Bullets…barrels…ballistics

Bullets…barrels…ballistics…the X6 Murder Trial

The recent case dubbed the X6 Murder Trial, and the outcome, has led to far too much doubt in the eyes of the Jamaican public.

Numerous letters and articles have been written, and in going through all the social media comments, it is evident there is no one in Jamaica who believes that justice was served.

In the view of the public, the alleged killer is still guilty [or if not him, his son], the taxi man is a liar and was bought out, the investigation carried out by the Police was mediocre, if not an outright joke, and the evidence submitted by the DPP via the prosecution attorney was substandard [Judge Judy would have ensured a far better job was done!]. The law in this case is perceived as being an ass.

Our people believe, and they have a right, that the case was paid off, that there is definitely one law for those with influence and money and another for those without, and that the ways of the old plantocracy are still alive and well – whatever your colour, once you have the cash and the status you are the king.

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So, this blog is all about bullets, barrels and ballistics, and how easy it is to subvert the course of true justice.

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As every firearm is made up of several parts, how easy would it be to change those parts that provide a unique identification for each specific firearm?

Every gun barrel is rifled during manufacture, or finished inside the barrel with rotating grooves to impart spin to a bullet in order to improve accuracy during flight. The resulting spiralling grooves and lands (the flat parts between the grooves) leave mirrored markings on the bullet itself.

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Rifling is therefore unique to each firearm.

Apart from rifling, machining marks left on the casing can be used to determine the firearm, as well as the firing pin and casing ejection marks.

While the bullet striation would be different, the fact that you have a new barrel should however be obvious, and forensics can still match from the shell casing, as the firing pin and chamber leave their own markings.

Unlike the human hand, there are many ways to change the ballistic fingerprints that a particular gun leaves. “Ballistic imprints, unlike fingerprints and DNA, can be altered, either deliberately or simply through normal use,” says a document made available by the Fraternal Order of Police.

The ballistic signature can be changed with numerous firings of the gun. While these changes are most pronounced when the gun is new, it is not difficult to intentionally change the signature later on.

Barrels and firing pins can be replaced (or filed), creating a brand-new signature that does not exist in anybody’s data base. Technically speaking, it would be cheaper to just get a wire brush and totally destroy the inside of the barrel.

glock-firing-pinCompounding the problem is the fact that the existing technology which helps trace bullets or their casings back to the guns that fired them is fatally flawed. According to a study commissioned by the California Department of Justice, current computer matching systems “do not provide conclusive results”. After firing almost 800 test guns in the study, the computers incorrectly matched the casings to the guns that fired them as much as 62% of the time.

In the US, a quick flight from Jamaica, you can buy a barrel at a gun show where registration is not required. Same applies for a firing pin. And any firearm carrier is capable of changing both.

Given the five-year time frame for this case to come to court, and the fact that the firearm has still not been surrendered, what if any evidence will a forensic examination of the firearm, if it still exists, show?

I contend that any evidence still available will be as inconclusive as the changed, and unchallenged, statement of the taxi man.

Will you stay safe this Christmas?

Just a few weeks to go (at the time of writing there are only 65 days) and Christmas is here again, and it’s the time of year when apart from the joys of GIVING, it’s also the time of TAKINGfor thieves.

So be careful when out & about, be careful when shopping, and be careful when visiting restaurants and bars, and friends and families.

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When faced with problems on the streets, most people are too stunned to do anything. Few of us think about our personal safety while traveling from place to place, so do something now to counter any threat. Often it is a quick and aggressive, pre-planned response that’s lifesaving – even if our actions are not perfect. Consider options in advance, so a surprise is less likely, allowing you to do something quickly & confidently, changing the outcome of an event.

PRACTISE SECURE THINKING & PLANNING

  • Be aware that it’s possible.
  • Be alert to what’s happening around you.
  • Have a few simple plans in the back of your mind to meet different problems.
  • Once a threat is developing, act quickly & CONFIDENTLY.

IDENTITY THEFT

There is no point carrying around too much personal information that may leave you open to IDENTITY THEFT. Crooks would love to get their hands on your personal details to apply for credit in your name.

  • Clear your wallet and handbag of everything except essential items. Do you really need to be walking around with your passport as well as your National ID card, all your credit & debit cards, driving licence, bank statements, credit & debit card receipts etc.?

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ATM MACHINES

 Is the ATM in a secure area? Are the environs well lit?

  • Lock the door when you are using an ATM machine.
  • Ensure that no one can see you entering your password. Cover the keypad with a free hand.
  • Withdraw money during the day instead of late at night or in the dark early morning hours.

