Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mohammed Ali and Me

Back in 1979, when I was a young policeman, I was working uniformed patrol in Hollywood Division.  My partner and I were driving on Hollywood Blvd one evening on a Saturday night in the middle of summer.  It was still light out, and the sidewalks were crowded with the usual tourists and Gawkers that visit Hollywood.  We were stopped at a red light at Hollywood Blvd and McCadden Ave when I looked over at the group of pedestrians bunched up on the corner waiting for the light to change.  There was a crowd of about 10/15 people waiting there, and right in the middle of them, unaware to anyone in the crowd, was the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, Mohammed Ali, and his then wife Veronica Porsche.

I yelled to my partner, “Stop the car,” and bolted towards the crowd.  You can imagine the faces on the people there as they watched a police officer run straight at them.  I ran right up to the Champ, who had this startled look on his face, and said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!” He suddenly relaxed, let out a laugh, and replied, “Rumble young man, Rumble!”  The crowd finally realized who was standing in their midst, let out a great cheer, and began clapping.

The Champ couldn’t have been more gracious.  We chatted for a few minutes and then he signed my officer’s notebook.  You just never know who you’re going to meet on the streets of Hollywood.   

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Police Shootings Under the Microscope

Police shootings of suspects has received a lot of attention lately. There are the never ending cries for greater oversight, more scrutiny and stricter policies when it comes to use of force. Police critics want quicker reviews by prosecuting agencies and demand more criminal filings on officers involved in controversial shootings. The shootings themselves are investigated by the police agency itself, the district attorney’s and/or state prosecutors office and oftentimes by the FBI. Each second involved in the incident, from the moment the officer arrived at the scene till the last shot is fired, is minutely gone over.  Police officers feel under siege, and resent the fact that their job, career and freedom could hinge on the view of an appointee to a police board who has never spent a minute in a police car or has ever been confronted by a violent suspect.

I’d like to tell you about a personal experience I had years ago when I was a young police officer.  I was still on probation and working in a high crime area in Los Angeles.  It was late in the afternoon on a warm day when my partner and I received a radio call of a man with a rifle, shots fired. As we drove up and parked near the location, I saw it was a group of about six small bungalows in an inverted U.  The address of the call was one of the middle residences.  As we deployed towards the house, I took the shotgun with me.  If a situation involves a gun and an indication that shots have been fired, you want to be ready if things quickly escalate. 

As I walked towards the center bungalow, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement near the residence to my immediate left.  At the same time, the front screen door of the residence flew open and hit the front of the house.  As I turned towards the movement and the noise, I saw a person in the doorway holding what appeared to be a rifle, followed by an explosion like a gunshot.  As all this was going down, I was instinctively raising the shot gun to my shoulder to engage the shooter and started to pull the trigger.  As I sighted in on the target, I saw it was a seven year old child with a Daisy air rifle. I immediately let go of the trigger. 

To this day I can still remember how weak kneed I felt with the realization that I almost shot a child.  I didn’t have any time to think, it was over in a micro second. I was acting strictly on training and instinct.  It was only by the grace of God that a terrible tragedy was averted.  A dangerous situation, coupled with instinctual reactions is something to ponder the next time you hear about another controversial shooting.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Clinton E-Mails, Bryan Pagliano & Immunity

With the current 2016 election season heating up, there has been lengthy scrutiny by the media regarding presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails.  More specifically, the question of Confidential and Top Secret information being routed through her private server. The recent turn of events finds the media reporting that Bryan Pagliano, the individual who set up Mrs. Clinton’s private e-mail server, has been granted immunity by the Justice Department lawyers investigating this matter. The first thing to look at is whether the information has come from official sources or from ‘leaked’ sources.  If it’s from the latter, than you can’t tell whether it is true or not. 

What I do know from experience is that an individual and their attorney only approach law enforcement and prosecutors to discuss immunity for two reasons.  The first is that they feel they are or may be criminally exposed to prosecution.  The key words there are ‘criminally’ and ‘prosecution.’  The second is that they have information and/or evidence on other individuals involved, oftentimes at a higher paygrade than themselves, that they feel would enhance the investigation enough that the prosecutor would offer them some type of immunity in exchange for it. 

Whether this is true or not in this case, only time will tell.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Kennedy Assassination, Conspiracy Theories, and J.D. Tippit

As a former LAPD Homicide detective, I am always fascinated by the seeming public allure of conspiracy theories.  As a detective, you try to uncover the facts and find proof of who committed the crime.  The emphasis here is on the word 'proof.'  Whether it is through interviews, forensic evidence, witness identification etc., detectives are constantly trying to find who actually did the crime.  The beauty of conspiracy theory adherents is that they don't have to prove anything, just come up with multiple theories to discount whatever evidence or proof has been gathered.  I dare say that there are more conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination than probably any crime that was ever committed. 

