Archive for January, 2013

The Wonderful World of Book Publishing

Whether it is teaching, criminal investigations, academic administration, or probing complex cases of financial fraud, publishing is admittedly one of the more difficult endeavors that I have undertaken.

In early December, my latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, went live at  To be successful in the book business, an author must engage in endless self-promotion—the goal of which is making a writer’s name into a brand synonymous with a particular theme.

Prior to taking the writing plunge, I rarely, if ever, felt the need to toot my own horn. Instead, I preferred to have my body of work speak for itself. In the book world, however, where writers delving into the genre of crime have thousands of competitors, authors are always on the lookout for methods to improve their marketing platforms.

One of the ways to do so is assisting other authors, many of whom are struggling to reach the next rung on the publishing ladder.

Last October, Arcadia Books released Wisconsin author Gavin Schmitt’s book Milwaukee Mafia.  I was privileged to have an opportunity to write the forward for this interesting pictorial of Brew City wise guys (see the below link):

On Thursday, a young woman from my publishing company requested that I take a look at an outline and the first three chapters of a manuscript for a yet-to-be-named novel by Mitchell Nevin.

In the past, I’ve spoken highly of Nevin’s first book, The Cozen Protocol, and its Milwaukee-based theme that explores the political fallout from an ongoing gang war and the Milwaukee Police Department’s subsequent response. In Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, I noted that Mitchell Nevin is a pseudonym for the actual author.  On this blog, many current or former Milwaukee coppers later chimed-in to speculate about the author’s actual identity.

I later discussed The Cozen Protocol and the mystery behind the author with WUWM’s Stephanie Lecci.

After reading the outline for Nevin’s new book—scheduled for release sometime this fall—I am willing to go out on a limb and predict that this novel will become an Amazon best seller.

Since I promised my publisher that I would keep the cards to Nevin’s latest work close to my vest, I will disclose only this much: that four of the main characters weaved into the plot are a Milwaukee area baseball pitcher; a Chicago PD sergeant gone, well, just kind of bad; a Hispanic cook, and a personable white collar criminal of Italian lineage.  The venue is America’s heartland, as portions of the novel occur in Milwaukee, Chicago, the Twin Cities, Platteville, Eau Claire, the Minnesota towns of Red Wing and Albert Lea, and Minot, North Dakota.

In other words, Nevin’s new novel probably won’t play well with the elites on east and west coasts, where the lives of those of us residing in fly over country are considered too mundane and culturally unfulfilling (or, as one of my long retired old-school sergeants used to say, “We’ve got a lot fewer goofs living here”).

If you’re a reader into the oddities of the criminal justice system, psychic phenomena, solid dialog, and good cop-bad cop, Nevin’s still unnamed book has all the markings of a great read.

So mark your calendars.

In the interim, I will keep plugging away at this writing and publishing thing.  Sometimes, as I explained in a recent Facebook post, writing a book is like banging your head against a wall—it feels good when you stop.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, please visit:

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

The Military Draft, Big Brother, and Government Abuse

At a time when the U.S. is, according to President Obama, “winding down two wars,” why did Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suddenly feel the need to clear the way for women to serve in combat?

Reports suggest the change might open as many as 230,000 combat billets to women.

Is the DOD’s move another step in the direction of gender equality or should a skeptical public read between the lines on the lookout for a hidden agenda?

Although Secretary Panetta’s move will undoubtedly be applauded by groups championing the rights of women, legal experts predict that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment will likely require women, when attaining the age of 18, to register for the selective service (that’s the military draft for those too young to recall such a thing).

Federal law currently requires all American male citizens to register for the selective service at age 18, even if they have prior military experience. If they fail to do so, they are ineligible for a host of benefits, including guaranteed student loans.

But, why now—at a time when American military contingents in Iraq and Afghanistan are noticeably shrinking—would the DOD feel the need to expand the ranks of those eligible for combat readiness?

In November 2012, the Jerusalem Post published a report premised on a scenario created by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) simulating the geopolitical response to a unilateral Israeli military strike against Iran.

Many military analysts believe that an Israeli attack to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities would likely have a six day window before the allies of Islamic republic—primarily Russia and China—would threaten to send in forces and expand the conflict.  While the United States would use it’s military and diplomatic resources to defend Israel, if the conflict is not contained, it might engulf the entire Middle East and ignite another world war.

Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan pushed American military reserve units to the brink of burnout, the U.S. military would likely need at least 500,000 bodies to fill-in its ranks during a protracted military conflict involving another world power.

Many of these military combat billets, such as those aboard naval ships and others in the Air Force, could quickly and easily be filled by women, freeing-up males for infantry duty in the Army and Marine Corps.

No matter what the political class claims in public, an war in the Middle East would likely trigger the implementation of the selective service draft for both men and women, which is probably why the Pentagon is lifting its ban on the role of women in combat. The pool of potential combat enlistees, as well as those now eligible for the draft, just instantly doubled.

More on the Big Brother Technological Front

Earlier this month, SF chastised New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for their support of Orwellian policies that have slowly turned the Empire State and the Big Apple into a virtual electronic iron curtain.

Now the NYPD is testing a new device that allows its officers to detect concealed weapons on a person simply walking down the street. This instrument tests for “terahertz radiation,” which translates into heat being measured from the body. A reduction in the level of body heat when blocked by an item, such as a concealed handgun, will result in the object being outlined on the instrument’s monitor.

Having chided the NYPD in an earlier post for its random stop-and-frisk policy—one that a federal judge recently ruled violates the Fourth Amendment—this new device will likely prevent otherwise innocent parties—at least those suspected of carrying weapons—from being stopped and searched.  Yet the question remains: is it a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches when a government agent—absent a reasonable suspicion of wrong doing—randomly points an object in one’s direction in order to see through their clothing?

Why Trusting the Government to Protect Your Privacy is Bad Policy

In Wisconsin, Gov. Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen are on a crusade to expand the use of DNA collection.  Wisconsin law currently permits law enforcement to collect DNA samples from those convicted of felonies. The governor and the attorney general now want the legislature to approve a measure that would require those arrested for a felony or convicted of any misdemeanor, no matter how minor, to submit a DNA sample.

“As attorney general, I am committed to protecting the privacy of offenders’ genetic information,” Van Hollen wrote in an Op-Ed published in various state newspapers. “My proposal does not change any restrictions that limit the release or use of the collected specimens or DNA profiles for any purpose other than legitimate criminal justice purposes. Further, this proposal also contains provisions that require the CLB to destroy DNA specimens and purge the related profile in the DNA data bank of those offenders whose DNA has been collected at arrest and who were not charged with the crime, or, if charged, were not convicted of a crime.”

In reality, however, the attorney general is being a little disingenuous, as his proposal, if enacted by the legislature, would immediately dispatch collected DNA samples to CODIS—the federal government’s national DNA databank. While the state may purge a particular profile from its DNA database, it will take an act of congress to purge the same DNA sample from CODIS.

Moreover, a recent report from Florida paints a troubling picture of abuse that the government promised it would prohibit. A report from the Orlando Sentinel spotlights the unlawful access of information obtained from the State of Florida’s Driving and Vehicle Information Database (DAVID) by law enforcement officers.

One police officer in Florida unlawfully used DAVID to check on the information of a bank teller he had flirted with by conducting a search of her first name, place of employment, and race (the DAVID system is apparently very expansive). In another instance, over 20 searches for information pertaining to Casey Anthony occurred unrelated to a sanctioned investigation.,0,7247843.story?page=2

In today’s politically charged environment, one can only imagine how government agents—those with tentacles to either political party—might misuse information contained in a DNA profile to blackball a citizen who dares challenge a member of the political class.

Such was the case with Joe the Plumber, who simply asked a question of candidate Obama during a 2008 campaign stop in Ohio.  Within hours, a Democrat Party hack, who was also the director of a governmental agency, accessed a State of Ohio database, unlawfully obtained Joe’s personal information, and leaked the details.

But instead of firing the operative who unlawfully violated Joe the Plumber’s privacy, Gov. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio) gave the perpetrator, Helen Jones-Kelley, the Ohio Director of the Department of Job and Family Services, a slap-on-the-wrist suspension.

Personal information in the hands of the government is only a few key strokes away from the eyes of the nearest political operative, which is why putting one’s faith in a politician’s promise to protect personal privacy is akin to trusting a thief with a credit card—the difference being that the thief might actually get prosecuted.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, please visit:

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

Would ‘Drone Control’ Prevent More Innocent Deaths than an American Rifle Ban?

