We watch a lot of true crime television shows because even though they have a lot of inaccuracies; showing a picture of a revolver when they’re talking about a semi-automatic pistol, for example, I do occasionally pick up an idea to use in one of my mystery books.
We were watching one last night showing police body camera video, and as a suspect in a Ford Explorer drove by several officers, one of them said it was a Ford F-150 pickup. You wouldn’t think a trained police officer would make a mistake like that. We have both a Ford Explorer and an F-150 pickup, and they don’t look anything alike. In this case, I think the officer was confused because a Ford F-150 had been seen in the area when the incident was going down.
Watching it reminded me of something I always told my reporters during my newspaper publishing days; never believe anything a witness tells you because there’s a very good chance it could be wrong. Not necessarily because the witness is lying to you on purpose, but because it’s way too easy to miss details or totally misconstrue what you saw.
I remember covering a house fire in Aberdeen, Washington many years ago when a fireman went into the burning building and carried out an elderly woman who was bedridden, then returned inside and brought out her two grandchildren after another family member said there were three kids inside. That same brave fireman and two others went back inside, looking for the third child. When the intense blaze finally forced them out, you could see on their faces how devastated they were not to be able to save that last precious little life. Then the family member realized that the “missing” child was standing right next to her, and had been all along!
Another time, one of my reporters was on hand when the Coast Guard brought in the crew of a commercial fishing boat that had lost power in rough seas off the Washington coast. It had been a dangerous rescue mission, and both a helicopter and a Coast Guard cutter responded. Once on shore, the captain of the fishing boat was praising the Coast Guardsmen for risking their lives to save him and his crew and said that one injured crewman had been lifted aboard the helicopter while the rest of them had been transferred from their vessel to the cutter. The commander of the Coast Guard crew looked at him and said nobody had been picked up by the helicopter, it had just stayed overhead with its lights on to provide visibility and backup if needed. Everybody had gone directly from the fishing boat to the cutter. The fishing boat captain was shocked because he absolutely believed he saw the chopper swoop down and pick up one of his men. He wasn’t lying on purpose; in his mind’s eye, that’s what happened.
As I’ve mentioned before, during my time in the Army, I was a firearms instructor at West Point. We kept very busy during the spring and summer and into the fall, training cadets and National Guard and Army Reserve units. But the rest of the time we had to find a job or they would find one for us, and it usually wasn’t something fun. My commanding officer and I got along very well, so instead of having to shovel snow or something like that, he would send me to schools all over the country, usually someplace warm during the winter. I went to everything from truck driving school and photography school, to demolitions school, military police school, and a criminal investigation course, among others.
During the criminal investigation course, a couple dozen of us were in a classroom listening to a lecture when the door opened and a naked woman stepped halfway in and asked, “Is Howard Johnson here?” then said, “Oops, wrong room” and quickly closed the door. The whole thing didn’t last more than 30 seconds and then she was gone.
The sergeant teaching the class asked if we had seen that, then went to the phone on the wall and called somebody and said that there was a naked woman running down the halls, and said, “she was blonde, right?” as he looked at the class. Three people nodded their heads and said she was a blonde, a couple said she had black hair, and someone else said it was brown. Don’t ask me because I never looked at her head. Then he hung up the phone and said we needed to go find her.
We went out into the hallway, where they were five women wearing coveralls, all with brown hair. The sergeant asked if they had seen a naked woman, and they pointed in several different directions at once, basically saying, “she went that-a-way.”
While the class was deciding which direction to go, the sergeant said, “Okay, everybody stop.” Then he turned to one of the women and said, “drop your coveralls.” She did and we realized she was wearing a flesh-colored bodysuit. The whole thing was a setup designed to teach us that just because you think you see something or because a witness tells you what they saw, it doesn’t make it real.
As the old saying goes, who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?
And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.
Thought For The Day – The supply-chain crisis may be one of the best gifts this Christmas.