Read some excerpts.

Chapter 3 (Excerpts)

The Milwaukee Police Department’s Police Administration Building is located on the southwest corner of James Lovell Drive and West State Street. The building—an example of architecture done on the cheap—resembles an old computer punch card. Built in the 1960s, the drab slabs of concrete fascia had endured a prolonged life expectancy. The structure’s poor design has made it difficult to install new technologies. The office of the Chief of Police is located on the Seventh floor. Even though many officers talk about the decisions made ‘by the 7th floor,’ most have never seen the inside of the chief’s office. After exiting the elevator on the building’s last public floor, visitors need to cross a short, eight foot hallway, and enter a door leading to a large open area, shared by members of the chief’s staff. A smaller office to the left—occupied by the chief’s secretary—leads into the actual chief’s office, which is quite large. The room could easily accommodate fifteen people. The chief’s desk faces the east, permitting a view of the downtown skyline through a bank of windows. The large desk is made of handsome dark wood. The chair behind the desk has a high back and is upholstered with black leather. The book shelves along the west wall display community awards, pictures of the chief and his family, as well as certificates of achievement.


The current Chief of Police, Jim Grayson, had occupied this room for almost six years. A former inspector with the Cleveland Police Department, Milwaukee’s mayor and the Common Council believed that Grayson would infuse new ideas into the department, which was racially divided and nationally recognized as a technological backwater. Grayson—over six feet tall and fit—was of mixed race. His father was white and his mother black. In the minds of some members of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, it would take a man of Grayson’s demographic make-up to bridge the divide. After years of acrimony within the halls of the PAB, the city was hoping it had hired a solid consensus builder.


While the many of the men and women of the department considered him a firm but fair leader, the chief’s administrative record was, at best, mediocre. The white males on the department viewed many of his command staff promotions as politically correct, while minority officers perceived the chief as a sellout. The union defeated Grayson’s attempts to have officers rotate shifts every four months. To make matters worse, the new computer assisted dispatch system—with a price tag of over $9 million—was full of bugs. In the chief’s mind, it was time to move on and, with the exception of teaching a few classes, retire from law enforcement.


On his agenda this morning was a meeting regarding the suicide investigation of Officer Douglas St. John. On a national level, police officer suicides are not unusual. The job, as it’s referred to by those it employs, sometimes devours persons unable to deal with the stress of the profession. All too often, family life is put on the back burner when the job dictates long hours and requires officers to work nights, weekends, and holidays. By the sheer number of child support wage garnishments paid by members of his department, Grayson was well aware that divorce was one of the hazards of wearing a badge. Along with divorce came family separation, which often leads to depression.


Officer St. John’s situation, however, didn’t meet the usual criteria of an officer in crisis. He wasn’t married, had no children, and was on solid financial footing. While alcohol was obviously present at the scene of his suicide, his neighbors and friends said that, while St. John occasionally drank, they didn’t view his alcohol consumption as a problem. The chief of police was, therefore, looking for answers. Just as important as bringing closure to the case, Grayson believed that his department needed to study this tragedy to develop an aggressive intervention strategy for future officers.


Seated across from Grayson’s desk were Andrew Goggins, the captain of the Professional Performance Division, formerly known as Internal Affairs; David Dewillers, St. John’s commanding officer at District Four; and Brian Rasmussen, the deputy chief of the Detective Bureau, all of whom had been promoted to their current ranks by the sitting chief.


After exchanging pleasantries and small talk, Grayson quickly focused on the purpose at hand. “As you know, the reason I asked each of you here today,” said the chief, “is to see if we can resolve any issues surrounding this officer related suicide. Brian tells me that his homicide detectives have uncovered little, so far, as to why this officer killed himself.”


Rasmussen, taking his cue, quickly piped-up. “The initial investigation hasn’t resulted in any of the obvious signs of depression, suicidal thoughts, or other psychiatric problems. As the holidays approach, we’ve been hit with a rash of shootings and homicides. That being said, my detectives haven’t had a sufficient amount of time to cover all the bases yet.”


