This Job Is Murder!
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|The following vignette is based on a case where the author has
been retained as an expert witness. The example involves violence
in the workplace.
Some 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.
Comments, feedback, questions and inquiries are welcome.
Publication Pending, ©Copyright 2002 J. R. Roberts, Security
Case Two: "Mindy" PDF
At 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
"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, well, afraid."
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
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 facilities.
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.
Sgt. 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.
Human 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.
Consider the following:
¨ 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
Courts 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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By J. R. Roberts Google