Drone Deaths

 Young children allegedly killed in a U.S. drone attack


The day after President Obama held a press conference to announce 23 new executive orders pertaining to gun violence, some statistics reveal that ‘drone control’ might result in more innocent lives being saved than a U.S. ban on high-powered rifles of all types.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, a total of 358 Americans were killed by rifles in 2010.

In the same year, it is estimated, on the high end, that 1,028 individuals were killed by U.S. drone attacks. While U.S. government data on the use of both foreign and domestically deployed drones remains classified, the New American Foundation estimates that 61 of those killed were civilians or “unknowns,” while 960 of the deceased were “militants.” Other sources claim that the Obama administration classifies “militants” as any adult male eligible for military service and/or any non-government representative in possession of a firearm.

Other organizations, such as The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, claim the Obama administration has used drone strikes to target those attending funerals and rescuers seeking to assist those injured in drone attacks.

A report from the left-wing magazine Mother Jones—typically an advocate for Obama administration policies—claims that only two percent of those targeted in drone attacks were hardened terrorists, which means, if just half of those who died in drone attacks in 2010 were soft targets or collateral deaths, then more civilians died as a result of U.S. drone attacks than were killed by rifles in the United States.

A hunch says Rachel Maddow will conveniently ignore these statistics when discussing the tragic deaths of young children.


Oklahoma is attempting to make the state a ‘drone free enterprise zone.’ A friend of SF, liberty activist Kaye Beach, appears in this television segment and makes a great point: before deploying drones domestically–equipped with infrared cameras than can see inside our homes–state legislatures should pass laws that criminalize the misuse of drones when used to violate our privacy absent exigent circumstances or a court order.

The Rutherford Institute produced this video highlighting the threat non-regulated drones pose to individual liberty and personal privacy.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, please visit:

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

The Sorry State of New York’s Nannies

Since the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, certain politicians, police chiefs, and talking heads have, like chameleons after an election, began to show their true colors on where they stand on the Second Amendment rights of Americans.

The debate over self-defense, government tyranny, and individual liberty, has spotlighted two of New York’s prominent big government, nanny-state politicians, namely Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael “Big Brother” Bloomberg.

Bloomberg, whose administration has transformed the Big Apple into a virtual police state, is clamoring for gun control (really gun confiscation), soda rationing, and, believe it or not, restrictions on pain medications for patients in “the city hospitals we control.”

A wealthy blowhard with armed security, Bloomberg obviously believes that the government—as opposed to those of us who get up every morning, go to work, pay our bills, and live our lives the way we sit fit—knows best.   

On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that that Bloomberg’s police department’s policy of simply stopping and frisking minorities outside of private residential buildings was unconstitutional.

“While it may be difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists,” wrote federal judge Shira A. Scheindlin, “and the N.Y.P.D. has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops outside TAP buildings in the Bronx.”

Ask any instructor of criminal law: the legal standard to conduct a stop-and-frisk is a reasonable and articulable suspicion that a person is armed. The last time I checked, New York City had not succeeded from the union, which means the Fourth Amendment is still applicable in Bloomberg’s fiefdom.

Bloomberg has also worked in partnership with the private sector to create a surveillance state that makes the dreadful tale of Orwell’s 1984 pale in comparison. In August, the mayor announced that the NYPD and Microsoft had partnered to create the “Domain Awareness System”—a network that will fuse data from facial recognition software, public and private surveillance cameras, automated license plate readers, radiation detectors, and chemical sensors, to create stored dossiers on individuals absent a reasonable suspicion of wrong doing.

“If a person has had radiation treatment for cancer and walks by a stationary censor or a copper with a detector,” one person in the know recently told me, “the NYPD will poke its nose into that person’s private life and their name will end up a database”—HIPAA be damned.

Not to be out done on the crackdown on individual liberty is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I don’t think a legitimate huntsman is going to say I need an assault weapon to go hunting,” Cuomo told Fred Dicker of radio 1300 AM in Albany.