“Brian,’ Grayson interjected, “I sympathize with your case load. You guys have been hit pretty hard down there as of late. But I want a priority put on this case. The family of this officer is searching for answers, and, if he were my son, I’d be doing the same. Who’s working the case?”


“That would be Frederickson and Donnell, chief,” Rasmussen answered. “They’re two of our best.”


“It’s as good as done, sir,” Rasmussen muttered, even though he knew the chief’s decision wouldn’t resonate well with his troops, and that his lieutenants, not the chief, would need to deal with the complaints.


“Andy,” the chief asked, “anything in this guy’s IA jacket?”


“For the most part, chief,” Goggins replied, “his jacket is relatively clean. He took a day for idling and loafing in 1998. According the complaint, he fell asleep in his squad at 4:30 a.m. while writing a parking ticket on Maryland Avenue. When he was awoken an hour later by a concerned citizen, the car he was issuing the ticket to had left.”


“Anything else?” Grayson asked.


“He received three PD-30s,” Goggins said, in reference to the departmental form akin to receiving an official slap on the wrist. “One for missing court in 2002, another for not wearing his uniform cap while directing traffic, and one more for throwing a round off at the range in 2004. Otherwise, I’d say he has a fairly clean jacket.”


“Dave,” said Grayson, redirecting his questions, “what can you tell me?”


“I thought of him as a decent kid.” Dewillers said. “His work product wasn’t outstanding, but it was more than adequate. He got along well with others, including the office staff. He was transferred to Number Four two years ago and worked a one man car out on the far northwest end.”


“For now,” instructed the chief, “the ball will remain in the detectives’ court. Brian, I expect to hear from you either way within a week. Is that reasonable?”


“It sure is, chief,” Rasmussen replied. The deputy chief wasn’t totally a yes man, but he was confident that two of his detectives—devoting forty hours of resources—could bring closure to an open-and-shut case of suicide.

Back to top

Chapter 7 (Excerpts)

The church was bursting at the seams. Read in Spanish, the popular Christmas Eve Mass at St. Mark’s attracted immigrants from several Latin American countries and the Caribbean. No matter how poor, most of those present were dressed appropriately, setting an example—Father Stan Grabecki believed—for many of the outlying, well-to-do parishes in the archdiocese, where many teenagers attending Mass looked as if they had just rolled out of bed. The red brick building, constructed in the 1920s by predominantly Polish parishioners, was easily 200 people over capacity.


During the 1980s, when the members of the Polish community began moving farther south and into the suburbs of West Allis, South Milwaukee, and Cudahy, the families of Mexican immigrants began filling the pews on Sundays. When the floodgates of illegal immigration sprung open in the 1990s, Hispanic families at St. Mark’s soon outnumbered the remaining elderly Polish parishioners.


To deal with these changes, the archdiocese later brought in Father Stan. Born and raised in Chicago, Grabecki learned to speak Spanish while working in some of the Windy City’s poorest neighborhoods. But Father Stan did more than just minister. He enlisted the assistance of Catholic lawyers to obtain the government documentation immigrants needed to for employment. After establishing two of the first Spanish speaking parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Church bureaucracy sent him 90 miles north to Milwaukee. Its finances a mess, Father Stan had two years to turn things around. If he failed, the archdiocese threatened to close St. Mark’s and merge the parish with three others.


Not only had he become a fund raiser, part-time English as a second language instructor, and a grant writer, Father Stan also learned the art of peace making. Witnessing a rerun of what he had seen in Chicago fifteen years previous, the parish priest reached out to young people involved in gang activity. When things on the streets began to boil over, Father Stan used his influence to broker various back alley agreements, which probably saved a few lives.


Even though St. Mark’s was known as a community sanctuary, for over a year Father Stan and his parish dealt with the consequences of a no holds barred power struggle between two street gangs—the Latin Maniacs and Los Dominicanos. Having presided over the burials of six young men killed in gang warfare, the priest prayed for a resolution to the conflict and sought the assistance of community leaders.


