Posts tagged “Jeffrey Dahmer

When Debacles Occur Watch the Politics

As documented by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a sting operation run by the Milwaukee branch of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) solidified the concept of Murphy’s Law into the arena of criminal investigations.

Snafus are nothing new to law enforcement.  The Jeffrey Dahmer case is prime example. During one contact, the serial killer managed to slip through the fingers of officers. Then, once Dahmer was in custody, guards at the jail asked the killer to autograph a newspaper bearing his likeness.  Of course, grandstanding politicians—primarily John Norquist, Milwaukee’s mayor at the time—used these embarrassing mistakes as a catalyst to ‘transform’ the Milwaukee Police Department, which caused a Grand Canyon-sized rift between Police Chief Phil Arreola and the MPD’s rank-and-file. Ironically, karma has a way of keeping score, as a real scandal—one that resulted in the moniker “Johnny Appleseed” being uttered by a snickering few—paved the way for the then mayor’s exit.

In the ATF case, a series of discomfiting events gave the Riverwest Operation a black eye.

“Of all the mistakes by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in its flawed gun-buying sting in Milwaukee last year,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge wrote, “the loss of the government-owned Colt M4 stands as the gravest threat to public safety.”

The M4, a high-powered rifle with the ability to fire multiple rounds with one pull of the trigger, was stolen from an agent’s SUV while the vehicle was parked at a local coffee shop.  After an intense search that yielded solid suspects, the rifle remains in the wind.

And, while the ATF’s sting ran amuck, the operation did shed some light on property crime in the Riverwest area, as burglars snared $40,000 worth of merchandise the store front rented by the agency to conduct the sting.

Now, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the ATF used a 28-year-old man with a diminished mental capacity to distribute fliers and solicit the public to visit the store. Later, the man was indicted on firearms related charges related to the operation.

The negative press emanating from this failed sting comes on the heels of the little covered U.S. Supreme Court decision in Millbrook v. the United States. In a rare unanimous decision, the court held that the U.S. government can be held liable for abuses intentionally carried out by law enforcement officers as a result of their employment. However, the individual agents have little to fear financially. Under the Federal Torts Courts Claim Act (FTCA), it is the taxpayers that are left holding the bag.

“FTCA judgments are paid by an unlimited fund provided by Congress,” said attorney Jeff Bucholtz, an attorney who argued against Millbrook, “so it doesn’t hurt prison guards or their supervisors when judgments are paid out under the statute.”

After the Operation Fast and Furious debacle—an ATF operation that oversaw the transfer of firearms to Mexcian narco-gang members; whereby,  one of the weapons was later used to murder a U.S. Border Patrol agent—you can bet the missing M4 stolen from the Milwaukee agent’s SUV is causing many  sleepless nights for ATF bureaucrats.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest print edition only book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

When Advocates Want it Both Ways

Yesterday, members of the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP and Operation Rainbow PUSH—the outfit operated by Jesse Jackson—continued to criticize the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) for its investigation of the shooting death of 13-year-old Darius Simmons on the city’s near south side.  

Seventy-five-year-old John H. Spooner is charged with the slaying.  Similar to the fed-up, out-of-control character portrayed by Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down, prosecutors allege that Spooner shot-and-killed Simmons because the elderly man believed that the teenager had burglarized his home.

The critics of the MPD’s investigation, however, are not complaining about the thorough investigation that expeditiously resulted in serious criminal charges.  Instead, these armchair cops are taking the MPD to task for questioning Simmons’ mother, Patricia Larry, for nearly two hours inside of a detective’s squad car.

Unfortunately, police departments around the nation are often second guessed after investigators have painstakingly pieced together the pieces of the puzzle.  In hindsight, what looks relatively straight forward after the fact might appear rather convoluted in the minutes and hours immediately following a critical incident.

“I’ve been to parking troubles that turned-out to be shootings, and shootings that turned-out to be parking troubles,” a veteran officer told me during one of my first days on the street.  “The information given to you by the dispatcher is only as reliable as the caller. Keep an open mind and let the facts, not someone’s opinion, lead the way.”

And, more often than not, shooting scenes are somewhat chaotic, especially when the victim’s family is on the scene and emotions are, understandingly, running high.

