Wednesday, April 3, 2013
COINCIDENCE, CONSPIRACY, OR “COPYCATS”?
4 LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS MURDERED IN LAST 8 WEEKS
WHO IS BEHIND THESE ASSASSINATIONS?
SHERIFF EUGENE CRUM MURDERED TODAY IN WEST VIRGINIA
(Wednesday April 3, 2013, Kaufman, TX) The multi-agency task force that has been investigating the recent murders of two prosecutors from this sparsely populated county southeast of the Dallas Metroplex, their attention shifted to a small rural hamlet over 1000 miles away in the hills of southern West Virginia. Earlier today in Williamson West Virginia the Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum was shot in the head as he sat in his patrol car eating his lunch in his customary location. A suspect has been shot after a brief chase and an exchange of gunfire. He has been identified as 36 year old Tennis Melvin Maynard. He has been transported to Huntington for medical care.
The eyes and attention of the Texas law enforcement task force turned to West Virginia today because the cases they’re presently investigating bear distinct similarities to the assassination of Sherriff Crum. This hard-nosed Sheriff is the fourth law enforcement official to be gunned down in cold blood since January 31st of this year. Last Saturday evening the Kaufman County (TX) District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia were shot to death in their home just miles from the County Courthouse. He had been deeply involved in the murder of his Assistant DA, Mark Hasse on January 31, 2013 who was shot in broad daylight as he made the familiar walk from his parked car to the Courthouse.
The investigation has active elements in the upscale, wooded hamlet of Monument Colorado where the Colorado Director of Prisons, Tom Clements was shot to death in his secluded home on March 19th. Clements had also served in a similar position in the Missouri Department of Prisons.
LOTS OF DOTS
As a rule most law enforcement officers (LEO’s) do not believe in coincidences. Investigators focus on the detection, collection and analysis of physical, eye witness and circumstantial evidence. Detectives build their cases methodically, sometimes painstakingly, assembling the elements knot a coherent narrative supported by facts. If there are “leaps of faith” made by investigators they are usually the product of years of experience, hard earned instincts, and the occasional “hunch”. Despite the portrayal of the detective process in TV programs and films, the process is typically a straight forward slog sometimes punctuated by “breaks” that may come in the form of laboratory forensic evidence or the late development of witness testimony.
Detectives also look for patterns, for similarities when there is more than one crime involved as is the case here in Texas. Modern policing has benefited enormously from technology particularly in the establishment of national and local data bases, networked systems linking federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as never before. The FBI has spent years refining their techniques and methods in their efforts in “criminal profiling”. As the databases continue to grow and evolve more diverse resources can be brought to bear on any individual investigation. The four murders of men in the law enforcement community appear to be related and not isolated incidents attributable to mere coincidence. They may prove to be unrelated but that is clearly not the approach the officers and agents involved are adopting at the present time. The idea that these four events are unrelated seems to be a stretch.
Officially the task force is reluctant to say conclusively that the murder of the Assistant District Attorney and the District Attorney in Kaufman are related to the murders of Tom Clements in Colorado and Sheriff Crum in West Virginia are related or have been perpetrated in a deliberate and preconceived plan by a single group or gang. Certainly, there is no lack of suspects and motives; actually, there is a wealth of both.
A phrase made popular in the wake of the gross intelligence failures that allowed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there are plenty of “dots” that can be connected. Until today the connected dots defined an oddly shaped triangular region from central Colorado to Decatur and Kaufman County. Sheriff Crum’s assassination altered the shape of that triangle but is uncannily similar to the other murders. The notion that Sheriff Crum’s murder was perpetrated by a “copycat”, a not uncommon occurrence after high profile murders, is being carefully considered; no leaps of faith will be made despite the inclination to make such leaps.
Kaufman County Prosecutors Hasse and McLelland
Murdered eight weeks apart
THE USUAL AND UNUSUAL SUSPECTS
Two days after the murder of Tom Clements in Colorado, a man recently paroled from that state was killed after a shoot-out with local authorities in Decatur Texas. After a high speed chase and the exchange of gunfire Evan S. Ebel was killed. Ballistic analysis proved that the same gun used to kill Clements was used by Ebel in Decatur. Ebel had been driving a vehicle that eye witnesses had seen near the Clements’ residence around the same time of his murder. Also found in this vehicle was what authorities are calling “bomb making materials”. The fact that Ebel fled to Texas certainly presents the possibility that he was part of a broader “criminal conspiracy”, in other words, part of a concerted effort aimed at targeting specific members of service (MOS) in the law enforcement community (LEC). Ebel’s alleged association with the notorious prison gang; The Aryan Brotherhood is being carefully investigated since the two Texas prosecutors had taken a vigorous approach to prosecuting members of The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, an off-shoot of the larger gang.
Mingo County West Virginia, Sheriff Crum’s jurisdiction, is a well-known hotbed of the illegal drug trade and in particular the manufacture and distribution of “meth” (methamphetamine), a major source of revenue for The Aryan Brotherhood. The Aryan Brotherhood has not been shy about leveling threats to law enforcement officials across the country and does indeed have a “national reach” as one Texas Ranger commented. But some Texas officials have been quick to point out that their list of possible suspects range from local gang members to elements of the Mexican drug cartels.
