Friday, August 24, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: 20G40

I have an uneasy feeling that HPD Sgt. D. Hamilton injected himself into this case. I don't think he was actually instructed to go to the crime scene. It's not at all clear to me that the crime scene was actually within his area of supervision.

In other words, I think Sgt. Hamilton may have intentionally crashed a gruesome party to which he was not invited. If so, that would make his story about Shandra's dying declaration even more suspicious, assuming that's possible.

I can't prove that, but the thought gives me an uneasiness. I have a discomfiture, a perplexity, an anxiety. I have a curiosity itch in serious need of scritchin'.

I think I'll scritch it here.

Allow me to begin with the police report of Sgt. D. J. Gafford. He demonstrates how it's done, how one describes one's invitation to a crime scene.
At approximately 23:55 hrs, Sgts Bloyd and Gafford were in the homicide division when Lt. Neely assigned them to make a scene at 2400 S. Kirkwood.
There you go. Short, sweet, and to the point. He told us when it happened and where he was. He actually said that he was assigned to "make a scene", though he might have phrased that better. He told us who told him to make that scene. It was Lt. Neely.

Now let's see how Officers Cook and Becker told us about how they came to be involved.
Officers riding Unit 20G40 were flagged down by a person known as Drew Curtis Hartley regarding his wife missing. The time was approx 2330 hrs and the location was the Stop N Go parking lot at 2303 S. Kirkwood.
Not bad. It doesn't have the Jack Webb quality of Gafford's report, but it's not bad. Let's see how Officer Hale handled the task.
On Tuesday, September 27 1988 at approximately 0005hrs, I, Officer F. L. Hale being assigned to the crime scene section and riding CSU 14 received an assignment from homicide lieutenant.
Not as good, but passable. The "I, Officer F. L. Hale" was a bit pretentious, and he didn't bother to mention of the name of the lieutenant who assigned him to the case. So ... not great, but okay.

Now, finally, let's now see how Sgt. Hamilton described how he came to be involved.
Sgt. D. Hamilton, riding unit 19G02 nights on 9-26-88 while at the command station heard Officers V.L. Cook and C.J. Becker Riding Unit 20G40 nights call out on an assault victim tn [sic] the 2400 blk of S. Kirkwood. Around 2340 hrs Sgt Hamilton checked by with Unit 20G40 and arrived at the scene at approx 2343 hrs.


Very interesting indeed.

It doesn't seem as if anyone actually instructed Officer Hamilton to make his way to the crime scene. It doesn't seem as if anyone actually assigned him to the case. Nor does it seem as if rushed over as he would have if he had been acting in a supervisor status. Instead, he chilled for an unspecified amount of time before he "checked by" with the officers who had recently called in a double homicide.

It wasn't as if Hamilton heard the call, then quickly picked up his radio and said "I'm on my way." It's more as if Hamilton, who was at the command station, searched for something in a database, or looked through some files, saw something interesting, and decided to head on out.

Once Hamilton made up us mind to get up and go, however, he got up and went. He made it there in 3 minutes. That includes the time he spent on the radio with Cook and Becker, and the time needed to mount up.

It wasn't very difficult for me to find an HPD beat mapI wanted one to understand the significance of 20G40 and 19G02. Here you go, from my Google search to your eyes. Click to enlarge.

Beat 20G40 is towards the left, below the centerline. Here, I'll blow it up for you to make it easier to see. If you click on it and enlarge it, you'll more easily see the X I added to show the location of the crime scene.

There are 8 beats that begin with 20G. Those 8 beats form District 20. There are 5 beats that begin with 19G. Those 5 beats form District 19.

District 19 and District 20 together form the Western Division of the Houston Police Department. The Western Division command station is located where you see the red star. That's where Hamilton was when he dawdled after hearing the call by Cook and Becker.

The address of that command station is 3203 South Dairy Ashford Street. Here's a swell picture of the command center, thanks to the fine folks at Google who have yet to send me a cease and desist order for using their street view images without written permission.

Sgt. Hamilton was working somewhere inside there around 11:30 PM on 26 September 1988 when he overheard Officers Cook and Becker call out a double homicide. Hamilton dillied for a bit, then he dallied for a bit, then he "checked by" with Cook and Becker, then he headed on over.

According to the fine folks at Google, the distance between the command center and the Fuddrucker's hamburger joint right there by the crime scene is 1.7 miles. Under normal conditions, the driving time is 5 minutes. It seems as if, once Hamilton decided to go, he lit it up. He got there in less than 3.

Notice that Hamilton said he was riding 19G02. Since there seems to be no beat called 19G02, I suspect the nomenclature has a more subtle meaning that I don't yet understand. It may indicate that he is a patrol supervisor responsible for taking charge of crime scenes anywhere within District 19. I simply don't know. In any case, it is clear from the nomenclature that Hamilton was operating in the same Division but a different District than that patrolled by Unit 20G40.

I suspect there is nothing fundamentally improper with a sergeant from District 19 responding to a call from District 20. I wonder, though, whether it was routine, or common. Again, I simply do not know.

It does seem, however, that if Sgt. Hamilton was not expected to respond and take charge of the crime scene, then another patrol supervisor should have done so. And since there is no police report filed by any local HPD officers other than Cook, Becker, and Hamilton, I guess there was no other patrol supervisor on the scene. Surely, any District 20 patrol sergeant who was on the scene would have taken charge and filed a report.

I guess, therefore, I'm simply making another mountain out of another molehill. So I'll just let it be.


But wait .... 

There's more.

There always is.

I just this very moment [ahem] noticed something a bit unusual in Sgt. Gafford's police report.
When we arrived, there were several patrol supervisors, Sgts D. Hamilton and J.H. Parham, already on the scene.
And then there's this, from Hamilton's report:
Sgt along with Unit 20G40 and 20G51 secured the scene and held it until it was released to homicide sgt's.
Holy Brady violation, Batman! There was indeed another patrol supervisor on the scene, and he was riding Unit 20G51 nights. He didn't write a police report, at least not one that was included in the official compilation of police reports for this case. And he didn't testify at trial. But he was there, somewhere. 

Perhaps patrol supervisor J.H. Parham, night rider of Unit 20G51, was standing right by Shandra Charles as she lay face down in the trail, her life blood spanning the entire width of the trail, soaking into the dirt. Perhaps he heard her give a dying declaration, speaking clearly and in complete sentences.

Then again, perhaps not.

Perhaps that's why we never heard from him.

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