A Body and a Gun

A very short follow-up on a very short story, so I’ll just quote the follow-up in its entirety:

Authorities have identified the 18-year-old man who was found shot to death Wednesday in Atlanta.

Raphael Lumpkin of Atlanta was the man found on the front porch of a residence in the 800 block of Brookline Street, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said Thursday. Lumpkin had a wound to his head, and a handgun was found on the porch, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.

Authorities still have not determined whether this was a homicide or a self-inflicted gunshot. The investigation will continue.

How do you tell? If the gun’s in a place it could plausibly have fallen, and the various angles are right, in the absence of a witness or some other damning evidence, you can’t. You can picture the CSI staff tracing out angles with lasers in the dark while cool instrumental music plays in the background, but even if it lines up right, there’s still no way to tell. And at any rate, Mr. Lumpkin was shot at nine in the morning, which is too bright for TV.

The next step would be to look at the hand of the victim. Did he use his dominant hand? Does it have gunshot residue on it in the right places? If it doesn’t, that argues for a homicide and a dropped gun.

Let’s take a fictional situation identical to this. Dead body, gun beside it, angles line up, gunshot residue on hand. Victim didn’t have any record of psych counseling, but Brookline St. is in the middle of Adair Park, a real downscale neighborhood, so they might not have had a chance to get help. Suicide doesn’t go into the homicide statistics, so there’s pressure from upstairs to declare it and move on. Victim had some unsavory connections, but again, bad neighborhood.

Twist one: in the lab, some of the bullets are found to have another person’s thumbprint on them: they were loaded by someone else, a real gangbanger, who when confronted sounds philosophical: “I’ve loaded a lot of guns in my life; can’t say I’d know about that one for sure.” He’s like twenty years old. No meaningful connection with the victim.

Twist two: a good while later, a badly decomposed body is found. Much work at the ME’s office leads them to a name, a young woman from Adair Park who’d never been reported missing because nobody much cared about her. Now the cops are upset because here’s another homicide they’re never going to solve. Note: the body is found in a neighborhood other than Adair Park.

Twist three: only once Diana has some kind of prophetic dream or OCD fit does she sort out the connection; she traces various pay-as-you-go phones until she establishes that the young woman was dating both the victim and the gangbanger. Her theory is that the victim shot the woman and the gangbanger faked the suicide in revenge; but the brass say, how do you know the victim didn’t shoot the woman and then kill himself out of remorse?

Twist four: in the lab again. The gunshot residue from the victim’s hand comes from a slightly different sort of propellant than the one in the bullets in his gun. He shot a different gun, in other words. A scene ensues where Diana talks first her captain, then a judge into letting her search the gangbanger’s place, where of course they find the gun used to kill the woman, which has bullets with the victim’s thumbprints on them. The last line is all about the gangbanger not being able to just throw a gun away.

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