Investigation Into the Velazquez Shooting, Part 1

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John Doe, arr. 10/24/19​

1 poncho or longcoat w/hood
• Dark green, unknown material
• Chinese characters printed in place of label

1 sweater
• Brown & black chevron pattern, wool
• Label reads “Reiss Menswear, XXL, Made in U.S.A.”
• Left sleeve frayed

1 long-sleeve shirt
• Faded burgundy/black plaid, flannel
• Label reads “Barone, Est. 1899/XXL/100% COTTON, MADE IN ANAHUAC”
• Both elbows threadbare, 2nd button from top missing

1 T-shirt
• Black
• B&W image of Taylor Swift on front
• Back reads “1989-2011/REMEMBER HER * HONOR HER * AVENGE HER”
• Label reads “Gildan/XL/100% Polyester/Made in Honduras”

1 belt
• Dark brown, leather
• 48”
• Shows signs of weathering

1 pair trousers
• Charcoal (faded), denim
• W34 L34
• Label reads “Stern, Strauss & Co./Made in C.S.A.”
• Heavily frayed at knees

1 pair boxer shorts
• Light blue
• “MEDOFF” printed around waistband
• Label illegible

2 pairs socks
• 1 pair black & gray, thick wool - holes at toes
• 1 pair white cotton - worn inside first pair

1 pair sandals
• Medium brown, imitation leather
• Size 15 1/2 Wide
• Logo reads “SANTOMAURO”
• Heavily worn, strap broken on L sandal

√1 duffel bag
• Black, unknown material (appears to be same as longcoat)
• 53 1/2 lbs.
• Unknown contents - zipper jammed, couldn’t be opened

1 pair oven mitts, found in exterior pocket of coat
• Ecru
• Heavily worn; seam torn on 1 mitt

*1 55-oz can Bush’s Best Homestyle Baked Beans, found in exterior pocket of coat

√1 first-aid kit, found in exterior pocket of coat
• Beige
• Red caduceus stamped on front: label on back reads “CALIF. ARMY SURPLUS”
• Contains var. bandages, tweezers, scissors, tape, eye dressings, digital thermometer, drugs labeled as eye drops, antibiotics, antihistamines, analgesics

*1 40-oz can Bruce’s Yams, found in exterior pocket of coat

1 penknife, found in interior pocket of coat
• Stainless steel (black hilt), 1.0 oz, blade just under 2”
• Handle stamped “KUNSTLER EST. 1923”

*1 15-oz can Margaret Holmes’ Buttered Double Succotash, found in interior pocket of coat

√1 butane(?) lighter, found in interior pocket of coat
• Stainless steel, 1.8 oz
• Unknown design
• Slightly rusted

*1 15-oz can Margaret Holmes’ Seasoned Blackeye Peas, found in interior pocket of coat

1 flashlight, found in interior pocket of coat
• Stainless steel, 15.1 oz
• Powered by hand
• Handle stamped “VORONIGLAZ”
• Bottom stamped ”MADE IN ALESKA (sic)” in English, Russian, Yiddish, 2 other languages

*2 34-oz bags Kar’s Sweet & Salty Mix, found in interior pockets of coat

1 manual can opener, found in interior pocket of coat
• Stainless steel, 9.0 oz
• Handle stamped “DEVEREUX”

√1 waterproof envelope, found taped to suspect’s chest (tape believed to be from first-aid kit)
• 9x12”
• Sealed

*=items believed stolen √=search warrant requested


RH: Sgt. Hendrickson
JM: Ofc. Mitchell

RH: The time is 8:06 am. Today is Friday, October 25, 2019. This is Sergeant Raphaelle Hendrickson with the Internal Affairs Division of the Memphis Police Department. Would you please state and spell your name for the record?

JM: Officer Joseph Donald Mitchell. M-I-T-C-H-E-L-L. Joseph and Donald, common spellings.

RH: Thank you. Are you currently under the influence of any alcohol or controlled substance that would affect your responses to these questions?

JM: What? No.

RH: All right. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Water?

JM: I’m good, thanks.

RH: All right.


Now officer, you’ve been with the department for nine years now, is that correct?

JM: That is correct.

RH: Uniform Patrol division all that time?

JM: Yes, ma’am.

