This Job Is Murder!
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following vignette is based on a case where the author has
been retained as an expert witness. The example involves
violence in the workplace.
alterations of fact patterns have been deliberately made in
order to protect families, and preserve settlement agreements.
This is a work in progress, and new cases will be added regularly.
feedback, questions and inquiries are welcome.
Publication Pending, ©Copyright2002 J. R. Roberts, Security Strategies
Two: "Mindy" PDF
20 years of age, Mindy was more than pretty.
She was the daughter of middle class working parents who were much
older when their only child arrived in the world. Mother and father
both doted on Mindy. Even to the point of overprotection, according
to many of her friends.
"High school was hard on her." One of them remembered.
"She wasn't allowed to date until her senior year. They wouldn't
let her drive until then, either. I mean, don't get me wrong. Her
parents loved her. But they clung to her so much. Always supervising
and controlling her life. It made her different. She always was,
Two years out of high school and living at home, Mindy was attending
a local junior college. After months of coercion and cajoling, she
finally persuaded her reluctant parents to allow her to take a part
time job at a family portrait studio at a mall near the house.
Mindy loved her work. She had an interest and talent in photography,
and her shyness seemed to fall away when she worked with the children.
Her parents called her every day when she worked, and her father
brought her lunch in the afternoon.
Many evenings, he would drive to the mall when she got off work,
and follow her home. The large strip mall was located near a gated
residential community, and had no prior history of serious violent
crime. Off duty police officers patrolled the mall and always made
a point of coming in to the portrait studio to say hello and check
on the beautiful young woman. Some of the other employees even joked
that the officers seemed to pay special attention to Mindy.
It was not unusual during slow times at the studio for only one
employee to run the tiny shop. On such occasions Mindy passed the
time by taking photographs, scheduling appointments, or chatting
on the phone with her girlfriends.
It was while she was on such a phone call on a Wednesday afternoon
that a man entered the shop. Over 6'7", the man ducked his
head to clear the doorway. The young woman kept her friend on the
telephone while she tended to the customer. After some moments she
returned to the phone, sounding shaken. "That was really weird."
She reportedly related to her friend. "This huge guy came in
and said he wanted some pictures taken of his family.
He asked what kind of backdrops we had, and then, he said he wanted
to see the changing area in the back. He walked back there and looked
around. Then he came back out and said he'd return later and left.
It was really strange." The girls finished talking and Mindy
prepared to close up for the day. The shop was hardly a cash business,
with most clients paying by check or credit card. Her father arrived
by the time she had prepared the deposit and escorted her home.
Mindy didn't discuss the unusual event with her parents, but she
did phone the manager of the store later that evening. The family
portrait industry was a fiercely competitive one, and the manager
was at first concerned that a rival was attempting to evaluate their
Neither Mindy, nor her manager discussed or considered phoning the
police. Something about the incident haunted Mindy, and still later
in the evening she again spoke with a friend. "It was as though
she had a premonition. I didn't pay as much attention as I might
have because Mindy was always jumpy about something."
The next afternoon, Mindy was back at work.
Rivera was completing his patrol rounds at the mall. He stuck
his head into the photography studio to say hello and chatted briefly
with Mindy. He then headed to the opposite end of the mall where he
confirmed that the relief officer had come on duty.
Rivera changed into his uniform to prepare to go on shift for the
police department. As he reached the edge of the parking lot in his
police car, he heard a call broadcast to all unit advising them of
a shooting. He did a double take when he heard the address.
It was the portrait studio he had left no more than ten minutes before.
"In 9 years on the police force, this crime scene was one of
the saddest I have ever responded to." Rivera would testify at
the criminal trial that followed.
The policeman arrived to find Mindy, dead on the floor. Her father
was about 10 feet away. He had been shot in the face by a high caliber
handgun. Miraculously, he survived his injuries. From eyewitnesses,
investigators were able to piece together the deadly episode.
Mindy's parents arrived at the shopping center a little after 4 o'clock
in order to bring her a sandwich. The mother stayed in the car. As
her father entered the store, he saw a large man holding a gun. To
one side stood Mindy, stripped to her undergarments. Crying out, the
father started forward, at which point the assailant shot Mindy twice,
then turned the gun on the father and emptied it in his direction,
hitting him several times. The perpetrator then fled out the back
door of the studio.
A canvass of the area resulted in discovery of the murder weapon within
two hours. Less than 30 minutes after that, police held a suspect
in custody who was positively identified by eyewitnesses, tested positive
for gunpowder residue, and whose fingerprints were on the weapon and
at the scene.
After two years, and in order to avoid a death penalty prosecution,
Mindy's murderer pled guilty and is currently serving a life sentence
in prison. A year later, Mindy's parents filed a civil suit against
a number of defendants, including the operators of the portrait studio.
nature rejects tragedy. We all want to believe that we have the
power to avoid or prevent the kind of brutal, senseless, random
act of violence that is described in this particular scenario.
As a security consultant, I have spent much of my adult life advising
people of precautions and protective measures. The undeniable truth
remains, that some things are beyond our control.
¨ The mall was located
in a "good" area of the community
¨ There was an absence
of prior similar (or even serious) crime
¨ The assault took
place in the middle of the afternoon
¨ The target was unlikely.
A family portrait shop that did not carry cash and was located in
the middle of a busy mall
¨ The shopping center
was patrolled by off duty police officers who knew and regularly
checked on the tenants
¨ The assailant had
no previous criminal history or arrests
¨ The assailant used
one of two guns that he legally owned and that were duly registered
throughout the country have almost universally held that the owner
and operator of a facility has an obligation to maintain "a
reasonable standard of care" when it comes to providing for
the safety, security, and well-being of tenants and patrons.
Sometimes those standards are more easily evaluated than others.
It is the opinion of this author, that the events previously described
were neither foreseeable nor preventable, but rather, the random,
violent actions of a determined third party. This type of "intervening
causation" is almost impossible to predict or deter.
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