Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Archives: Aug. 2011


Puracal conviction is a verdict against U.S.

Jason Puracal is in a rough spot.

The Tacoma native, who was recently convicted in a Nicaraguan court of drug trafficking and money laundering, is either the fall-guy for the U.S. and its decades of intrigue against the Sandinistas, or else he is a very lousy and unlucky criminal.

At the moment, given the desperate nature of his situation, the reason hardly seems to matter.

Currently, Puracal is living in a tiny cell inhabited by other poor unfortunate souls, scores of rats, and what has been described as some very aggressive sex offenders. Few crimes, if indeed he committed any, warrant this type of inhumane circumstances. And if the reports of such conditions are true then the Nicaraguans are miles away from declaring their country the socialist paradise the Sandinistas claim it to be.

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Police separating fact from fiction in Powell disappearance

Somewhere, sitting on a beach with her lover and sipping a cocktail with an umbrella, is the long-lost Susan Cox Powell. That, at least, is a plausible scenario according to her husband, Joshua Powell and father-in-law, Steven Powell.

It’s an interesting story, one many of us would like to believe, but the police would like to know more. Unfortunately, the Powell men remain hidden behind their attorney’s skirt, venturing forth only to spread salacious stories through tabloid and network news.

The disappearance of Susan Cox Powell, now almost two years ago, has been an extremely disturbing incident. The media feeding frenzy, the scathing exchange between the Cox and Powell families, and the exhaustive investigation has certainly wrung out the emotions of anyone associated with this case.

Besides the disappearance of a seemingly bright and energetic young woman, mother and wife, the story has become infamous because of its descent into the realm of fantasy.

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When it comes to deadly force, there is no home base

Every now and then someone will decide I need to be informed about a particular legal loophole or fact that I somehow missed during my police career. While I am always eager to learn, I usually find myself inserting mental air quotes around such “facts.”

For instance, did you know that if you put a penny in your mouth you can defeat a breathalyzer?

Yes, I’ve heard about that. Piece of advice, though- when you get popped for your DUI and are directed to empty the contents of your mouth, call Mary at the public defender’s office. She’s cranky at 2AM, but very nice in court. And tell her I said hello.

Despite almost rupturing my eyeball from excessive eye-rolling everytime I hear this myth, it’s not too dangerous.

But then there’s this one: Did you know that if there’s a trespasser in your house you can shoot him?

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Solving cold cases puts value on human life

“Because the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.” Captain James T. Kirk

I have found this memorable quote, from the 1984 movie “The Wrath of Khan”, to be more meaningful than a simple line in a banal Star Trek film. It is an important reason why I spend my days (and sometimes nights) as a cop.

The justice system in which I work operates as a logical, one-size fits all system. But in the chaotic realm known as reality, many of the problems simply don’t fit. One such problem–how to deal with unsolved homicides.

From the

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Saving your own life

It was a rainy day outside and the gym was filling up faster than usual. In the myriad groups of people clustered together before the yoga class, several women with graying hair carried out an animated conversation occasionally punctuated with laughter. As the class started, they parted with a mutual promise to meet for coffee later.

One of the women separated herself from the group to begin the stretching exercises. For her the yoga class, much like chatting over coffee, was a ritual that provided comfort and substance to her day. She began her exercises with an enthusiasm common to most active people–she pulled and pushed, squatted and reached, and like so many mornings her body began to wake up.

But at the apex of an arm stretch she felt something completely different. It was a slight burning sensation on the left side of her chest, and it was unlike any of the other daily aches and pains associated with advancing age and more than a touch of arthritis.

She could have chalked the pain up to a pulled muscle, rolled up her mat and gone home. She could have forgotten about it in the chaos of daily life and never thought of it again.

But she didn’t. Despite having passed a recent physical, and following a lifetime of careful prevention, she decided to get it checked out. And that is how yoga class, and good sense, saved my mother’s life.

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Let the sun shine, minus the crime

When the sun shines down, as it occasionally does here in the Northwest, its densely packed clusters of photons do a lot more than just deliver a megadose of Vitamin D.

The results are a mixed bag as sunbeams turn houses inside out and people spill forth. Many use the invigorating power of sunbeams for summer activities such as outdoor sports, barbeques, parties and events that can only be done outside.

A small percentage of people, whose summer activies are always anticipated at the cop shop, meander along the heated pavement and contribute to the seasonal spike in street crime.

Like the Taliban awaiting the Spring fighting season, much of the crime stats spike during the long, hot (or at least warm) summer days. Some of the criminal activities that move outside during the summer include drug dealing, tagging, random street crime and gang shootings.

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Every religion’s common ground: extremists

While reading the Trib on 8/11 I noticed an interesting and unintended juxtaposition of stories. The first concerned the depraved legal story that is Warren Jeffs’, the so-called leader of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS). The second was Kathleen Parker’s column, which included a brief reflection on Mitt Romney’s life as a member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

The only connection between the two articles was the subjects’ relationship to the Mormon church, with Jeffs clinging to a distortion of its past and Romney exemplifying its present. But what struck me was the fundamental tag attached to Jeffs’ cultish version. Religious fundamentalists, a term now synonymous with extremists, can be found in virtually every religion incuding Mormonism. These extremists have formed many splinter groups, many of whom have taken their message abroad through violence.

But in this post 9/11 world we are all well aware of that fact. However, in our chase for the boogeyman, a male subject of dark complexion, Arabic origin and Islamic persuasion, we often overlook violent examples whose appearance is strikingly similar to the one staring back from the average American mirror.

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911 is broken, just not everywhere

Third in a series inspired by readers’ requests

“Nothing is certain in this world but death and taxes.”  Benjamin Franklin

As an inventor, journalist, diplomat and turkey-lover, Mr. Franklin was quite the Renaissance man. Though he is currently more occupied with the former condition (death), I doubt he would be greatly surprised at the current discussion regarding an increase in the latter–more specifically, the proposed sales tax vote to cover a new 911 system.

With apologies to Ben, there should never be certainty about an increase in taxes. Any measure that provides the government with deeper access to our collective wallets should be properly vetted and justifiably explained.

In the case of the new South Sound 911 tax proposal, at least one question remains.

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