RH: I see you graduated from the Memphis Police Training Academy in 2010. Did you receive any specialized training in addition to the usual training?

JM: No, ma’am.

RH: What additional training and practice have you had since joinin’ the department?

JM: Do we really need to go into all this?

RH: It may be important. I’m trying to get a sense of your decision-makin’ process.

JM: Let’s see. I’ve received 56 hours of Grossman Academy training, and I spend two hours a week at the range.

RH: How’s your marksmanship?

JM: Statewide, I’m in the 89th percentage in terms of marksmanship and the 92nd percentage in terms of speed of drawing and firing.

RH: You mean percentile, right?

JM: Yes, ma’am.

RH: Well, that is good. How would you rate your overall performance as a police officer over the last nine years?

JM: I would rate my performance as exemplary.


RH: What would you say is your greatest weakness?

JM: What do you mean by weakness?

RH: As an officer, what aspect of police work have you particularly struggled to master?

JM: Are we talkin’ in general, or aspects particularly relevant to my duties?

RH: In general.

JM: Then I would say…


My biggest weakness is that I can’t do what you’re doing now.

RH: You can’t ask questions?

JM: Interrogation in general. If I want to know something, I ask it. I don’t spent 20, 30 minutes gettin’ to know somebody first, bein’ all friendly and understanding. I mean, look at you right now. Listening to you, lookin’ at your face, I can’t tell if you think I’m justified or an idiot or a neo-Nazi or what.

RH: If this is your way of askin’, the answer is I’m tryin’ to reserve judgment till I got all the facts.

JM: Well, good. I’m just sayin’ if I think somebody’s a shithead, or somebody’s done something wrong, I gotta say it. I can’t hide it.


I’m not sayin’ it’s good or bad, you understand. Obviously we need people who can talk to other people and get ‘em to open up. I mean, take Detective Ulrich. He was the best. I mean, he was tough when he had to be, but he could be like a therapist. He could talk to anybody like he was their buddy. I don’t know how he did it.

RH: Movin’ on to the events of yesterday afternoon, please describe them in your own words.

JM: Did you read my report?

RH: I read it last night. I also reviewed the body cam footage. But it’s standard procedure in the case of an officer-involved shooting to interview the officer, get his or her perspective on what happened - you know, now that you’ve had time to think about it.

JM: Okay. At around 5:05 pm I was called to respond to a robbery in progress at the Safeway on South Main Street.

RH: Tell me about this robbery as it was described to you.

JM: A tall, uh, male individual in a long, dark coat, carrying a duffel bag, was removing items of canned goods from the shelves and was putting them in the pockets of his coat.

RH: Who was reportin’ this, and where were they in relation to the suspect?

JM: This was reported by the store manager, who was watching via security camera.

RH: And the store manager knew that the suspect had no intention of paying for these items?

JM: He surmised it from the suspect’s actions. And since the camera did show the suspect leaving without paying, obviously he was right.

RH: So he was. Did the store not have its own security?

JM: Dispatcher said store security was not available on the premises. I didn’t ask for details.

RM: Mm-hm. What about this crime would you say makes it robbery rather than theft? Specifically shoplifting?

JM: Two things. First of all - and I only heard all this secondhand, from the dispatcher - the manager believed the suspect had a weapon concealed in his coat. Second, there was a store employee present in the same aisle who appeared to be intimidated.

RH: And you were the closest officer available.

JM: That is correct. I was headed down Mulberry. I knew at this time of day if I tried to get in through the front there’d be no way to get through the traffic in time. So I pulled into the Ghelarducci’s parking lot and took the little alleyway between there and the back of the Safeway lot. As I was crossing the lot - there’s kind of a sidewalk space like an alley between the side of the store and the dumpsters - and at the other end of that space I saw a tall African-American man in a long, dark coat emerge. He had a duffel bag with him.

RH: Did the dispatcher say the suspect was African-American?

JM: He wasn’t that specific. He said “dark-skinned.” But the man I saw was definitely African-American.

RH: Describe him.

JM: Young dude. Buzz-cut hair. Kind of an angry look on his face. Expensive sneakers. Pants hangin’ down.


RH: Did you see his hands?

JM: Yes.

RH: Describe them.

JM: Okay. Not much to say, though. They were hands. Bigger than average, maybe.