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SHOPPING & ON THE ROAD

  • Keep bags closed and carry them securely. The best way is in front of you with the strap secured over your shoulder
  • Do not walk around talking on your cellular. If you have to make a call, be brief. Better yet, step into a shop and finish your call.
  • STOP driving around chatting away on your cellular oblivious to everything & everyone around you. Is the call really important enough for you to selfishly endanger yourself and others on the road?
  • Do not listen to personal stereos when walking on the road or in the plazas.
  • Do you think someone is following you? Go inside a shop.
  • Do not take short cuts through car parks/alleyways. Stay on the main, and amongst people.
  • If walking on your own and someone is bothering you, find safety in numbers/in an office/in a shop. Do not be shy about talking loudly. MAKE NOISE! And lots of it! People will hear and come to your assistance.
  • Separate the money you carry – leave larger bills hidden. Always carry a small amount of cash that can be handed over if confronted by robbers.
  • Have the keys in your hand when you approach your car, with the pointed part protruding through your fingers. Do NOT stop at the door searching for the keys.
  • Manage bags in your hand – keep one hand free at all times.

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  • Place bags and shopping in the trunk of the car, or on the floor behind you, well out of sight of passers by.
  • Lock car doors the minute you get inside.
  • Keep car windows up far enough so that no one can push their hands inside and unlock the door.
  • Walk in the middle of the sidewalk, away from the edge of the road and passing vehicles/motorbikes/bicycles. And stand back from the curb when crossing the street.
  • Look out for motorbike riders, especially when there are 2 people.
  • If a car stops and someone inside calls you over, keep your distance and keep walking.
  • When you get home ensure you have the door keys IN YOUR HAND. It is foolish to be waiting at the door while searching for your keys. If they’re in your bag or pocket, then they’re no use to you whatsoever.
  • If you have a padlock on the grill, do you always place it in the same position so that you automatically know what way to be pushing the key into the padlock?
  • Have you done a lot of shopping? Rather than filling both hands with bags and struggling to find the front door keys, make a few trips instead. And as you get into your house lock the door.

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  • Carry a personal attack alarm. Or a loud whistle.
  • Going to a restaurant or a bar? Park in the restaurant’s car park. Is there adequate security? Find out!! And ask for an escort to your car, as all good places provide security as part of their customer service.
  • Even if you’re in a hurry, look around before exiting a vehicle.
  • Keep to busy main roads especially at night.
  • Do not get too close to the vehicle in front of you. When you stop in traffic give yourself enough space so you can drive off without having to wait for the vehicle in front of you to move.
  • Do not stop to provide help if you see an accident. Call the Police.
  • When stopped at traffic lights, do not open purses or wallets in front of windscreen cleaners/vendors/newspaper sellers. Keep small change in the ashtray or dashboard.
  • At all nightspots, whether restaurant, club, bar, etc., there are those who will offer to watch your car. If you do not require this service say so firmly and politely. If you are going to tip them do not display wallets, purses, etc. ALWAYS KEEP SMALL CHANGE READILY AVAILABLE.
  • If there are any strangers/cars at or nearby your gate when you get home, do not stop to investigate. Call the Police. Take notice of vehicles driving behind you. If the same vehicle has been with you for a while do not stop at your gate. It is better to drive around the block to ensure your safety.
  • If you get a puncture late at night, rim your vehicle to a secure area (nearby hotel, gas station, Police Station, etc) rather than stop and attempt to change the tyre.

There is too much going on for us to take a nonchalant attitude to life. ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings. For overall security, including your own personal safety, pay close attention to everything around you. Being absorbed in a book, cellular call, personal music player, newspaper, or other distractions can give thieves significant opportunity to approach, study, and strike.

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Look at the people and environment around you. Notice things out of the ordinary. A good sense of what is normal and what is unusual in your surroundings could be more important than any other type of security precaution you may take. START THINKING CONSCIOUSLY about safety & security, about protecting yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbours, your work colleagues and your community.

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GET INVOLVED, GET AWARE AND GET ACTIVE.

Nicholas

Bohemian Rhapsody – a short security story

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY…OR NOT

February 19, 2009

All I could keep thinking about was the song by Freddie Mercury of Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody…up until the phone call, I didn’t even know there was a place in Jamaica called Bohemia.

It was a late hot Wednesday afternoon and a trailer carrying 1152 cases of Heineken had been hijacked and taken to Bohemia, a community in the hills of St Ann, bordering Manchester. St Ann is on the north coast of the island, in Middlesex, about halfway between the eastern and western ends of the island. It is the ‘Garden Parish of Jamaica’ because of its natural beauty, and is the birthplace of reggae singers Floyd Lloyd, Burning Spear, Shabba Ranks, and Bob Marley.dscf2733

Bohemian Rhapsody indeed. As I spoke the first 4 lines of the song, I wondered if Freddie Mercury had spent any time in Jamaica recording music…

“Is this the real life?, Is this just fantasy?, Caught in a landslide, No escape from reality”. 1975

Anyway, so much for getting home early, this was going to be a long night.

