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.    

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

American Crime Drama vs European Crime Drama

It's been a long time since I've seen a good American crime drama, whether it be on TV or in the movies.  Two notable exception were the HBO series 'The Wire' and Tom Selleck as 'Jesse Stone.'  It seems that Hollywood and the American entertainment industry is stifled by political correctness and thinks that special effects and violent shootouts with exploding blood is more important than taut plots and character development.  It seems that all the Hollywood script writers can turn out is big explosions, car chases with multiple car wrecks, hi tech gadgets and weapons, and large body counts.

I've taken to watching European crime dramas that I get on both public television or buy from I find it refreshing to see actors that actually act, plots that make you think, and an emphasis on character development rather than body count.  Maybe because they don't have a big budget like in Hollywood, but I've noticed that they make do with very few people and extras on the screen at any one time.  In one telling scene of one of the series listed below, the horror of a mother and her three young children who were murdered in a house came not from the sight of mutilated corpses with lots of blood but rather from the shocked look on the detectives faces when they entered the crime scene along with the chalked off figures on the floor where the bodies were.

Here's a list of my favorites:

1. Sherlock- I'm a stickler for authenticity, so when I first heard that the BBC was making a Sherlock Holmes series updated to the 21st century, I rolled my eyes.  After I read the excellent  reviews it received, I thought I'd give it a chance.  I'm glad I did because Benedict Cumberpatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson are simply outstanding.  The writers have updated Conan Doyle's stories into a modern day London and it works beyond all belief.

2. Foyle's War-Michael Kitchen is great as police inspector Christopher Foyle who tracks down criminals on the south coast of England during World War II.  The scenery is beautiful and the period costumes bring you back to a nation fighting for it's very existence.

3.  Agatha Christie's Poirot-David Suchet is wonderful as the eccentric Belgian (not French) detective who solves crimes by using his 'little grey cells' in 1920/30's England.  He is ably assisted by Hugh Fraser as his friend Captain Hastings in a series faithfully adapted from Agatha Christie's books..

4.  Detective Montalbano-Italian actor Luca Zingaretti plays author Andrea Camilleri's Sicilian police detective Salvo Montalbano.  Many of the author's books have been faithfully adapted in this series along with a number of others that are just as good.  You really get a comfortable feeling with his police squad as they solve crimes in the fictitious town of Vigata, Sicily.  The sun drenched scenery of Sicily is absolutely beautiful and is a great travel ad for that island.  The series is in Italian but it is sub-titled in English.  After about five minutes of viewing, you have no trouble following the dialogue.

5.  Luther-Idris Elba plays the lead in this BBC production about a suicidal London Homicide detective.  He has a powerful screen presence and is ably assisted by a squad of detectives as they comb through London for violent criminals.  I guarantee you that after the first five minutes, you will be hooked on this series.  The female antagonist in this series, played by Ruth Wilson, is deliciously evil as she matches wits with Luther.

6.  Inspector Nardone-This is another Italian crime series set in post World War II Italy.  Sergio Assisi is outstanding as the lead character.  The series is based on a real life police detective who along with his hand picked squad, fights both criminals and corruption in Milan.  Here again the period costumes and scenery brings you back to an Italy that was just recovering from the devastation of World War II.  The plots are well written, and the interaction between the actors is exceptional.  Even though it is in Italian with English subtitles, you have no trouble following the dialogue.

7.  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes-For those who are Sherlock Holmes aficionados, look no further then this BBC adaption with Jeremy Brett as the fictional crime detective.  In my opinion, Brett is the definitive Holmes in all his brilliance and quirks.  The adaptions are faithful to the Conan Doyle stories, right down to the dialogue.  Both of the actors who play Dr Watson in the lengthy series, David Burke and Edward Hardwicke, are great and the chemistry between them and Brett works.  The period costumes, horse drawn cabs and fog laden scenery literally brings you back to 19th century London.   

8.  Single Handed-Owen McDonnell plays an Irish Garda police Sergeant investigating crime on the west coast of Ireland.  Well written and acted, he returns to his home area to find that things are often times not what they seem.  The beautiful yet harsh countryside is also a plus.

9.  Inspector George Gently-Martin Shaw plays the honest and by-the-book lead character in this BBC production about a police inspector set in the 1960's.  His assistant, played by Lee Ingelby, is a young sergeant who is somewhat immature and willing to step over the line.  Despite their differences, the chemistry between the two work as they solve crimes in rural England.   

Friday, June 28, 2013

LAPD Officers Shot

On June 25, 2013 the Los Angeles Times reported that two LAPD officers were ambushed as they were waiting for the gate to open at the station parking lot.  On the same day, in a different part of town, another LAPD officer and a parole agent were shot inside a home during a search.