One investigative avenue being pursued in the murder of Tom Clements has to do with a decision he made just a week prior to his assassination. A Saudi national and prominent member of the Denver Muslim Community, Homaidan al-Turki who had been convicted in 2006 for sex offenses among other charges, had requested to serve the remainder of his sentence in Saudi Arabia. Clements denied his request due to the fact that al-Turki had refused to participate in a prison-based program for sex offenders. Al-Turki claimed the denial was based on his tenuous association to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
The investigators working the various angles in each of these cases as well as those endeavoring to locate some relationship among them are being very tight lipped. The bulk of the investigative resources are being applied to each of the individual cases foremost; pursuing a common thread that links them is not the primary goal. Each of these murders is being rigorously investigating towards the aim of making arrests.
BIGGER TARGETS THAN USUAL
Every man and woman who works in the criminal justice system, from judges, magistrates, prosecutors, sheriffs, federal agents, and local police forces is acutely aware that their chosen profession comes with a set of obvious risks and hazards. Aside from the “on the job” dangers every law enforcement officer lives and deals with, targeted execution is not one of them. There have been times in the annals of law enforcement history when “lawmen” were specifically targeted by various groups. During the “race riots” that ravaged some American cities in the late 1960’s, Police Officers in places such as Camden and Newark, New Jersey, the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles and Oakland California, were the targets of gunmen and snipers. Most recently during the “drug wars” that plagued New York City in the early 1980’s, several members of the NYPD were shot “execution-style” while others faced gun fire from rooftops while on routine patrol. Every year members of the law enforcement community are killed in the line of duty but the incidence of obvious murders that required some measure of premeditation is very low comparatively speaking. That is what gives these four murders so closely clustered in time and all occurring in rural locations appear to be in some fashion related or connected. That law enforcement officers must now take into consideration that there may in fact be some sort of gang “vendetta” or ‘bounty” on their lives adds an undue amount of stress to an already high stress profession.
CAPITAL CRIMES, CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
In our Democracy each individual life is (at least theoretically) of equal value in the eyes of society and the law. The ideal of equal rights is among the cornerstone predicates on which our country has been anchored since 1776. Justice, in both application and accessibility, is to be afforded each American citizen in as “blind” a fashion as possible. While “justice” is alleged to be blind, we are not. It is difficult to find many citizens completely capable of viewing the world around them, matters of crime and punishment in as objective a manner as our Constitution prescribes. That is just human nature.
Just as each individual is equal to every other, the lives of law enforcement officers are of no higher or greater value than any other member of society. However, in cases where members of the LEC are killed in the line of duty, a just punishment would be the penalty of death. Each time a MOS of the LEC is killed in the line of duty the fabric of our society becomes a bit more frayed and strained.
Whether we realize it or not all of us live within the boundaries of an unwritten social code, a set of principles and beliefs that under-gird all aspects of our lives particularly in respect to what we consider to be “criminal” behavior. Our social compact or covenant places a great deal of authority and pursuant responsibility on those who serve in the criminal justice system and the LEC. In our society the “Police” do not “keep law and order”; no, not by a long shot. What does in fact keep law and order is the concept of the Police, the recognition that there are laws and there are those assigned to enforce them. It has been argued in many forums that most people do not commit crimes because they are afraid of being caught or, more idealistically, they are good, honest, decent people who easily conduct their lives within the boundaries of the law. This is a debate that will never be amicably settled. Whatever the reasons that 90% of the population is law abiding and only 10% is responsible for 100% of all crime becomes a rhetorical argument better suited for academia than the streets of America.
We have held murder in all its varied manners and methods, guises and circumstances, in a special category of most contemptible deeds just as it has been considered the most heinous of criminal act since antiquity. Given our social construct each time a MOS of the LEC is killed in action, we recognize the severity of the crime not because of the value of the individual Officer but rather because it is such a gross insult to society as a whole. It is for this very reason and this reason alone that any person legitimately convicted of murdering an Officer, Sheriff, Agent or other member of the LEC, should be put to death in a timely manner. Such state sponsored executions are not intended solely to have any deterrence value at all. No, the execution would be a purely punitive act, the ultimate meeting of Justice in the form of the ultimate punishment. This concept is of course among the most hotly contested and controversial issue we as a society periodically engage. But this issue is a side issue to today’s headlines and headlines over the last eight weeks.
THE BEATS GO ON
As the intense investigations into these four deaths continues in locales from Colorado to West Virginia, the men and women of the LEC continue to report to work, walk their beats, man their posts, cover their sectors and enforce the laws in their jurisdictions. They do so day in, day out often quite anonymously and they accept that.
For as long as these particular crimes remain unsolved MOS of the LEC may be a bit more on edge, have a heightened awareness of their immediate environs while at work and more conscious of what is going on around them in their off-duty time in public and at home. These murders have been delivered in a cold and calculating manner in the homes of some victims and in otherwise safe and familiar surrounding for the others. Hopefully progress is being made and apprehensions of the individuals responsible and those, if any, that may have abetted as part of a criminal conspiracy will soon be off the streets. One way or another, the boldness and brazenness of those who’ve perpetrated these assassinations should prompt every American citizen to rethink their ideas on crime and capital punishment.
TAGS: LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMUNITY (LEC), TOM CLEMENTS COLORADO DIRECTOR OF PRISONS, MIKE McLELLAND KAUFMAN COUNTY TEXAS DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MARK HASSE ASSISTANT DA KAUFMAN COUNTY TEXAS, SHERIFF EUGENE CRUM MINGO COUNTY WEST VIRGINIA, MULTI-AGENCY TASK FORCE, THE ARYAN BROTHERHOOD, THE ARYAN BROTHERHOOD OF TEXAS, MISSOURI PRISONS, MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS, METH TRAFFICKING
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