I used to make my living going over police reports and evidence. So that’s what I’m gonna do today. Here is the Initial Shooting Report provided by the Sanford Police Department. It is only a partial report made by the first two responding officers. It does not include the detective’s report or any forensics/autopsy information.
Let’s start with the basics. Sanford, Florida is an incorporated city in central Florida (near Orlando) with a population of 53,570 people. That makes it about 2/3 the size of my hometown. I am fairly familiar with how police departments work in medium sized communities. That is why I am fairly sure that Sanford does not have its own CSI department or a dedicated homicide unit.
One thing I am very sure of is that homicide investigations in the real world look nothing like the ones you see on television. I have noticed a lot of the reporting and commentary on this case is based on the idea that every department has a Horatio Caine who can find fingerprints on blades of grass and who can recover DNA from the killer’s shadow.
On television the crime is always solved and the killer is dead or in custody by the end of the hour (unless it’s a two-part episode). Processing a crime scene or searching a house takes about five minutes and manpower is unlimited. Oh, I almost forgot – on television a murder scene will have about 50 different people wandering through it.
Let’s look a real investigation:
Officer Ricardo Ayala and Officer Timothy Smith both wrote reports. I’m going to go through the events as reported then discuss them.
It was a dark and stormy night. (I always wanted to say that). It really was night time and we know it was raining, but we’re not told how heavily it was coming down. Shortly after 7:00 pm on February 26, 2012, Officer Ricardo Ayala received a radio dispatch to 1111 Retreat View Circle to check out a report of a suspicious person. While he was en route to the scene he was notified by police dispatch that there had been calls reporting shots fired in that same area.
The only thing that jacks up a police officer’s adrenaline more than a “shots fired” call are the words “officer down.” It’s a safe bet that every officer who heard that call was heading to the scene Code Three.
If you look at the picture at the top of the post you can see the letter “A” designating 1231 Twin Trees Lane. 2821 Retreat View Circle is the building immediately to its right. Here is a closer view: