Friday, September 18, 2009

Dog Determines Where Each Suspect Sat in Van on Night of Drive-By Murder

A 2002 California case shows how important dogs have become in the fight against violent gangs in Los Angeles. Jose Sandoval and other members of the Vineland Boys street gang drove into the territory of a rival gang and killed a member of that gang in a drive-by shooting. An officer close to the incident got into his personal car and began to call for help. He also was shot by someone in the van holding the Vineland Boys but managed to radio for help and follow the van, which soon turned into a high speed chase. Going at times almost 90 miles per hour, the van after a few minutes crashed into some parked cars and the occupants fled. A K9 unit was called and LAPD Officer Goosby arrived with Thunder. Residents of the apartment building in the area informed the officers that some men were hiding in the laundry room in the basement. Goosby took Thunder to the laundry room. The door was partially closed. Goosby issued a warning and one suspect came out, but said there was no one else in the room. Goosby let Thunder loose and Thunder alerted as soon as he went past the door. Goosby called Thunder out, then issued another warning. A second suspect came out and surrendered. Officer Goosby then took Thunder to a nearby area where another suspect was found hiding under bags of peat moss.

Thunder was the first dog on the case. Tinkerbelle was the second.

Gloves, clothing, and weapons that had been discarded by the suspects after they left the car were brought to the police station. An LAPD volunteer named Dennis Slavin had been summoned with his bloodhound Tinkerbelle. Slavin told the officers that Tinkerbelle could determine where each suspect sat in the van. This is the court’s description of how this was done:
"Slavin used a “scent transfer unit” to take a scent sample from each of the five seats in the van (two in the front, two in the middle, and a rear bench seat). The scent transfer unit looks like a Dustbuster, modified with a small frame at the end to secure a piece of gauze over its intake opening. Slavin attached a piece of sterile gauze to the unit, activated the unit, and held it against one seat of the van, pulling air from the seat through the gauze pad. Having scented the gauze with the scent on the seat, Slavin secured the pad in a plastic bag, cleaned the unit, and began again with a new pad on the next seat. Slavin then presented each of the gauze pads individually to Tinkerbelle, outside the door to the police station where defendant and his companions were held. Tinkerbelle picked up each trail at the police station entrance, and followed it to a cell. Tinkerbelle trailed the front passenger seat to Corral's cell, the seat behind the driver to Moreno's cell, and both the seat behind the front passenger and the rear bench seat to defendant's cell. Tinkerbelle trailed the driver seat to Quintanilla's cell."

There was other evidence against the defendants, and all the exceptions to the introduction of the evidence, both canine and otherwise, were overruled in the appeal. The convictions stood. People v. Sandoval, 2002 WL 519848 (Cal. App.2d Dist. 2002).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is There Any Beer in the Cellar? Dog Tracking in Iowa in 1904

Some investigations are handled so poorly that it might be laughable were it not that people’s lives are damaged. A suit in Iowa for wrongful arrest is a case in point. Some chickens having been taken from a man named Brown, a small crowd collected, including the mayor of Des Moines, the chief of police, and a city alderman. Some dogs were found which took a scent from the chicken coop and followed the trail to the house of McClurg, who along with his family was awakened by the sound of the mob. When McClurg opened the door, the police chief stuck his foot in the door while the mayor announced that they had come on official business. The McClurgs said the search was not agreed to, but others said that McClurg had agreed. He may not have been given much of a chance to stop the search in any case. The crowd entered the house. One member of the crowd, finding the event rather fun, asked if there was any beer in the cellar. McClurg said there was no cellar. McClurg was arrested and charged with burglary. The mayor, who did not own or handle the dogs, was permitted to testify that he had heard good things about them and that he had received a letter from an old school chum about these particular dogs. An insurance salesman was permitted to testify that his company, which insured banks, held a very high opinion of tracking dogs. He testified that he had heard of dogs tracking a criminal for 30 miles. All of this testimony was objected to by McClurg’s counsel, but was admitted anyway. Thankfully, the Supreme Court of Iowa reversed. Des Moines was apparently a bit wild in 1904. McClurg v. Benton, 123 Iowa 368 (1904).