Answering the who, what, why, when, where, and how, questions takes time, as information from witnesses, as well as the relationship between the suspect and victim, needs verification. 

Moreover, the grilling Ms. Larry received, I would argue, is fairly typical. 

When a Milwaukee police officer uses deadly force, the officer and his or her partner, as well as other law enforcement witnesses, are immediately separated.  Some of these officers are shuffled into the same interrogation rooms used to question suspects of gang related shootings, armed robberies, and homicides.  In the past, some officers where ‘dissuaded’ from calling their spouses to simply let them know that they were still in one piece.

Criminal Investigation 101 calls upon detectives to preserve the integrity of an investigation by separating and then interviewing witnesses, victims, and suspects, before those involved have a chance to compare notes.

In the aftermath of Jeffrey Dahmer, the community and various special interest groups demanded that the MPD conduct thorough criminal investigations.  Now, however, members of these same special interest groups are complaining that the MPD’s investigators are ‘too thorough.’  

For these armchair cops, you can’t have it both ways. 

The bottom line is the bottom line. A crime was committed, a suspected was located and arrested; the District Attorney’s office charged the alleged perpetrator—and all of these activities were conducted within the bounds of the law and the Constitution.  


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volume I, is now available at

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

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012

M.P.D. Blue — A Portrait of Police Work

As a lieutenant in the Milwaukee Police Department’s homicide unit, Dave Kane had a reputation as a straight shooter who—in his passion for the job—didn’t mince words. As such, I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find Dave’s new book, M.P.D. Blue, a no-nonsense saga of his 30 years of police service.

For those of you interested in police work, M.P.D. Blue is a must-read. Last week, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl profiled the book:

Stingl focused on Kane’s involvement as a supervisor during the Jeffrey Dahmer investigation and his infiltration—albeit brief—of the Ku Klux Klan.  Without a doubt, these two stories are intersting to the general public.  I, on other hand, having walked a mile in his shoes as lieutenant of detectives, enjoyed the darts Dave occasionally threw that hit their mark. 

One chapter of the book, entitled The Cigarette Package, describes the attention to detail of Homicide Detective Greg Schuler.  After a citizen discovered a prostitute strangled to death in an alley near N. 27th Street and W. Fond du lac Avenue, Kane and Schuler responded to the scene to investigate. 

This area is a notoriously seedy section of Milwaukee peppered with litter and garbage.  The victim, a black female, was partially disrobed and had a wooden stick shoved in her vagina.  In the midst of the clutter, Schuler had to decipher which pieces of litter had the potential for evidentiary value. One of the items Schuler collected from amongst the debris was a crusty cigarette package. 

A few days later, Schuler called Kane to explain that an evidence technician developed a latent fingerprint from the cigarette pack that belonged to a young male living in the area. 

“You mean to tell me,” Kane quotes himself telling Schuler, “that you picked up a cigarette pack at the [garbage filled] scene?”  Schuler explained that, having examined the filthy alley, he believed the suspect might have dropped the package. A short time thereafter, Schuler had a suspect in custody who confessed to the crime. 

Within the scope of two days, Schuler had cleared two homicides with confessions. Kane was so appreciative of the detective’s work that he nominated Schuler for the Milwaukee Police Department’s Superior Achievement Award.  Months later, however, the award went to “a uniformed sergeant for devising a plan that saved the department two reams of copy paper.”  Kane explains, “But that was the Milwaukee Police Department.  The CIB [the detective bureau] was viewed as the bastard child sometimes.”

In M.P.D. Blue, Kane writes of an incident where he came just inches from losing his life.  On November 13, 1970, Kane and his partner, Dick Shannon, conducted a traffic stop for a defective taillight. 

As Kane handed the driver, Lee Seward, a releasable citation for an equipment violation, he observed what he believed to be a flash bulb popping and initially thought a firecracker had exploded; however, within a few seconds, it became clear that someone had fired a shot. The two beat cops ran back to their squad, backed-up a short distance, and radioed a call of “shots fired.” 

As a cop involved in a few similar situations, hearing dozens of sirens responding is indeed a Godsend.

What occurred next, though, was difficult for the two officers to decipher.  The passenger of the vehicle, a Ford convertible, exited and lay prone of the ground.  They later discovered that a sniper with a .30-06 rifle took a shot at Kane, who was at the driver’s side door. 