RH: Thank you. What did you do?

JM: I shouted “Police! Freeze!” The suspect turned and saw me. As I approached, I looked at the position of his hands and realized he was preparing to draw and fire. And, in fact, he did draw a gun.

RH: What kind of gun was it?

JM: I didn’t notice the details. Just a little cheap handgun, I think. Anyway, I drew my service pistol and fired first.

RH: How many shots did you fire?

JM: I wasn’t keeping count. I emptied my clip - I know that much.

RH: You had a magazine capacity of 20 bullets.

JM: That is correct.

RH: Do you know if your magazine was fully loaded when you began?

JM: I have a clear memory of putting in a full clip after the last time I went to the range. So yeah.

RH: Where were you standing in relation to him?

JM: I would say 15 to 20 feet away. About the length of the two dumpsters.

RH: Were you firing with intent to kill?

JM: Ma’am, there is no other reason ever to draw or fire a gun.

RH: I’m aware of that. I’m talkin’ about you specifically at that moment.

JM: Yes. Yes, I was firing with intent to kill.

RH: Thank you. Did the suspect return fire?

JM: I believe he did, yes.

RH: How many shots did he fire?

JM: I’m not sure and I would not care to speculate. I know that at some point he turned and fired into the parking lot.


RH: Go on.

JM: Anyway, it was right in the middle of it when I heard the scream. It was - I couldn’t hear it that well because of the gunfire but it didn’t sound like somebody who was scared. It sounded like somebody hurt. When I stopped firing, he collapsed to the ground. I assumed at that point that he was either dead or too badly injured to constitute a threat, so as soon as I saw the pool of blood I ran past him to see what had happened.


RH: Go on.

JM: There was a small white car - a Honda Accord, I believe - in the parking lot. A small Hispanic woman was lying next to the driver’s side rear door. She was wearing sweatpants. There was a - there were wounds on both sides of her left thigh, and there - there appeared to have been substantial blood loss.


There were two children in the back seat. They appeared to be, respectively, one and three years old.


RH: Do you need a break?

JM: No, I’m - I’m good. I called an ambulance. Then I turned around and the body was gone. I wish I could explain what happened to it, but I can’t.


Then I used my belt as a tourniquet on her leg. I stayed by the victim until the ambulance crew arrived. I was later informed that the victim’s name was Pilar Velazquez, and that she did not survive.

RH: I’m terribly sorry, Officer.


But I need you to go back a bit. The body was gone - you’re referring to John Doe’s body?

JM: Yeah.

RH: Are you certain he was dead?

JM: I think I hit him often enough to make sure.

RH: Did you see any blood at the spot where he fell?

JM: Well, no.

RH: And did you specifically see him turn around and fire into the parking lot?

JM: I didn’t think so at the time, but he must’ve.

RH: He must’ve?

JM: Did the body cam catch it? I mean, we wear these things for a reason, right?

RH: We do indeed.

JM: So what’s it show? Come on. Tell me.

RH: There’s no easy way to say this.


John Doe never fired a shot.

JM: What?

RH: You had 20 bullets in your clip. The audio on your body cam recorded the sound of 20 distinct shots all sounding basically the same.

JM: What?

RH: We found 20 casings on the ground. Do the math.

JM: But you saw the gun, right?

RH: No, I did not.

JM: What?

RH: Have you watched the body cam footage?

JM: No. Why would I?

RH: What the body cam picked up was a tall, long-haired man in a longcoat and sandals - a man who may or may not have been African-American - come around the corner, see you, freeze for a moment and then drop to the concrete…

JM: No.

RH: …with nothing in his hands…

JM: No!

RH: …scoot over next to the dumpster…

JM: I…

RH: …and lie there flat while you fired over his head.

JM: No. No.

RH: Every time your gun was in view of the camera, it was firing at an angle where the bullets would pass three, four, five feet over his head.

JM: But…

RH: The camera catches three different sparks where a bullet hits the side of a dumpster at an angle where it would ricochet into the front parking lot.

JM: No! No! That could not have…

RH: Officer Mitchell, please sit down.

JM: All right.



RH: No, it’s okay. You just - you really need to be sittin’ down for this next bit.

JM: Uh boy.

