately sold the firearm. At some point, the weapon fell into the hands of the criminal element and made its way across the border.
On February 5, 2011 at 2:40 am, the firearm was used in a senseless killing that claimed the lives of two (2) innocent men.
I received the call at 3:41 am that morning from WPS Duty Inspector Kelly Dennison who asked me to head in to the Public Safety Building to assist with the investigation.
At 4:25 am, I arrived at the Homicide Office and met with my partner in crime, Sergeant Ken Shipley, a wily Police veteran with over thirty (30) years experience in Law Enforcement. Shipley had been tasked to run the investigation and I was assigned to assist him in a back up role.
Early information indicated the murders were connected to a house party where conflict between the suspect and another party goer may have occurred. It was believed the suspect was ejected from the party and decided to seek revenge. After leaving the party he obtained a firearm, confronted several people on the street and started shooting.
Darren Joey Swampy (19) was shot once in the chest and ran a short distance away before he collapsed and succumbed to his injury.
Lee Brady Spence (22) was shot a total of seven (7) times in an execution style killing.
As Detectives worked the case details regarding a suspect named, “Randy,” started to emerge.
With the clock ticking on the First 48, the identification and apprehension of the suspect became the primary focus of the investigation. Police simply can’t afford to have armed and dangerous killers running loose on the streets.
Detectives working the case were able to learn the name of an individual believed to be related to the suspect.
It was time to sit down at a computer, do some homework and connect the dots.
While conducting research into the person in question, I was able to connect him to a “known” female who lived near the shooting. As my research shifted focus to the “known” female I found an interesting connection to a murder case I worked on as a rookie Detective in the year 2000.
The “known” female had a brother identified as Ronald Lee Williams.
On February 18, 2000, Ronald Lee Williams (18), a known gang member, beat and killed an innocent Winnipeg teen with a hockey stick. He was eventually convicted of Manslaughter and received a sentence of two years less a day.
Police record searches on Williams did not advance the investigation but a quick perusal of my investigative notebook did. There it was, an obscure entry recorded during the routine process of obtaining a murder suspects background information and particulars.
Ronald Lee Williams had a younger brother named “Randy” Murray Williams.
The entry struck me like a bolt of lightning.
Could Ronald Lee William’s brother, “Randy,” be our killer?
It was all adding up, Randy Williams lived in the same neighbourhood where the murders took place and he clearly had the type of DNA that might predispose him to commit an over the top senseless violent act.
Within hours of putting the pieces of the puzzle together Uniform Patrol Officers put handcuffs on Randy Murray Williams.
In fact, I monitored the video equipment used to record the arrest process and interrogation.
It was shortly after Williams was lodged in the holding cell that he removed little doubt regarding his guilt or innocence. Immediately after the Patrol Officers left the room Williams started frantically spitting on his hands and rubbing them together. Only someone who recently shot a firearm and was concerned with gun shot residue (GSR) would behave in such an outlandish way.
It was clear, we had our man.
Randy Murray Williams subsequently plead guilty to two (2) counts of second degree murder and was sentenced to life with no possibility of parole for twelve (12) years.
Police Detectives, being the black and white creatures they are, concluded the primary cause of these killings could be traced to one common denominator….bad DNA.
(In the absence of any common sense, rational or sociological conclusion, Police Officers often rely on bad DNA as a simple explanation for tragic events that occur in the dark side of humanity.)
Whatever the cause, the William’s brothers have been proven to be responsible for the deaths of three (3) innocent Winnipeg residents.
Unfortunately, the punishment they received certainly didn’t seem to fit the crime.
The techniques used by Homicide Detectives to solve murder cases are almost limitless.
After observing Homicide Unit Supervisor Sergeant Tom (Tommy) Anderson (retired) for several years I learned that one of greatest assets possessed by a Homicide Detective is institutional knowledge. Anderson often mesmerized me with his ability to connect ongoing investigations to historical cases. The lessons I learned from him were invaluable and paid great dividends when I found myself sitting in his chair in the Homicide Unit.
Institutional knowledge, computer savvy and investigative effort aside, successful Homicide Investigation always comes down to one simple concept….team work.
No murder case was ever solved without it.
Gunshot residue (GSR) is deposited on the hands and clothing of someone who discharges a firearm. It is composed of burnt and unburnt particles from the primer, propellant and fragments from the bullet, cartridge case and the firearm.
A positive test result for GSR can provide circumstantial evidence that could be damning for a criminal defendant.