And, if the governor were to aptly apply the actual definition of an “assault weapon,” he would be correct, as an “assault rifle” is one that fires more than one round with a single pull of the trigger—currently a felony under federal law unless the person in possession of such a weapon is licensed, a certified law enforcement officer, or engaged in authorized military exercises.

Moreover, Gov. Cuomo, who fancies himself as a 2016 contender for president, is advocating the seizure of firearms from law-abiding citizens.

“Confiscation could be an option,” Cuomo told Albany radio station WGDJ. “Mandatory sale to the state could be an option. Permitting could be an option — keep your gun, but permit it.”

In the America that is New York State, individuals will apparently soon need a permit to exercise their Constituional rights–a sad state of affairs in a state that is slowly morphing into an Orwellian abyss. 


“I fear the possibility of a tyranny rising in the country in the next 50 to 100 years. Let me tell you something, Piers. The fact that my grandparents and great-grandparents in Europe didn’t fear that is why they’re now ashes in Europe. This kind of leftist revisionist history where there’s no fear of democracy going userpatious or tyrannical, is just that. It’s fictitious.”

BEN SHAPIRO—during a heated exchange with CNN’s Piers Morgan that the Second Amendment is a check on government tyranny.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, please visit:

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

Voice of Reason Leaving WISN Radio

Justin Earl

Southeastern Wisconsin is blessed with many talented media-types. Unfortunately, one up-and-coming voice is leaving Clear Channel Communications, where he is heard primarily as the voice of Common Sense Central and on the news feeds for WISN radio. Justin Cleveland, better known by the radio moniker of Justin Earl, recently accepted an offer to become the spokesperson for the Republican majority in the Wisconsin assembly. He is also one of only two media-types in Wisconsin certified to review movies by the Broadcast Film Critics Association.  

Since SF focuses on issues of criminal justice import, I found Justin’s views on the state of criminal corrections particularly refreshing.  As a libertarian conservative, many of his takes at Common Sense Central hit the ball out of the park.

If you’re unfamiliar with Justin’s blog, checkout the following link:

To read his review of Zero Dark Thirty and other selected films, visit:


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, please visit:

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

Circumstantial Evidence, Homicide, and the Wrongfully Accused


                Brian Dorian                                                                                              

  In Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I, I profiled the case of the so-called “honey-bee shooter”—a lone gunman who murdered one man and shot another. Based on a physical description of the shooter and his vehicle, authorities in Will County, Illinois, later arrested Lynwood Police Officer Brian Dorian. A few days later, prosecutors charged Dorian with the homicide of a 45-year-old construction worker in rural Beecher.

The case against Dorian was circumstantial. At the time, I warned readers that “misidentifications are the primary cause for wrongful convictions.” Charges against Dorian were later dropped after a forensic examination of Dorian’s computer indicated that he was logged-in to a password accessible Web site at the time of one of the shootings.

Some, however, including “Louis 31,” who posted a comment on the Spingola Files Web site, insisted that the circumstantial evidence strongly implicated Dorian.

“Anybody could have been on the computer,” Louis 31 wrote. “Same truck, same clothes, got new tires the day after, 2nd sketch looks exactly like him [Brian Dorian], cell phone ping in cedar lake (about four miles from where the shooting occurred) from his phone. Pulled over in Scherillville, IN about 12 miles from the shooting in Indiana.”

Challenging Louis 31’s claims, I pointed out that Dorian—a police officer at the time of these shootings—would possess significant knowledge of the methods used by law enforcement to gather evidence. Why, I asked, would Dorian leave his cellular telephone on to ping off a tower during an unprovoked, thought out attack and go on a shooting spree in a vehicle that detective’s might easily identify as his own? Regardless of the circumstantial evidence, the case against Dorian didn’t pass the smell test.

And, sure enough, after spending more than a week in a Joliet jail and having his named dragged through the mud, the cloud of suspicion surrounding Dorian’s involvement in these shootings came to an end almost a month later when an armed man attempted to rob an L.A. Tan Salon in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park.  A customer, who entered the business during the commission of the crime, disarmed the would-be robber, and then shot the perpetrator—later identified as a 48-year-old rural Rankin, Illinois, man. The deceased, Gary Amaya, matched the physical description of the honey-bee shooter.  Amaya also drove a blue truck, consistent with the description of the vehicle leaving the homicide scene. Ballistics proved that the firearm recovered from the Orland Park salon matched the gun used in the honey-bee shootings.