RH: Are you aware that at 6:14 pm last night - about the same time you were writin’ up your report - a K-9 officer found John Doe in an alley near the riverfront?

JM: No, I was not - the riverfront? How’d he…

RH: And that the suspect was alive and unharmed?

JM: What?

RH: Not a scratch on him.

JM: Bullshit!

RH: Ten blocks from the scene of the shootin’, and he had to have gone on his own two feet.

JM: It can’t be the same guy.

RH: Six-and-a-half-foot homeless man in a dark green coat? Six fingers on each hand?

JM: What?

RH: Pockets full of canned goods? How many of those you think we got in Memphis?

JM: W- six?

RH: I’m surprised we had the one.

JM: Six fingers?

RH: You wanna see his bookin’ photos? I got ‘em right here.

JM: Fine. Show me.


That’s not him.

RH: Excuse me?

JM: That is not the man I saw. You got the - we got the wrong guy. That’s a completely different man. He’s older, he’s got long hair, and - what the hell is he? Is he even black?

RH: Then where is the man you saw?

JM: I don’t know.

RH: The man you saw - you shot at him 20 times from less than 20 feet away. You say he fired back. You say he turned around and shot a bystander. You say you hit him multiple times.

JM: I had to have.

RH: There’s no body. There’s no gun. Forensic found no blood, no tissue fragments. Nothing but a scent trail leadin’ to the river - where we found this man armed with just a penknife - and body cam footage that - again - shows you blastin’ away well over his head.

JM: Why would I do that?

RH: I was hoping you could tell me.

JM: Well, I can’t. What I told you - that’s how it happened. I don’t know where the body is or what’s wrong with the camera. I - I just don’t know.


God, I wish Jack were here. This case needs a real detective.

RH: You seem determined to keep bringin’ him back into the conversation.

JM: We were friends.

RH: All I’ll say is this - Jack was a good man who made a bad move. Would you agree?

JM: I would.

RH: Now of everybody you’ve arrested in your career, how many would you say fit that description? Good people who made bad moves?

JM: Some.

RH: Ever let it stop you?

JM: Course not.

RH: Well then, I think we understand each other.


JM: So now what?

RH: It’s not my job to decide what happens next. The Chief, the DA - they’ll do whatever they’re gonna do. But - bearing in mind that all the evidence in this case so far is pointin’ one way and your report and your testimony are pointin’ the other way - is there anything you would like to add to the testimony you’ve given today?


JM: No, ma’am. There is not.

RH. Okay, then.

JM: I know how this looks but I saw what I saw.

RH: Duly noted. In accordance with departmental policy, you will not discuss this interview or this investigation with anyone inside or out of the Memphis Police Department while this investigation is ongoing. Is that clear?

JM: Yes, it is.

RH: Good. Officer Mitchell, you’re free to go. The time is now 8:18 am. This interview is concluded.


CR: Det. Raeber
DH: David Heung

CR: Mr. Heung?

DH: Call me David.

CR: David. Cool. Just - real quick for the record, how do you spell your last name?

DH: H-E-U-N-G.

CR: Thanks. I’m Detective Cameron Raeber, Memphis PD. I’m doing a follow-up on yesterday’s incident. Do we have a minute to talk?

DH: Yes. Let me get the door.


CR: Thank you. First of all, I’m returning your stolen goods. None of this stuff has been tampered with. You can just put it all back on the shelves.

DH: Thank you.

CR: Second - did you see the suspect face to face?

DH: No. Sorry.

CR: No point doin’ a lineup, then. That’ll make our lives a little easier. Now lemme start by sayin’ this - you’re not in any kind of trouble here. We need people who’ll call the police when they see crime being committed. Any sort of crime. We can’t do it all by ourselves - we need the support of the community or we can’t do our jobs. So if the report turns out to be - mistaken in some of the details - we’re happy to let that go. You understand?

DH: Yes.

CR: And it’s not like you even lied. You said he was “possibly armed.” That’s too vague to be a lie. And strictly speaking, he was armed. This can of baked beans is very solid. Weighs more than three pounds. That’s a potential weapon right there. If he was to swing it with one of his big long arms, catch somebody right in the temple with one of these edges, that would do some damage. So what you told us was in fact the truth. But - gettin’ outta the realm of technicalities - most people - they hear the word “armed” and they don’t think penknives or heavy objects. They think guns, knives, switchblades. Mostly guns. You understand what I’m sayin’?