In almost all of these theories, there is this malevolent unknown mastermind who brilliantly set up the most complex web of deception, including numerous small time bit players, that were not only able assassinate an American president, but then masterfully kill the person who the authorities blamed for the crime, Lee Harvey Oswald.  It's as if Professor Moriarity, Sherlock Holmes arch nemesis, pulled off the greatest crime of the century without anyone knowing of his existence.  

I find it amazing that with all the bit players and innumerable pieces of the puzzle that would have had to be in place to accomplish this, not one person has ever revealed him or herself to be part of the plot or shown any evidence to prove it.  Think of the notoriety, not to mention the financial reward that a person would have if they did this, yet no one has ever come forward.  Conspiracy theorists will usually be quick to mention that the key players were all eliminated.  They would want us to believe that the landscape is full of unsolved murders and mysterious disappearances that law enforcement agencies were not only unable to solve but in actuality were linked to this vast, complex conspiracy.  

I think in many cases the forgotten key to this assassination was the killing of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit. Immediately after the president was shot, it was believed that the assassin had fired the shots from the Texas Book Depository.  The rifle used to kill Kennedy was recovered from the 6th floor of the building.  A description of the suspect had been broadcast to police units throughout the vicinity.  Officer Tippit stopped a man fitting the assassin's description a few blocks from the residence that Lee Harvey Oswald had rented under an assumed name.  After the officer exited his vehicle and approached him, the suspect shot the officer a number of times and then fled the scene on foot.  Multiple independent witnesses later identified Oswald as the man who shot the officer and fled the scene.  Oswald was later apprehended in a movie theater not far from the Tippit shooting.  During the struggle to arrest him, Oswald attempted to fire a gun but it misfired.  After he was apprehended, it was discovered that Oswald worked in the Texas Book Depository. 

In closing, I think a lot of people who doubt Oswald killed Kennedy find it difficult that such a marginally small and troubled man, and not a vast, complex web of deceit could have so radically changed the course of American history in those few seconds in Dallas, Texas in 1963. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

John Nazarian's Thoughts on Handling Celebrity Clients

I first met John Nazarian years ago at a function for Private Investigators held at the LAPD Academy.  I was just starting out as a Private Investigator and John took me under his wing and taught me the business end of this field, and we have remained good friends ever since.  There is no better businessman in this line of work.  Additionally, He is an investigator that one underestimates at their own peril.  We worked a number of cases together and I have to say, I probably had more laughs working with John then anyone else.  John is larger than life, a key component for attracting and dealing with celebrity clients.  A lot of Private Investigators boast of being 'Investigator to the stars.'  Take it from me, the title is held by John Nazarian.  

Here's John's thoughts on the risk and rewards of celebrity clients:

My thoughts on modern day Private Investigators and the work we do is something of a modern day 'carpet bagger.' The number of 'famous' or 'characters' in the game are a handful and it is that handful that gets some pretty good work.  One area of focus for some is the 'celebrity' and why that is a focus I will never fully understand.  When the rich and miserable have a need it is similar to a baby in need of a diaper change. Loud wailing and when you make things a little better the noise settles down until the next 'dirty diaper.'  For the most part they are thankless and I am happy with that thought, my thanks is in the form of Benjamin Franklins and lots of them.  

I have always said that when the asses of the rich and famous are flaming they will pay whatever is asked of them, once that fire is out, be prepared for the 'boot,' aka Lawyer or Manager to kick you to the curb...... it is just what they do.... I am positive that they enjoy that part of the routine as they feel entitled after paying you! 

And when you are a 'star chaser' you have to also be careful to visit their world and then remember that your world is most likely a lot more fun to live and enjoy.  The smiles you receive are most likely by those who love and respect you...... something MOST celebs will never experience!  So sad, and where is my wallet?

John J. Nazarian, Private Investigator/ Security Provider

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Anthony Weiner, John Profumo, and The Road to Redemption

Another scandal has hit former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner as he heads into the New York City mayoral primary.  Back in 2011, Weiner was forced to resign from the U.S. Congress for sending sexually suggestive photographs of himself to a woman.  He entered back into public life with his latest mayoral bid, but was thrown into chaos at a press conference a few days ago when he admitted to sending similar pictures to another woman in late 2012.

It was painful to watch Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, a former long term personal aide to Hillary Clinton, be humiliated in public by not only standing by his side but having to speak in his defense at the press conference.  Despite the current scandal, Weiner vowed to stay in the race.