Although it appeared that both shootings were unrelated, it brings up the dangers that police throughout the United States face on a daily basis.  Both situations were on different ends of the threat level meter.  One occured out of nowhere, while officers are sitting in a relatively safe area in a police vehicle waiting to enter the police parking lot.  They were ambushed from the rear and fired on in a location where the threat level would be considered very low.

In the second shooting, the officer and the parole agent were in a much more heightened  threat level as they searched a residence for a suspect.

Police work is a job that can go from sheer boredom to extreme danger in the blink of an eye.  Cops are always looking, their minds working like a computer that can register things in a nano-second that 'don't seem right' or are 'out of place.'  The work is extremely mentally taxing.

Cops are the ultimate symbol of authority in our society. They are the ones that can take away a person's freedom.  They are the ones who stop people from acting out there worst behavior on others.  There are really bad people out their with a grudge against society and the people that stand between them and us are the police.  These people obey their own code, and shooting a cop is their ultimate defiance against the society they hate.

Whether there uniform cops on patrol or detectives working on cases, once they hit the street, they are always on alert.  Even when off-duty, they're always looking.  You cant turn it off.  The price they pay for that over a career is often high blood pressure, broken marriages and alcoholism.  It comes with the job.  But they are the sheep dogs who protect the sheep from the wolves who would prey on them.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Aaron Hernandez Arrest

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested yesterday in Massachusetts for murder.  In following the case in news broadcasts and the internet, I was struck by the appearance of the detectives during the multiple searches that were done at Hernandez's residence.  In the videos and photographs I saw of the detectives conducting the searches, I noticed that the majority of them were not wearing a sports jacket.  

When I was a LAPD homicide detective in South Central Los Angeles, my lieutenant was a stickler for us to always wear our sports jackets any time we were at a crime scene or in the public eye.  People even called homicide detectives 'the suits.' It didn't matter how hot it was, whether we were canvassing a neighborhood for witnesses, or baking at a crime scene; he made us wear those jackets.  At the time some thought he was old fashioned and out of touch, but now that I look back on it, he kept up the public image of professionals at work.  Even today as a private investigator, I still wear a sports jacket when doing interviews or witness canvasses.  When people think of police detectives, they think jacket and tie.  Anything less and it minimizes the public perception.  

It was interesting to note that when Hernandez was led out of his house in handcuffs, the two detectives with him both had their jackets and ties on.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Aaron Hernandez Investigation

Recently New England Patriot's tight end Aaron Hernandez's name has been in the news regarding a criminal investigation.  According to news reports, a number of search warrants have been served at his residence in Massachusetts related to the death of a man not far from Hernandez's home.  ABC News reported that police wanted to know why house cleaners had been hired recently to Hernandez's home.  Stating the obvious, as of yet Mr. Hernandez has not been charged with a crime related to this investigation and should be considered innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law.  News agencies have also been known to get information wrong.  My comment here is only on a possible investigation step by the police related to the alleged aspect of having a professional service clean a house, supposedly after a crime might have occurred in it.

First off, the police would most likely interview the owners of the cleaning service and the actual workers who cleaned the location.  Questions would probably include things like when were you hired, who hired you, what directions were you given, were there specific instructions regarding any problem areas at the location.  They would also be questioned as to what, if any, odd or suspicious things did they encounter in the location.  Regarding any possible blood stains at a location or in a vehicle, even after a thorough cleaning, blood stains oftentimes can still be found.  Blood stains can spatter and still be found on clothing, shoes, etc.  Forensic investigators can utilize chemical sprays that can reveal blood stains invisible to the naked eye.  The bottom line is that blood stain evidence can still be recovered even after someone tries to destroy it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Death of the Night Stalker

Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, died in prison on death row on June 7, 2013.  According to his bio on Wikipedia, He was convicted of 13 murders, 5 attempt murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries.  His trial lasted over four years. That was the headlines.  Here’s the reality.  Ramirez’s crime rampage occurred in the spring and summer of 1985.  It was during an extremely hot weather period.  He terrorized the state of California.  People were afraid to open their windows at night, despite the heat, for fear of the Night Stalker.  Although most of his crimes occurred in Los Angeles County, on one weekend he murdered a man and shot his wife in San Francisco and then drove to Orange County were he shot a man and raped his fiancĂ©.  In his long list of crimes, he nearly decapitated one murder victim, gouged out the eyes of another, and on two occasions shot and killed a husband and then raped his wife.  I worked the LAPD Night Stalker task force in the hunt for this serial killer.  He professed allegiance to Lucifer and left pentagrams at crime scenes and on a victim’s body.  Of all the criminals I came in contact with and investigated during my police career, he was the one that was truly evil.  He lived 23 years on death row before he died.  I did not mourn his passing.