A night in the life of an evidence technician in Stockton, CA
|An Evidence Technician, especially one who works the night shift, generally likes it quiet. She also prefers it a little cooler than August usually gets in Stockton. However, she doesn’t always get what she prefers. |
It had been fairly quiet so far, and it’s been cool in the evenings. Everyone’s temperature seemed to have been going down. My first call this evening had been to collect evidence at a drive-by shooting, but when I got there I found the only victims were three cars at 1148 N. Edison. It took less than half an hour to photograph the cars while officers collected bullet casings. I learned the residents claimed to have no idea who might have done the shooting; in Stockton, the residents usually don’t seem to know much of anything.
I’m Myrna Reilly, and I’ve been an Evidence Tech with the Stockton PD for over six years. I love my job but, like most emergency-related jobs, there’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait.
Several hours went by this evening with no new calls and I was catching up on my paperwork. Suddenly, it felt as if the evening might be heating up again. My partner, Elizabeth, and I were sitting in the office just before 11 p.m. when the call came in that shots had been fired at 1148 N. Edison. Elizabeth and I looked at each other – it was the same address as the earlier drive-by. The dispatcher said she could hear shots in the background.
As we waited for a request from the scene, we listened as the dispatcher took new calls. They were coming in very quickly – a call claiming a victim had been shot in the leg, another that someone had been shot in the hand. The next caller reported she had heard shots in the courtyard. One caller claimed they were in the halls. Then gunshots were coming from inside apartments in the complex.
Two-thirds of the police force were now headed in that direction as Elizabeth and I listened to the dispatch radio, ready to respond when we were called. The dispatcher took a call from a responding officer who said there had been more shooting, and one victim was shot in the head.
Elizabeth and I looked at each other and I yelled, “GSRs (gunshot residues),” and grabbed a bag of test material.
“Film,” screeched Elizabeth, and we filled our pockets with as many rolls as we could.
We figured we'd be “GSR’ing” (testing) the whole complex with all the shooting that was going on. We heard more calls about shots in the hallways, and I grabbed a box of small evidence envelopes.
The dispatcher reported that several people were running to other buildings in the complex. Officers were there, searching for blood trails. Then we heard they were conducting a door-to-door, and we grabbed extra flashlights and batteries. It looked like we might be there for hours.
My desk was piling up with spare equipment. Elizabeth was running around looking for her pop tarts, which she carried in case she needed to stay at a scene through her mealtime.
I was planning my strategy aloud: "I'll hit the hospitals and do photos and GSRs, then I’ll head back to the scene. You take the scene, start with GSRs if you can."
She nodded. If we could split up, it was her turn to go to the scene.
Finally, the call for Field Evidence Techs came in and Elizabeth headed for the apartments. So far, it appeared only one victim had gone to the hospital – a shot to the head.
I arrived at Stockton General before they had called, and Sergeant Yamada met me, saying, "We were just calling you. Sorry, but we’re going to need you to GSR this victim, too."
Whipping out my gunshot residue test equipment, I said, "I’m ready."
"You're awesome," he responded. "Victim was shot in the head, but she's all right." It was one of those in-the-front, over-the-top, out-the-back wounds. She was pretty vocal for someone who’d just been shot in the head. She hollered at the top of her voice to get her husband, get her kids in bed, get her head fixed!
I finished up at the hospital and headed to the scene, but by the time I got there, it appeared to be under control. The Officer In Charge there directed me to a different building where they were holding some suspects and needed more GSRs. As I was finishing up there, Elizabeth called; she had secured the scene and was heading back to the station.
Once back at the PD, the officers booked everything in just a few minutes and by midnight we were finished. The whole forensics collection process had taken less than an hour!
Well, it had seemed like a horrific call in the beginning; in Stockton, you can never tell.