I worked my first homicide case today, that is, as a crime reporter.
After retiring from the Police Service after a twenty-six (26) year career, eight (8) years of which were dedicated to working homicide cases, I was about find out what it was like working a case from the other side of the badge.
It all started at 11:00 am this morning when I attended a news conference at the Public Safety Building.
PIO Constable Eric Hofley broke the news, a previously reported shots fired call in the 500 block of Langside has morphed into Winnipeg Murder #4 for 2013.
The incident occurred on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 shortly after 4:00 pm. Upon arrival to the scene, Police located a male and a female who were both apparent victims of gun shot wounds. Despite life saving efforts the male victim succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased.
The female victim remains in hospital in stable condition.
The male victim was identified as twenty (20) year old Winnipeg resident Nigel Dixon.
Hofley indicated that Dixon and the female victim are not “known” to the Police. This is Police vernacular for “they didn’t have criminal records,” factors that tend to elevate their “victim status” and the public’s “care factor.”
Hence the concern expressed by the assortment of journalists covering the story. “Is this a random killing?” “Should members of the public be concerned?”
As a member of the public, I have serious concerns.
Concerns that a brazen killer is on the loose who apparently has no issue gunning down two seemingly innocent victims in broad daylight. According to Hofley, the Police have no information to indicate the killing was gang related. While that may be so, a quick trip to the crime scene would show evidence of a challenged neighbourhood with significant gang influence and tension. As a previous supervisor in the Organized Crime Unit, street gang investigation and gang suppression became one of my primary concerns. As I surveyed the area it was apparent significant street gang tensions exist in and around the crime scene.
Gang tags can be an important indicator of what’s happening in a neighbourhood. In this case, several examples of street gang tension can be observed.
(Gang Tags that are crossed out or over written are signs of rival gangs showing disrespect. Six (6) different street gang tags were found in the immediate area of the Homicide.)
While it may be too early in the investigation to determine whether street gang elements had involvement in this case, Homicide Investigators are undoubtedly alert to that possibility.
Although every murder case is solvable, murder cases involving firearms with outdoor crime scenes often prove to be the most difficult to resolve.
Forensic evidence in these types of cases can be scant. Outdoor scenes translate to minute possibilities regarding the potential to collect fingerprint evidence, hair and fibre or DNA. Firearms are impersonal objects that can be used from a significant distance thereby limiting the potential for any type of transfer of forensic evidence between a killer and a victim.
In Winnipeg, these types of cases are often solved only because of the dogged determination of the members of the WPS Homicide Unit, a group of highly motivated individuals known for their drive and determination to resolve murder cases.
Over the next 24 – 48 hours, these investigators will be knocking on doors, interviewing potential witnesses, answering phones, working informants, reviewing crime scene evidence and participating in intense brain storming sessions. They’ll also be losing sleep, missing family and eating take out food.
Homicide Investigation is a high stakes, stressful and difficult work, it also happens to be the most rewarding work a Police Officer can do.
As for the potential for solvency, it’s going to be a tough case to crack but I wouldn’t bet against a team who have recorded a respectable ten (10) year solvency rate average of around 90%.
As for the view from the other side of the badge, it wasn’t so bad.
HISTORICAL DATES IN WINNIPEG WHEN HOMICIDE #4 WAS RECORDED:
- 2012 – Feb 12
- 2011 – Feb 5
- 2010 – Mar 24
- 2009 – Jan 30