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Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Firefighting Report Writing

Welcome back.

It’s been a while.  A lot of water under the bridge, down the road, out the hose or whatever.  My editor son and his family are back from their world travels, and settled back in their home south of Houston.  Kids in school, and both he and the wife are back to work.  So time permitting, we will try and get this blog going again.

I was wondering what to write about this time when my son, the one that lives in the big house in front of us, we live in the house in the back house, brought an email to me.  It seems that an investigator with the DA’s Office, was trying to find me.  Since my son is also a fire captain, with the same first name, he received the email.  When I called the investigator, this morning, he stated that they had finally arrested a person from a homicide case in 1986.

Back at that time, all reports were hand written and brief.  Usually they were way too brief to jog the memory and be of much help.  When I first started with the Clark County Coroner/Medical Examiner’s Office, the investigators were mostly untrained and on their own.  The reports were seldom used in court due to their lack of details.

Example: Police involved shooting with a well known, alleged, hit man.  “The detectives approached the decedent’s car and identified themselves.  The decedent reached his hand into his coat and that’s all she wrote.”  Total report.

Can you imagine trying to defend the shooting or anything else, in court?  Oh My….

Now the other side.

7 am and we get a rescue call for a sick four year old.  The apartment was only three blocks from the station, so we were on the scene very quickly.  We entered the apartment to find some twenty adults, in the living room, fully clothed. I asked where the child was, and was directed to the bedroom.   No one was in the bedroom where the “sick” child was laying in bed.  I checked the child, found her non-responsive, and in full rigor mortis.  That means she had been dead for at least 12 hours.  I immediately secured the bedroom and used the phone to call PD.  Didn’t want it to go over the airwaves for the media to pick-up.  PD arrived and I turned the scene over to them.

I took the time to write a lengthy report documenting everything that I had seen.

The step-father was convicted of her murder and received the death penalty.  The determining factors in the trial, was the fact that there was so many people in the apartment at 7am, fully clothed, no one was in the bedroom with a sick four year old, and I was constantly lied to.

At the time these seemed like small details, but as time slowly passed, and the trial dragged on, the small details in the report became the critical evidence.  Would I have remembered these details a year or two later?  Maybe not, but the fact that they were in the original report not only helped me on the stand, but gave credibility to my statements.

It only takes a few minutes to document things while they are fresh on your mind, and you never know when you will be asked about it.  Even 27 years later….

Please take care, write good reports, and it will always pay off.

May God grant peace and comfort to the friends and families of all who gave their all on 9/11/2001.

Captain Jep

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