DH: Of course. Can I ask one question?

CR: Sure.

DH: Does this have anything to do with Mrs. Velazquez?

CR: I’m not at liberty to discuss that incident while the investigation is ongoing.

DH: Terrible thing that happened.

CR: Yeah, that much I can confirm. It was a terrible thing.

DH: She came often. Some of my cashiers knew her personally. I’m sorry - I know this isn’t what you came to ask about.

CR: No, it’s all right. It’s just - the basic question I came to ask you is, when you were watchin’ the suspect over the security camera, did you see a gun or a knife?

DH: No.

CR: What did you see that made you think he might be armed?

DH: An employee of mine - Susan - was in the aisle near him at the time. She acted as though she didn’t see him. I assumed at the time that she was trying not to notice him - or to let him see that she noticed him. I thought she might have caught a glimpse of a weapon in his coat.

CR: At the time, you say. Have you had a chance to talk with her since then?

DH: As a matter of fact, I have. It’s very strange. She swears she never saw him at all, but that’s impossible. She came within ten feet of him. She said she was trying to find the source of a bad smell in the aisle - she thought something might have spoiled. She said it was “kind of a hobo smell.” I said, “Maybe it was the big tall hobo standing right next to you?”

CR: So she didn’t even see the man, let alone any weapons.

DH: That’s what she says. Do you want to question her?

CR: We did question her last night, along with another shopper who was in the aisle with the man at the time. I’m not at liberty to disclose what they said.

DH: I understand.

CR: But, you know, I have a theory about what happened. I picture a store owner - a responsible businessman who’s gotta turn a profit - I picture him watching through the security camera footage and catching sight of a man stealing from him. Just grabbing stuff off the shelves and puttin’ it in his pockets.

DH: You know - I donate canned goods to homeless shelters.

CR: Yes, I’ve heard.

DH: Not just things that are past the sell-by date, either.

CR: You’re a good man. But even a good man will only put up with so much, right? A man just openly taking your goods - even if it’s really just desperation on his part, it feels like an gesture of contempt. Like he thinks he can do whatever he likes and there’s nothin’ anybody can do about it. That’s enough to make any man angry.


CR: So this strictly hypothetical store owner would very much like to sic security on the guy, but his one security guard clocked out five minutes ago and the one for the next shift is runnin’ late. So he picks up the phone and just as he’s about to dial he thinks “What good’s it gonna do to report a shoplifter?” The police - they gotta worry about murderers, rapists, drug traffickers. The Baked Beans Bandit isn’t gonna be on anybody’s list of priorities.


Then he takes another look at what the cameras are showin’. He notices one of his employees is in the aisle with the thief. She’s so close it seems like she can’t possibly miss him, but she’s acting like she doesn’t see a thing. Now why is that?


Maybe she feels sorry for him. I mean, he looks and smells like a homeless man, and based on what he’s stealin’, he’s obviously hungry. Trail mix doesn’t have a lot of black-market value. Maybe she wants to, you know, sorta stick it to the man - and when you’re that far down on the totem pole, everybody’s the man. A cop is the man. A store manager is the man. Her boss is pretty much the definition of the man.


Or maybe she’s intimidated. I mean, let’s be realistic here. A little five-foot-tall woman - even if she doesn’t sympathize, she’s not gonna get up in the face of a man that tall over a can of yams. ‘Specially when they’re not her yams. But, you know, who’s to say she didn’t catch a glimpse of a knife or a gun in that coat? And if that’s the situation, well, obviously there’s no time to call her in and confirm it. We gotta call the cops right away.


You understand what I’m saying? People who would never lie to a cop - never lie to anybody - will sometimes try to convince themselves of things that, strictly speaking, they don’t really have any reason to believe.


DH: Detective - I know you can’t talk about the shooting.

CR: That’s right.

DH: Just tell me it’s not my fault.

CR: What?

DH: You’re right. I didn’t have to call the police.

CR: Well, you wouldn’t have called if your own guard had shown up on time, right?

DH: He was having car trouble.

