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Author Topic: Radiography and handling of small arms found in a body bag  (Read 20873 times)

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Offline Brandon Bertolli

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Radiography and handling of small arms found in a body bag
« on: November 04, 2007, 06:10:30 AM »
Ladies and Gents

Yesterday I attended a forensic radiography study day and one of the speakers was a firearms and toolmarks examiner based in the UK. (Phil maybe you are a member here?) He has been involved in several investigations involving mass fatalities and investigations into genocide abroad too.

His talk was all about gunshot wounds. One thing stuck in my mind though: he had a radiograph of a long arm (I think it was a side-by-side shotgun) and you could see a wire going from the breech area into the rear of the buttstock where it was connected to a quantity of semtex. This radiograph was from a replica that had been made to illustrate what had happened in a certain investigation. It was designed to explode when the action was opened (and indeed the original firearm did explode when opened, killing the policeman who was handling it).

My question is two-fold:

1) If a firearm is recovered at a crime scene is it always made safe and unloaded straight away at the scene, or can it be bagged as is and dealt with at the lab?

2) I am involved with a certain training project involving the use of forensic radiographers to screen body bags arriving from a mass fatality or major incident such as the London bombings, or the loss of the Hercules aircraft on the battlefield. We may get military and civilian bodies that are commingled in bags, and which have the potential to have small arms and ammunition (or components thereof) amongst the remains. Assuming we can detect that an item is a firearm radiologically, what do you recommend is best practice in terms of extracting that firearm from the bag? Is it always best to leave that to a trained firearms expert from the police firearms unit? What if he isn't there and it is just the pathologist, odontologist, mortuary tech and a standard policeman? Do we leave that bag and go to another one? Do we take the 'thing' out and seal it as is in an evidence bag without making it safe, but keep it to one side to hand it over to the firearms experts later? What do you you think should happen in a case like that, where we may not have the expert on hand immediately?

Just wanted to get a few opinions from across the pond. Thank you for your time.

« Last Edit: November 04, 2007, 06:12:40 AM by Brandon Bertolli »
Brandon Bertolli, Radiographer, bbertolli(at)yahoo.com

Offline Angel Moses

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Re: Radiography and handling of small arms found in a body bag
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2007, 10:21:10 AM »
Normal practice out in the field is to render the firearm safe as soon as possible.  Safety always comes first. 

With that said,  we do two things.  1) Train our Crime Scene Analysts on Firearms Safety and recognizing different types and styles of weapons and how to safely render them safe.  We have informed them of things to look for to help figure out how to open an action.  There are, on occassion, firearms encountered that they cannot figure out how to, or by reason of environment/damage cannot be opened.  2) There is  a policy in our Department Manual to cover such instances not only for Crime Scene Analysts, but also for Police Officers,  it states that when such instances occur, to transport the firearm to a Firearms Examiner to be rendered safe. 

This is pretty standard across the country.  However, I can see where these rules would be altered depending on the circumstances.  I would expect in investigations such as mass bombings where anything can be a booby trap, more caution must be taken and having a firearms examiner or a firearms expert there to unload a firearm maybe a consideration. 

One thing to consider is to train first responders or scene personnel on how to recognize a normal weapon to one that looks altered.
Angel Moses
CCBI
(919)255-7375

Offline Brandon Bertolli

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Re: Radiography and handling of small arms found in a body bag
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2007, 11:59:02 AM »
Thanks, Dinnah, that is interesting.
As a matter of interest, do any of your investigators have training in radiological pattern recognition as regards unaltered firearms and ammunition? Does such a database exist?
Brandon Bertolli, Radiographer, bbertolli(at)yahoo.com

Offline Angel Moses

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Re: Radiography and handling of small arms found in a body bag
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2007, 10:08:38 AM »
Our department is very large, with specialized teams of all sorts.  Anything of a suspicious nature of this sort is differed to our bomb squad and they deem what is the best way to handle these things.  They do have equipment such as portable x-ray machines to help them figure out what they are dealing with and the best way to proceed.  They are well versed with the use of their equipment.  As far as databases are concerned, I'm not sure. 
Angel Moses
CCBI
(919)255-7375

Offline Brandon Bertolli

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Re: Radiography and handling of small arms found in a body bag
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2007, 10:36:23 AM »
I am trying to get hold of the folks at the National Firearms Center in Leeds, to find out if they have a database or if they would be interested in a mutually-beneficial project to create that database if it doesn't exist.
But that's another story.
Brandon Bertolli, Radiographer, bbertolli(at)yahoo.com

 

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