“It’s Christmas Eve,” Father Stan said in Spanish, “may there be peace on Earth and good will toward men. This Mass is ended. Go in peace.” As the priest made the sign of the cross, the organist began playing Noel. Even in this neighborhood overwhelmed by poverty and other social problems, the celebration the Christ child’s birth managed to temporarily put many of these other issues on the backburner.


Father Stan then led the procession down the aisle to rear of the church. After reaching his destination near the building’s large wooden door, the priest stood and greeted the parishioners as they exited. “Feliz Navidad! Feliz Navidad!”


Outside St. Mark’s, dozens of worshippers descended down a series of steps to the sidewalk where they waited for friends and relatives. With temperatures in the high teens, a man clad in a black hooded jacket and a large scarf stood inconspicuously off to the side, as if he were waiting to meet a family member.


Nineteen year-old Marcos Padilla shared a laughed with his girlfriend as the two ventured out of St. Mark’s. From the rear, Padilla felt someone tap him on the shoulder. When he turned the only person present was an elderly woman. Padilla then looked forward and saw the man with the black hood directly in front of him.


“Muerte!” shouted the man as he pointed a large black pistol at Padilla’s chest and pulled the trigger. “Bammmmmmm!” echoed the shot, fired from only a few feet away. Padilla fell to the ground, as blood from the chest cavity soaked his starched white dress shirt. “Oh, God!” screamed Padilla’s girlfriend, Lucia Cano. “They’ve shot Marcos!”


The scene became chaotic as hundreds of innocent parishioners—unsure of what transpired—fled the area or sought cover, while the man with the black hood ran south, down a sidewalk, unabated. Lucia Cano removed a red and green scarf from around her neck and plugged the hole in her boyfriend’s chest. “Breathe, Marcos, breathe!” Cano shouted, using her right hand to apply direct pressure over the wound.


“Gahhhhhhaaaa,” was the last noise Marcos Padilla would ever utter. His body slowly went limp, and he died. The warm blood from Padilla’s body caused an eerie steam to rise from the cold cement platform.

Back to top

Chapter 12 (Excerpts)

[Detective Gavin] Fitzgerald made his way down the slippery sidewalk towards the barber shop. Passing a brown wooden bungalow, he noticed Jack Polzin knocking on a front door. “Any luck so far, Jack?”


“It’s amazing,” Polzin sarcastically replied, “according to the census bureau, unemployment in this neighborhood hovers at around 17 percent, but so far, not a single person has opened their door. So I see they’re calling all the heavy hitters in on this one. Isn’t it your regular day off?”

“It sure is, Jack.”


“You early shifters get all the OT.”


As he approached the front door, Fitzgerald saw the sergeant standing just inside. “Are you Fitzgerald?” the sergeant asked.


“In the flesh.”


“I’m Terek Golden. Frederickson is down the street talking to a witness. He asked that you start processing the scene.”


“No problem, serge,” Fitzgerald added, as he placed a pair of rubber gloves over his hands. “It beats standing on a cold perimeter.”


Tolivar’s body remained slumped over the barber’s chair. An entry wound was easily visible of the left side of the head. The exit wound on the right side—obstructed in part by black hair—sprayed brain matter onto a wall four feet away.


“What kind of canon did this guy get blasted with?” Fitzgerald asked.


“Preliminaries from the witness—the owner of the shop—indicate a large caliber revolver,” said Officer Jon Seymour. “The witness said that a masked man entered the front door, fired, and exited out the same door.”

“I see that the shooter tracked up the floor,” Fitzgerald noted. “I’m guessing he was in too much of a hurry to wipe his feet.” The detective reached into his coat pocket, removed a small tape measurer, and ran it alongside one of the foot prints. “The slush makes it a little difficult to be precise, but I’d say a size 10 ½ shoe.”


“If we’re lucky,” Seymour added, “that black glove three feet from the door is the suspect’s.”


Golden laughed. “Either that or the culprit is Michael Jackson.”


“Is there any video here?” Fitzgerald inquired.


“Are you kidding,” replied Seymour, pointing to an item on the counter. “The Peruvian barber still uses a rotary phone. Pedro hasn’t entered the touch tone era, let alone the video age.”