“Circumstantial evidence has mistakenly convicted innocent people of serious crimes,” I noted at the time. “Over the course of the past year, reports abound of persons released from prison due to DNA testing.”

The 12-year anniversary of an unsolved homicide in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, bears a strong similarity to the pursuit of Brian Dorian, although, in this instance, the individual who committed the homicide(s) likely remains at-large.

On February 26, 2000, the body of 38-year-old Kathy Thompson was discovered on Laurel Avenue, not far from downtown Eau Claire. News and legal sources note that Thompson was strangled with a ligature—most likely a belt; her shirt and bra were pulled over her head exposing her breasts. Her sweater was located just a few feet from her head. Based on evidence at the scene, detectives believe that Thompson’s body was dumped after the woman was strangled to death at another location.

Thompson’s remains were found less than three hours after she was released from an Eau Claire jail at 3 a.m. She, along with her new husband, had been arrested after a bloody domestic brouhaha. Thompson’s husband—still behind bars during the commission of her murder—was obviously excluded as a suspect. Eau Claire detectives then focused their attention on those who might have an axe to grind with victim.  In short order, they found an individual with a plausible motive, 57-year-old former cop Evan Zimmerman.


                      Evan Zimmerman

A chronic alcoholic, investigators learned—to no surprise—that Zimmerman was highly intoxicated during the time period when Thompson went missing. Eau Claire detectives spent nearly a year attempting to debunk Zimmerman’s explanation for his whereabouts and believed a jury would see through the inconsistencies in his alibi. Moreover, one key witness, while under hypnosis, described a white van with a woman inside moving through the area that matched a vehicle owned by Zimmerman.

Only one key piece of evidence linked Zimmerman to Thompson: a hair belonging to Thompson found in a hairbrush inside Zimmerman’s van.  However, since Zimmerman and Thompson once dated and shared the van, finding Thompson’s hair would not necessarily include or exclude Zimmerman as a suspect.

The shaky circumstantial evidence aside, Zimmerman was charged and a jury later convicted him of murdering Thompson.

Soon afterwards, the Wisconsin Innocence Project began scrutinizing the evidence used to convict Zimmerman.  Investigators alleged that Zimmerman used a phone cord as a ligature to strangle Thompson, although Milwaukee County Medical Examiner Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen, who examined the ligature wounds, noted that marks on Thompson’s neck were likely made by a belt buckle. Zimmerman also owned a dog that he frequently transported in his van. While dog hair was found throughout Zimmerman’s van, not a single such hair was discovered on Thompson’s sweater. DNA located at the crime scene—from cigarette butts, hairs, and from Thompson’s fingernails did not belong to Zimmerman.

After examining the evidence, an appeals court vacated Zimmerman’s conviction. Absent the testimony of a key witness, prosecutors declined to retry the case.  A short time thereafter, the freed Zimmerman died of cancer.

Yet if Evan Zimmerman did not murder Kathy Thompson, then her killer—a person whose DNA is not a match for samples maintained in state or federal databases—remained at-large.  If so, a possibility exists that Thompson’s killer might be linked to the January 2001 homicide of Angelina Wall.

Wall left her job at McDonald’s on Hastings Way, less than a half-mile from the Laurel Avenue location where Thompson’s body was discovered, en route to her residence on Birch Street. Wall’s body was discovered near Highway J in Fall Creek, about 10 miles southeast of the McDonald’s.  

This table, contained within a brief filed on Zimmerman’s behalf by the Wisconsin Innocence Project, highlights the similarities between the two cases:

Thompson Homicide                                                                   Wall Homicide

Last seen 2:30-3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, February 26, 2000. Last seen 2:30-3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, January 6, 2001.
Last seen walking home alone. Last seen walking home alone.
Lived in north-central Eau Claire Lived in north-central Eau Claire
Ligature strangulation (likely a belt) Source suggests ligature strangulation (belt possible)
Body discovered dumped along city street in plain view, miles from her home. Body discovered dumped along rural road in plain view, miles from her home.
Body discovered about 5:45 a.m., meaning perpetrator had at most three hours to commit the crime. Body discovered about 5:45 a.m., meaning perpetrator had at most three hours to commit the crime.
Body partially undressed. Body partially undressed.
A few personal items, but not all valuables, were missing. A few personal items, but not all valuables, were missing.