CR: That can happen. Usually, when something terrible happens it’s because a lot of different things went wrong. There isn’t necessarily any one person to blame. I’m just speaking in general, you understand.


DH: She had three children.

CR: I know.

DH: Little children.

CR: I know.

CR: Two of them were with her when it happened.

CR: Terrible thing. But not your fault.

DH: Thank you.

CR: I think we’re done here. Thank you for your time, David.


KY: Lt. Yardley
RH: Sgt. Hendrickson
ER: Ofc. Rzezkowski
DF: Ofc. Freeman

KY: This is Lieutenant Kyle Yardley of the DEA Task Force, Memphis PD. The date is October 26, the time is 11 am sharp and I am conducting a search of John Doe’s personal effects in fulfillment of Search Warrant #20190147 issued by Judge Harbaugh’s office. This search is being video recorded. With me are Officers Ed Rzezkowski and Darren Freeman from Intake and Release. Ed, would you please spell your name for the record?

ER: E-D.


KY: Thank you. That never gets old. In accordance with regulations, we are honored by the presence of Sergeant Raphaelle Hendrickson from Internal Affairs, here makin’ sure we don’t steal all this valuable loot and sell it on the black market.

RH: Really keepin’ it professional there.

KY: Hey, how’s Jack?

RH: Doin’ okay last I heard.

KY: Good. Always liked that guy.

RH: I get that a lot.

KY: Okay. The first item of suspicion is the sealed envelope which was found taped to the suspect’s chest. I am now opening the envelope.


Inside are five sheets of 8 1/2 by 11” paper. The first four pages are covered on both sides with some kinda squiggly chicken-scratch, written in pen. Could be writing, but I don’t recognize what kind. Now the last page - hmm.


It appears to be a map of the southern United States, only without the United States, if that makes any sense. “Arthuria,” “Batavia,” “Ack” - “Ax” - how the hell do you even say that?


Turning it over, I see a map of South America, or most of it, also with no countries I’ve ever heard of and some writing that I think is in French. “Territoire contesté.” Anyway, there do not appear to be any drugs in this envelope. The second item of suspicion is this lighter, which feels empty. Hand me the paper towels. I’m gonna unscrew the bottom.


No drugs in here either. Just a drop of…


Smells like kerosene. Maybe this thing is designed to take more than one kind of fuel.

ER: So what’s the Socialist Republic of the British Isles?

KY: I don’t know. Some kind of underground terrorist group? Like the Red Brigades?


The next item of suspicion is the first-aid kit. You got the sample vials, Ed?

ER: How many do you need?

KY: Ten. I’m gonna take samples of each of these drugs and send ‘em for analysis.

[16.0 SEC PAUSE]

ER: “California Army Surplus.” Since when is army surplus sorted according to state?

DF: Since never.


KY: Bubba-dub bum ba dum-dum, bubba-dub bum ba doo, bubba-dub bum ba dum the way I…



Okay. I assume these samples don’t need climate control or anything. The last item of suspicion - which I saved for last because it’ll take a while to search - is this duffel bag. Let me just…


DF: We can’t budge it either.

KY: It’s like it’s rusted shut. But I don’t see any rust. It’s…


That is stuck tight.

RH: Can I have a look at it?

KY: Knock yourself out. I’m gettin’ a pair of scissors.


RH: Would you hand me that flashlight? Thanks. I wanna see somethin’.


ER: What are you lookin’ at?

RH: The zipper handle. Looks like black glass but light doesn’t go through it. And - lemme get the ruler - it’s a little over an inch long and close to an inch wide. About the size and shape of - I got an idea.

KY: What?

RH: Let’s get John Doe in here and see if he can open it.

KY: Why?

RH: I think this thing might only open for him. I know it sounds crazy, but…

KY: So you think the handle’s some kinda - what? Fingerprint scanner?

RH: Kinda looks like one, doesn’t it?

KY: Where the fuck would a homeless guy get a hold of James Bond bullshit like that?

RH: Where would he get a hold of any of this shit? I mean, look at this flashlight. Ever see one like it?

KY: Matter of fact, I have. I had one like it once.

RH: Really?

KY: Yeah. Russian-made. You squeezed the handles and this thing spun inside and it lit up like that one.

RH: Huh.

KY: Got rusted, though.

RH: Huh. Y’all find out what the other two languages are on this thing?