Watching this take place, I was reminded of another scandal involving a politician.  In the 1960's, at the height of the Cold War, the British Secretary of War, John Profumo, was forced to resign after his name was linked to a model in England.  The subsequent scandal, known as the Profumo Affair, may have been a large factor in the British Conservative government falling from power.  Profumo had his political career destroyed and left office in disgrace.

Profumo's name didn't surface in the press for years.  Many years later, it was learned that he spent his days after the scandal as a volunteer at a charity in the poorest section of East London.  He did menial work, including cleaning toilets.

The lure of high political position is a powerful draw.  The mayor of New York is probably the most high profile mayoral post in the United States.  Anthony Weiner has probably spent numerous hours since this last scandal hit huddling with his political advisers on what moves to make to salvage his campaign.

But it is in those dark, lonely hours when one is alone, looking in the mirror with just himself, his conscience and his demons, that one has to decide which fork in the road to take.  John Profumo took the Road to Redemption.  Only time will tell which one Anthony Weiner takes.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Zimmerman Verdict

The jury has spoken with a not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.  It's now the time for the so-called experts to weigh in on the subject.    Let's not forget for a moment that this local shooting in a town in Florida has political implications.  The President of the United States had already commented on the case when it first occurred and later after the verdict was announced.

An interesting comment was made in today's Wall Street Journal by Kenneth Nunn, assistant director of the Criminal Justice Center at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law.  He was quoted as saying, "I think you could make out the case that unconscious racism caused Mr. Zimmerman to profile" Mr. Martin. He went on to add, "But there doesn't seem to be enough there to justify a claim that racial animus was the predicate behind Trayvon Martin's death."

Do you ever wonder like me where a term like 'unconscious racism' came from.  Who is the so-called expert who coined the phrase, and how did it evolve into a theory.  I see talking heads using terms like this and I would love to see someone just one once ask them to not only define the term but question them as to it's factual basis.

Here's my take now on the verdict.  An argument could be made as to whether this case would have even been filed if both parties were of the same race.  Being that it was, the state had a difficult time proving the case that it was murder and not self-defense.  The state's witnesses weren't all that good, and the best independent witnesse placed Mr. Martin on top of Mr. Zimmerman and said it looked like he was punching him.  The medical examiner testified that Zimmerman's injuries were not life threatening, yet you had pictures of him that showed his nose broken and blood streaking down the back of his head.

Pictures tell a thousand words, and that may have been a big reason for the acquittal.

Mr. Zimmerman's legal problems are not over, however.  The Huffington Post reported yesterday that the U.S. Justice Department is reviewing the case to see if any criminal civil rights charges can be filed in the case. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Crime, Violence, Arrests, and the NFL: An Uneasy Convergence

After the arrest in Massachusetts of New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez for murder, the newspapers were filled with headlines regarding the number of NFL football players who had been arrested in 2013.  With the year just barely past the halfway mark, NFL players have been arrested for, among other things,  gun charges, attempt murder, assault, DUI, Public intoxication, drag racing and resisting arrest, burglary, battery, a prostitution sting, child abuse and domestic violence.

In many cases, you have young men barely out of their teens who suddenly find themselves with lots of money and little, if any, adult supervision.  It seems to me that some have adopted a gang culture mentality, complete with guns, tattoos and an intimidating attitude that we see portrayed in the entertainment media.  In a sport that prides itself on hard hits and physical violence, it's not hard to see how some players might lose their perspective here.

I'm also troubled by the comparison to football games and other sporting events as 'going to war' and 'combat.'  When I was growing up, most of our fathers served in World War II and Korean War and had seen real combat in the South Pacific, Europe and the Korean peninsula.  Many had seen untold carnage and death and lived with those memories.  It would never have crossed anyone's mind in those days to have referred to any sporting event as a war or combat.  Just as today, that comparison cheapens the sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces who gave so much in Vietnam and Iraq, and are still giving in Afghanistan.

My last comment is on how much sports have changed in my lifetime.  Today I see college players signing million dollar contracts.  As a young boy, I remember that most professional ball players in the 1950's and 60's had to have off-season jobs to supplement their incomes and support their families.

Take for example Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts.  He was the originator of the two minute drill and led his Colts to a come from behind victory over my New York Giants in the 1958 NFL championship game. To this day, many still call it the greatest football game ever played.  It's the game that put professional football on the map.  If I ever wanted one quarterback to lead my team down the field with the game on the line, it would be Johnny U.  He was the greatest quarter back I ever saw.

During the off-season, Johnny Unitas laid linoleum.