We set out at a pace and by the time we reached Clarendon Park learnt that Police had already been dispatched. The trailer had been tracked by the GPS system, recovered and three men plus a car held.

Several phone calls later and now night, we arrived in Bohemia, a sleepy district that had come alive that afternoon with excitement and the hope of ‘free beer’. Driving in along the narrow winding road, we saw Sales and Logistics colleagues from Manchester, and no Police. There were about 100 people milling around, shouting “Red Stripe, leave the beer with us”. We blew the horn a couple of times in acknowledgement. The night was dark, not even a moon in the sky, just flickering lights from the electrical poles.

The 18 pallet trailer was empty, parked neatly by the roadside out of the way old-truckof any passing traffic. Some cases had been moved into the back of a broken down old truck opposite the trailer; cases were also packed in a decrepit and derelict board shop perched on a hill’s edge; some cases had already been taken to Cave Valley Police Station for safekeeping & evidence! We still don’t know what happened to the evidence.

We couldn’t start loading the cases onto the sales truck that had come up from Manchester [it was great seeing the driver as he was a huge man…all hands on deck!], as we had to wait for Crime Scenes to take whatever forensic evidence was available. They took a couple of hours to reach Bohemia as they were still working a murder scene in St Mary.

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Bohemia has to be the coldest place in the island – people in the community wore hoodies and coats! Looking at all the young turks in their hoodies reminded me of the street gang fashion that prevails in London and throughout the UK – thug culture.

That night I believed that Bohemia was colder than the top of Blue Mountain Peak. All I could think of was where to get a cup of coffee. My teeth were chattering so fast that we sat in the car for a while, every now and then nodding off, condensation clouding the windows.

From time to time we would open the windows and look outside. If anyone had told me that somewhere in Jamaica could be this cold at night I would have told them to stop lying.

We got out the car and a man walked uappendix-carry-coverp to us, saying we should just leave and give the people the beer. He moved away his shirt and showed us a firearm stuck in his waist. We stood our ground, faced by the man, his belligerent attitude and a crowd of about 50 people. The Cave Valley Police came back from the station after “securing” the van load of Heineken. We quietly told them about the man with the firearm and they called him over – he was a Policeman who lived nearby! Really?

Crime Scenes arrived and began their forensic gathering. Photographs, measurements, more photographs and more measurements – it seemed as if they would never finish. Very professional crew and I talked with them while they worked – their territory almost included the entire island – and I thought with our high crime and murder rate per capita that they probably worked 16 hour days. Once they had gathered their evidence, we started to load the product stored in the shop onto the sales truck.

It was so colhoodiesscaryd and the crowd was growing, young men standing menacingly around the truck in their hoodies. I was tired, and annoyed, and cold, and hungry. All I wanted was a hot cup of coffee.

The truck was not being loaded fast enough so I went into the shop and started throwing cases through a large open window to the driver of the truck, just to stay warm and speed up our departure! The shop was perched precariously on the edge and I wondered if it would stay where it was with all the new movement. I soon worked up a sweat, glad for the warm up exercise [who needs a gym?].

We had to safeguard all our people, and retrieve what we could as quickly as we could, so I kept moving faster and faster. I just wanted to be out of there before the crowd got too excited or someone stirred them up to start looting the truck we were loading. I could not see the Cave Valley Police from where I was.

Once we emptied the shop, we moved to the old broken down truck. One of the young men who had helped us load the truck from the shop asked if he could help again. We said yes, challenged once more by the Policeman who kept telling us to leave the beer. He was laughing at the young man helping us, saying we wouldn’t give him anything but more hard work.

When we finished loading the product we were ready to move. We talked a bit and decided to leave a few cases for those who had helped us. The Policeman grabbed one of the cases from the young man who had been the most helpful and sauntered off laughing, so we gave our ally a couple more and walked him until he was safely out of sight.

We drove out behind the truck and the empty trailer, on the way to the distribution centre. We had only been able to recover 375 cases of Heineken.

When we got there, there was still no coffee, it was now 1:30 am, and we were tired, thirsty and hungry. And still cold. And I was running out of cigarettes!

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But we were all glad to be away from Bohemia safely. We started our journey back to Kingston…Phil Collins on the radio – ‘just another day in paradise’.

Over the next few days we established that the hijack had been engineered by the driver himself along with a forklift operator, who had taken a day off just to assist. And when I looked back at the 9 trailer hijacks 1996 to 2009 that I dealt with, only 2 were genuine – the other 7 all engineered by the drivers.

As the Good Book says there is nothing new under the sun.