Officers whisked Kane to the hospital to treat a graze wound to his arm.

“When I got to the hospital,” Kane writes, “I noticed some peculiar substance sprayed all over the front of my coat. I would later learn that the substance was the exploded brain matter of Lee Seward. The bullet that had struck my arm had continued onward, striking Mr. Seward in the head as he sat in his car.” 

Of course, the passenger, believing the police had summarily executed the courteous driver for no apparent reason, exited to surrender. 

The next day, two officers stopped Willie Triplett and Willie Campbell.  A search of their vehicle turned-up the .30-06 used to kill Seward.  The two teenaged-boys told investigators that they wanted to “kill a pig.”  A month earlier, the pair had shot and killed a security guard they believed was a police officer.  Unknown to Kane’s partner, a week prior to the death of Seward, the pair shot at Shannon’s unoccupied squad.  Investigators later discovered the round lodged under the vehicle’s gas pedal.

M.P.D. Blue, a quick read well-worth its cost, is a collection of almost two dozen other interesting warstories.  Here is a link to view more details about the book:


Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s Northside Strangler.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010

Psychology of Homicide Presentation Now Available Nationally

To view this article, please checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, available exclusively at in December of 2012.


Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

For information pertaining to Steven Spingola’s background, click the “About” box on the upper right hand portion of this Web page.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010

Did Dahmer Do It?

To read this article, purchase The Best of the Spingola Files, coming to’s Kindle store in January 2012.

Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010

The Power of Pictures

Their hairstyles depict decades old fashion. Even though these women voluntarily posed for photographs it is what may have taken place afterwards that is troubling.   

Over 30 years ago, police seized more than 2,000 pictures of women — many taken in the nude — from a storage locker rented by Rodney Alcala. In late February, a California jury found Alcala guilty in the slayings of one girl and four women over a two-year period in the late 1970s.

Investigators believe that it is possible some of the women who had posed for Alcala became victims of the serial killer. 

Huntington Beach Detective Patrick Ellis believes Alcala is obsessed with the cache of pictures. Now in his mid-sixties, the since convicted serial killer represented himself at his latest trial where he sought courtroom discovery of the images.

“Now, why does he want all of this after 30 years?” Ellis pondered during an interview with AOL News. “Either he’s reliving his glory days or there’s a victim in here we don’t know about.”

Convicted of murdering Jill Barcomb, 18, in November, 1977; George Wixted, 27, in December 1977; Charlotte Lamb, 32, in June 1978; Jell Paranteau, 21, on June 14, 1979, all in Los Angeles County, Alcala sexually assaulted, bludgeoned, and, then, strangled his victims. A 12-year-old girl, Robin Samsoe, also fell prey to Alcala in June of 1979 near Huntington Beach, California.

While the photographs of the seemingly naïve women sensationalize Alacla’s acts of nefarious debauchery, serial killers routinely retain personal items from their victims. In this instance, these items — like the photographs themselves — are souvenirs. Based on the description of the crime scenes, Alacla is a classic power and control killer.  He relishes reliving the potent fantasies fulfilled by witnessing the victims’ pain, which is why Alcala rented a storage locker in far away Seattle to house the photographs and the other souvenirs taken from victims. 

Milwaukee’s infamous serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, also kept souvenirs and trophies.  Psychologists do make a distinction between the two: souvenirs generally consist of personal items taken from the victim. Trophies are items used by the perpetrator to create a memorial — a serial killer’s hall of shame.  In Dahmer’s case, the skulls and genitalia served as trophies, while the photos of victims, taken in various stages of dismemberment, acted as souvenirs.

In the Alcala case, investigators believe there are more victims.  However, unless the state is willing to cut a deal sparing the former amateur photographer from the death penalty, the fate of the others may never be known. Orange County Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy has so far refused to make a deal in exchange for cooperation.  “We don’t make deals with people like Rodney Alcala,” Murphy told AOL News. 

I have a professional hunch that the prosecutor’s stance may change if the photographs identify a dozen or so missing women. The political pressure brought to bear by family members seeking closure may ultimately result in a commutation of the death sentence.  After all, information is power, and power and control is what Alcada will savor as he relives his crimes by describing them to investigators.


Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.