 According to this brief, specific details from the Wall homicide, which remain under seal, contain even more similarities.

As to possible theories, absent a review of specific police reports, it is difficult to accurately speculate. Using my background in criminal investigative analysis (i.e. profiling), however, a hunch says that both of these homicides were crimes of opportunity. The suspect is probably an individual who had fantasized about sexual domination and control. Since the Thompson and Wall homicides occurred on a Saturday morning after bar time, the suspect probably has the ability to suppress his homicidal thoughts until he is under the influence of alcohol.  The killer(s) probably patronized nearby taverns prior to the attacks and feels comfortable in the north-central area of Eau Claire.  Since strangulation, even with a ligature, requires some strength, the suspect probably works with his hands.  He may have been in the area for a relatively short period of time laying cable or a working a detailed construction project. Since it is apparent that the suspect’s DNA has no match in CODIS—the national DNA databank—he is likely deceased, severely disabled, or simply stopped consuming alcohol.

Homicide investigations are typically more complex when the crimes are perpetrated by strangers. The timelines of the investigations, DNA evidence, and the use of criminal investigative analysis when appropriate, can produce a handful of suspects for detectives to evaluate and still exclude the innocent.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, please visit:

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

When Self-Defense is Self-Evident


When Wisconsin Republicans took control of the state’s governorship and both branches of the legislature two years ago they passed sweeping legislation pertaining to firearms and self-defense—namely concealed carry and the Castle Doctrine.

But when does a shooting morph from self-defense into little more than a glorified execution?

In my new book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, I profiled the “Shooting at the OK(auchee) Corral,” an incident, whereby, a homeowner in the well-heeled town of Okauchee, Wisconsin, shot-and-killed a man who had entered his garage. The Waukesha County District Attorney’s office later cleared the shooter, Mike Fitzsimmons, in the death of the intruder, James Babe.

Even though Wisconsin’s so-called “Castle Doctrine” provides a blanket of legal protection for shootings that occur when an intruder enters a dwelling, a Minnesota case illustrates why gun owners need to understand the totality of the doctrine of self-defense—the tenants of which emanate from natural law.

On Thanksgiving, two teenagers forcibly entered the Little Falls, Minnesota home of 64-year-old Byron D. Smith, a retired gopher-state employee.  Around noon, Smith, who was home alone, was “sitting in his basement” when he heard someone walking outside his residence.  He then heard the sound of shattering glass, as if a window had been broken on the main level.  Smith told investigators that he then heard footsteps in the main level hallway. A few moments later, an individual began descending down the stairs into the basement. 

Armed with a .223 rifle, Smith shot the intruder, 17-year-old Nicholas Brady, who then tumbled down the stairs. According the criminal complaint, the badly wounded Brady looked-up at Smith, who then shot the unarmed intruder in the face.  Smith allegedly told investigators that he fired the round at Brady’s head because, “I want him dead.”

For whatever reason, instead of immediately calling the police, Smith then placed Brady’s body on a tarp. 

A few minutes later, Smith heard an additional set of footsteps on the main level.  Soon, another person began descending down the steps into the basement.  Smith told investigators that he waited until he could see the female’s “hips,” and then opened fire. Eighteen-year-old Haile Kifer then fell down the steps. Smith told investigators that he attempted to fire at Kifer again but his rifle jammed—at which time Kifer allegedly laughed at Smith.

According to the criminal complaint, Smith told investigators, ‘If you’re trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again.’

Smith then reached for a .22 revolver and shot Kifer in her chest several times.  Still alive, Smith placed the handgun under Kifer’s jaw and discharged a round “under the chin up into the cranium” in order to get “a good clean finishing shot” to put her out of her misery.

Castle Doctrine aside, citizens and police officers may employ the use of deadly force in self-defense if they fear for their life or the life of another. The purpose of using deadly force is to stop the actions of the perpetrator.

