Guns, DNA and oh… don’t forget the dead body
Posted October 18, 2010on:
Saturday, I had the honor of touring a local crime lab with the Long Island Romance Writers and I can sum it up in one word – WOW. In one afternoon, I learned everything you ever wanted to know about analyzing a crime scene. And even some stuff you never wanted to know. (Trust me.)
Our tour began with a lecture delivered by a senior crime scene investigator with some thirty years’ experience. “Bob” walked us through the typical crime scene investigatory process, using the same shooting that had temporarily locked down my son’s school a few days prior. He explained how a crime scene is processed, how long it typically takes, and described the qualifications needed in the people who do this work.
Next, it was time to tour the lab. In my town, the lab serves county police, the sheriff’s department, various incorporated towns’ needs and federal agencies, when needed. This lab can analyze trace evidence, DNA, firearms and drugs. The facilities were old and smelled funky but were outfitted with some expensive high-tech gadgetry. Electron microscopes, stereo microscopes, and something called a ‘gas chromatography mass selective detector’ for analyzing drug composition. We learned about emerging trends in putting the bad guys behind bars – like ‘touch DNA’. We also learned the firearms pros are um… well, some seriously disturbed individuals.
But, aside from the various quotes, photos, and newspaper clippings adorning the lab, the Firearms Lab was by far, the coolest place in the facility. There was a room the size of my living room lined floor to ceiling with guns. They were sorted by caliber. One whole wall was devoted to rifles, shotguns and yes, even machine guns. Another wall was devoted to the smallest of the small guns – guns tiny enough to hang on a keychain. Then, there was a section for the obscure and odd gun, like pen guns and even a gun hidden in a cane. James Bond’s Q would have salivated.
As we walked from section to section, Bob continued his riveting lecture on what gets processed there and how it’s processed. As a technical writer, I was drawn to all the expensive computer units, which spoke to my inner geek. But the bagged pieces of evidence, like the bloody saw blade, appealed to the story teller in me and I was not alone in that! Throughout the tour, members of our group asked questions intended to iron out a plot wrinkle or add authenticity to a setting. At one point, the lovely Pam Burford put up her hand and shouted, “This one’s mine!”
It was a fun and extremely enlightening tour.
Right up until the end.
That’s when we walked past the autopsy being performed. Bizarrely, I couldn’t look away. It was a real live -er, dead guy, not some Hollywood effect. I learned waaaaay more than I ever wanted to know about the human body.
If anybody has a way of erasing that image from my brain, do share.