On the wall, approximately two feet below the smattering of brain matter, Fitzgerald observed a small hole in the dry wall. “I think we have a round in the wall. That’s a good thing. We can dig that one out. Since he didn’t leave behind any shell casings with that revolver, at least he was nice enough to deposit a round we can recover before the autopsy. No money was taken, correct?”


“The barber claims nothing was taken,” said the officer. “Following the shooting, the suspect—after pointing the gun at the witness—exited.”


The force of the blast sent white shaving cream to the floor five feet away. Tolivar was clad in a blue hooded sweatshirt, not the usual cold weather outer garment. The detective observed a coat rack to the right of the front door. “Did anyone check the jacket hanging on the coat rack?”


“No,” Golden answered. “I instructed everyone to simply secure the scene and wait for the bureau.”


Fitzgerald removed the garment from the rack. The jacket felt unusually heavy. Peering inside, the detective saw a black pistol tucked into the inner left breast pocket. “You would have thought that a paranoid bastard like Fat Frankie wouldn’t have left his strap that far away.”


A man in a suit then entered the shop’s front door. “Good morning, gentlemen. I’m Scott Williams from the ME’s office.”


“Good morning, as well,” replied Golden. “Welcome to our crime scene, sir,”


Williams laughed. “You’re very cordial today, sergeant. So, what is it: a gangland murder, a drug deal gone bad, or an argument over a haircut?”


“You know what they say,” Golden added, “your first guess is usually the best.” Williams glanced around the room. “Has the scene been photographed?”


“No, we’re still waiting for B. of I.,” replied Fitzgerald, “It’s been a busy day. I guess you could say they’re knockin’ ‘em dead.”


Carl Laquette caught a break. An elderly woman, living five doors to the south, caught a glimpse of the suspect. “I was in the kitchen getting ready to wash dishes,” the woman explained, “when I saw a man standing in my gangway. I watched him and he went down the sidewalk and stood at the front of the house near the street, like he was waiting for someone.”


“Can you tell me what he looked like?” asked Laquette, seated on a living room sofa. “Start by describing him from the top of his head downward.”


Suffering from Parkinson’s disease, the Hispanic woman’s hands began shaking. “I’d say he was Puerto Rican. He had on a black knit hat. He looked clean shaven. I think I saw an earring in his left ear as he walked by.” The woman’s eyes looked upward as she searched her memory. “He had on a long black jacket. I’d say it was too big for him. He looked thin, and he had on darker blue jeans.” “How old do you think he was?” asked Laquette.


“I’m guessin’ mid-twenties. It’s tough to say sometimes with Puerto Ricans. If he were Mexican, I’d be able to tell you.”


“Ma’am, how tall would you say he was?”


“Oh, it’s hard to say standing by the kitchen window,” said the woman, trying her best to recall. “I’m thinkin’ maybe six feet or there abouts.”


“What did he do after you observed him in the gangway?”


“I’m not sure, officer. He just kind of looked around the corner, like he was watchin’ somebody or lookin’ for somebody and then I lost sight of him.”


“Would it be okay if I took a look outside your kitchen window?”


“Sure, officer, go ahead.”


Laquette walked into the small kitchen. Eight inches taller than the woman, he could clearly see the end of the Muskego Avenue from the window. “Which way did he look—to this side of the house or that side?” asked the officer, as he faced to the front of the house, his arms to point in each direction.


“He looked to that side,” the woman responded, tapping Laquette’s left arm.


“Towards the barber shop, ma’am?”


“Yeah, that way. I’m positive of that.”


Looking towards the ground, Laquette observed a dozen or so foot prints in the snow. “If you saw this man again,” the officer paused, “could you identify him?”


“I don’t know. I only saw him for a few seconds. If I did, I’d call the police right away.”


“Ma’am, if you don’t mind, we’d like to secure your gangway. We’re going to have to process this area—take some pictures and the like—if that’s okay with you?”


“You do what you have to do,” the woman said, as she once again began shaking, while holding a rosary in her right hand. “I ain’t afraid of them. With this disease, it won’t be long before Jesus is callin’ me home.”

Back to top