Professional Milestone

Six years ago I was minding my own business, straddling my department bicycle in the area of 24th Street and Folsom when the radio started blaring about a fight between a man with a cane and a woman happening in the area of 14th and Minna Alley.

Long story short: I stopped the man some distance from the scene of the crime at gunpoint and subsequently retrieved the garrote he had used, he believed, to kill the woman he was ‘fighting’ with. I know he thought he’d killed her because he said, “Bitch was dead when I found her.” The garrote had long black hairs, some skin, and blood caught in the braided wire of it’s construction.

He was wrong, thankfully. The woman survived her strangulation and subsequent stomping (There’s some lengthy and quite horrific video of the entire event.). I learned that the reason why he committed this heinous crime is because he wanted either sexual favors or dope from the woman and offered her counterfeit money.  She identified the counterfeits for what they were and told him to take a long walk on a short pier. He took exception and decked her, then wrapped the garrote around her neck and slowly strangled the life from her. She fought all the way, kicking and squirming.

A note about garrotes: this was the first one I had ever seen on the streets in my then 7 years of law enforcement, and it’s still the only one I have ever seen taken from a street criminal. Everyone at the station, including officers of 30 and more years experience, were also surprised to see the weapon. They are rare, because they are, in my opinion, a murderer’s weapon. Most criminals make excuses for themselves, saying they need a gun/knife/etc ‘to protect themselves’. This is even a valid excuse, in some instances. A garrote, though, is generally used by someone sneaking up behind another, wrapping the wire around their neck, and then choking the life from them while sawing through the hard organs of the throat. In short: a murderer’s weapon.

In most TV shows or novels, this would be the end of the story, bad guy caught, the victim survived. Law and Order does a better job, but even they have the cases solved and sentenced in an hour.

It never is. Last month that the suspect was sentenced. Six years.

I went to court at least five different times on the suspect’s case over the course of the last six years.

During the long and drawn out process:

The defendant fired five attorneys appointed to be his counsel, he testified in a federal court as a witness against some federal prisoner from his earlier days as an inmate in federal prison.

The victim got clean, relapsed, and never did show up to court.

When I took the stand in front of two of the attorneys I was accused, variously: of racism, ignorance, stupidity, and simply making mistakes.

I ignored or slammed the first set of accusations, and owned the errors of memory I made in the long years between incident and trial testimony, even looking into the faces of the jurors and saying, “I am human, just like you. I can and do make mistakes, just like you. Any mistakes I have made in this case were those of memory caused in the six years since it happened, not of process.”

The trial finally concluded in January of this year. The last attorney put up a valiant effort, but his client was not cooperative in the least, not very smart, and flat-out guilty.

Last month, at the end of this six year-long saga, the man was sentenced to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole with an additional 14 year enhancement to be served consecutive to the first sentence. Meaning, the defendant is about to do around 30 years, minimum. Already in his fifties, it’s likely going to be a life sentence.

I feel good about the sentence, if not how long it took to get there. I certainly did my part to bring a bad man to justice, and hope that he will be kept from hurting anyone ever again.