A 1969 Minnesota statute—609.065—permits “the intentional taking of the life of another” if “resisting or preventing the commission of a felony in the actor’s place of abode.”  Under this statute, Smith’s actions would have likely met that state’s standard of self-defense if he had simply stopped after shooting Brady and Kifer just once.  Instead, Smith is now charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

And, make no mistake about it, the State of Minnesota appears intent on making an example out of Smith, as the powers-that-be have assigned  the case to Peter Orput—a seasoned prosecutor and proud member of the NRA.

“Somebody has got to stand up for these two dead kids,” Orput told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. I have some strong feelings about the evidence I’ve reviewed.”

The alleged use of excessive deadly force by Bryon Smith should serve as a reminder to every gun owner that the doctrine of self-defense is not a license to kill. Sometimes, as I’ve written before, the best form of crime control is calling the police.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, please visit:

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012

“Eyes in the Sky” Aid Investigations in Cities Large & Small


Surveillance—particularly security cameras, traffic cams, and squad car traffic video—increasingly plays a role in criminal investigations. One recent example is the Christmas Eve homicide of on-duty Wauwatosa Police Officer Jennifer Sebena.

Officer Sebena, known as “Jen” to her colleagues and friends, failed to respond to a 4:24 a.m. call from her dispatcher. Since squad cars at the Tosa PD are equipped with GPS location finders, the Com Center instantly knew the whereabouts of Sebena’s marked patrol vehicle and sent another officer to check on her welfare. Just four minutes later, the responding officer found Sebena shot-to-death just outside a Wauwatosa fire station, located at 1601 Underwood Avenue.

An agent from the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation observed four expended shell casings at the scene—one from a 9 mm handgun and the other three from a .40 handgun, consistent with the on-duty firearm carried by Jennifer Sebena, whose pistol was missing from her unsnapped holster.

As is the case in many non-officer homicides, investigators immediately turned their attention to the slain officer’s 30-year-old husband, Benjamin Sebena.  Two weeks earlier, Jennifer Sebena told another police officer that her husband had pointed a gun at her head. With this information in hand, detectives focused on surveillance video near the Sebenas’ suburban Menomonee Falls home, as well as the thoroughfares to-and-from the crime scene in the trendy village area of Wauwatosa.

According to the criminal complaint, detectives from the Wauwatosa PD gained access to surveillance video from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Statewide Traffic Operations Center—an Orwellian-type facility with access to the stored data from hundreds of surveillance cameras.  From a camera mounted on the top of a traffic pole at N. 108th and W. Burleigh Streets, investigators observed a black Toyota Prius with black tire rims traveling westbound on W. Burleigh at 3:45 a.m.—about 35 minutes prior to Officer Sebena’s body being located outside the Tosa fire station just over four miles away. A minute later, the same vehicle was observed on video moving northbound on Hwy. 45 from W. Burleigh Street en route to the Sebena residence. The black Prius matched the description of the vehicle Benjamin Sebena drove to the Wauwatosa PD less than three hours later.

Two days later, Wauwatosa PD Detective Jeff Griffin—watching video from the BP gas station just blocks from the Sebena residence—observed what appeared to be the same black Prius moving south on Appleton Ave. at 1:35 a.m. on December 24.

With this video evidence in hand, detectives could firmly establish an investigative timeline.  Moreover, sources say that, during the interrogation, this video played a key role in obtaining a confession. After detectives informed Benjamin Sebena about the video showing the route of his vehicle, they led the suspect to believe that the shooting was captured, in part, by surveillance cameras near the fire station, even though no such evidence actually exists.

As Judge Andrew Napolitano correctly notes in his book Constitutional Chaos, while it is unlawful for citizens to lie to law enforcement officers during the performance of their duties, the courts have ruled that it is perfectly lawful for law enforcement officers to lie to members of the public in order to obtain incriminating statements.

And the use of surveillance cameras are not limited to large cities or high-profile murder investigations. In the small, southwestern Wisconsin city of Platteville, police have access to three cameras, some of which are disguised as simple street lights.

These “Eyes in the Sky” allow the Platteville PD to enforce quality of life issues, like public urination and vandalism.

While the video in Platteville is typically stored for 30 to 60 days, sources say that data obtained from traffic cams by the Wisconsin DOT’s Statewide Operations Center can be retained for up to 10 years.

Like it or not, as George Orwell said, “Big Brother is watching.”


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at

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© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012