Saturday morning (February 25), I had a meeting so I didn’t get to “Shooting Solutions, Part 1,” presented by Sharon Plotkin, until it was more than halfway over; nevertheless, I still picked up some interesting information to add to my mysteries. For one thing, Sharon said, “Use gloves to pick up a gun at a crime scene, not a pencil,” as they show on TV.
Besides drawing diagrams of the crime scene, take a picture of the gun, showing where it was in relationship to other items at the crime scene (body, etc.).
Sharon stressed that a crime scene investigator will have her hair up, wear gloves, booties, and, if necessary, personal protection wear. Besides being protection, it keeps the investigator from contaminating the evidence. She said she usually has at least three latex gloves with her: touch one item and remove that glove, touch the next item with a clean glove. (No transfer of evidence.)
They use the ammunition that comes with the firearm to test it. Humidity can be a factor in how it shoots, along with the age of the ammo. (The ammo may change as it becomes older.)
Nowadays they use cardboard boxes with plastic windows in them to transport the gun. They’ll use a flex-cuff attached to the top strap of a revolver or through the slide and ejection port of a semi-automatic to assure the weapon is safe to transport. A luggage tag is attached to the flex-cuff with the necessary information to identify the crime, the gun’s location, etc.
If possible, the ammunition is not removed from the weapon, but if there are additional magazines or boxes of ammo, they are placed in different pill boxes. Each spent casing gets its own pill box.
Back in the lab, they’ll swab the cartridge under the base head to look for DNA, and will run the gun through NCIC (National Crime Information Center) to see if it’s stolen. Guns travel with shooters and can often connect crimes committed in different cities/states.
With a revolver, they’re careful not to disturb the cylinder and will make a drawing to show from which chamber the bullet came. With an automatic, the magazine is sent, not individual bullets.
When the revolver is unloaded, they test for clockwise or counter-clockwise rotation of the cylinder.
They do not test for GPR (gun powder residue) on scene. That is done in the ME’s office. The ME looks for stippling (tattooing) on the clothing and flesh. The stippling pattern gives a clue as to distance between shooter and victim. However, they need the gun to determine the distance (different guns/different stippling patterns). Also, wind can affect the pattern.
If it’s a contact shot, there will be no pattern. (The gun powder residue is inside the wound.) The closer the shooter is, the closer the pattern. The more spread out the pattern, the greater the distance between the shooter and the victim.
There is blowback when a weapon is fired and this leaves GPR on the shooter’s hands. GPR can also be found on anyone standing nearby. Tape is used to pick up GPR from skin and clothing. GPR evidence doesn’t necessarily prove a person shot a weapon or was near a shooting since people who work around metals may test positive for GPR. Also, Sharon said they will test for GPR even though it may have been washed off.
I wasn’t able to attend Part 2 of “Shooting Solutions” since I was on the “The “Gritty Cozy’: the evolution of a subgenre or just plain hogwash?” panel with Diane A S Stuckart and John Keyse-Walker (moderated by Cheryl Hollon) at the same time.
Basically, on that panel, we tried to define what a “cozy” is and then explain why certain books we’ve written either fit (Diane’s were closest to the definition) or didn’t fit. We didn’t really feel publishers were pushing changes in the “cozy” genre, and we didn’t set out to write cozies. We viewed our books as mysteries. I’m not sure we cleared anything up. (If anyone reading this blog attended that session, let me know what you thought.)
After our panel, Diane, John, Cheryl, and I signed books outside the Murder on the Beach bookstore set up at Sleuthfest…and then we went to lunch with David Baldacci. (I’ll write about him next week.)