DF: Yeah. I did a search. The other two languages are Chechen and, uh, Inuktitut.

ER: Inuk-what?

DF: Eskimo language. If that’s what you’re supposed to call ‘em.


RH: Not havin’ any luck?

KY: The fuck is this thing made out of?

ER: You got me. I spilled coffee on it this mornin’ and it just beaded up and slid off. Didn’t leave a trace.


You gonna report that?

RH: I’m gonna let that one go. Don’t let it happen again.

KY: Goddamn. This thing does not want to be cut. Can’t even poke holes in it.


I’m gonna get some wire cutters. ‘Scuse me.


RH: Not even a label on this thing - wait. There’s Chinese characters all down the inside of the handle.

ER: Like the coat.

DF: I copied down the ones on the coat and did an image search. The only ones that got a response mean “dark or black spruce.” I guess that’s the color.

ER: You think John Doe’s a Chinese spy?

RH: Huh?

ER: I mean, I’m not tryin’ to sound racist, but he does kinda look Chinese, doesn’t he? I saw him when Ibañez brought him in. I mean, he’s tall, but look at Yao Ming.

DF: That would explain his clothes - all Chinese knockoff brands. I tried looking up the companies online - most of ‘em don’t even exist. But I did get hold of a spokesperson for Gildan Activewear and he said Taylor Swift is still alive. Man, I can’t believe I just said that.


You know what I think?

RH: What?

DF: I think John Doe went crazy. Schizophrenic or somethin’. Had that T-shirt printed up, back when he had some money. Been runnin’ around the country ever since lookin’ for whoever killed Taylor.

RH: That would explain the T-shirt.


That’s the problem with this shit, though. You can point to any one thing and come up with an explanation. Try and put it all together and you get a schizophrenic homeless Chinese spy with the Red Brigades. In Memphis. Stealin’ succotash.

ER: I tell you what else doesn’t fit in. This belt.


This is real bison leather. You can tell by the grain. This is a quality product.

RH: Huh.

ER: So if he’s that hard up for money, why hasn’t he sold it?

DF: Thing about homeless people is, they don’t start out that way. They always got somethin’ from their old lives they wanna hang on to.

ER: So what was he doin’ walkin’ around with oven mitts?

RH: The oven mitts I get. They’re big, they’re warm, you can work in ‘em, and this guy - even if he had money he couldn’t exactly buy gloves off the rack.

DF: Nice to know somethin’ makes sense.

RH: But there’s somethin’ else weird about that bag. Lemme take a closer look at it.


Uh-huh. There’s no seams on it anywhere.


Or on the coat. No hems, no anything. Which means they weren’t made in a normal way. They were either 3D printed or - somethin’ else, I don’t know. Even the pockets are - hang on a sec.

ER: What?

RH: There’s somethin’ inside this little pocket right here, inside the big pocket.

ER: Shit, we must’ve missed it.

RH: Feels like a coin. Hand me a pair of gloves and another form.


Thank you.


It’s about the size of a nickel, same thickness, but the edge - hmm. I’ll just write “coin.” We can weigh it later. The head side shows the profile of an unknown heavily bearded man facing left. Writing above the head reads “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” Writing below the head reads “2004.” Tails side - a different bearded guy, in a robe, with a staff, standing next to an ocean wave and - high-fivin’ it, I think. Writing along the top reads “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” Below that it says “SEDITIONIS TYRANNIS ENIM LEGI DEI OBEDIENTIA” - what the fuck?

DF: It says that?

RH: No, it says “TWENTY CENTS.”


ER: Is nothing about this guy normal?

RH: His socks seem pretty normal.

DF: Let’s not look too close at the socks. Probably made ‘em himself outta Bigfoot’s ass hair or somethin’.

ER: We should go through the coat again, though. See if we missed anything else.

DF: Maybe we’ll find, uh, 14 more. Make change for a three-dollar bill.

ER: You think it’s counterfeit?

DF: Gotta be.

RH: Well, metallurgy ain’t my thing, but just from the weight it feels real - not made of plastic or anything. And if you were gonna make a fake coin…

DF: Why make a coin that don’t even exist?

RH: Dumb question. Have they interviewed John Doe yet?

DF: I talked to Steve up at holding. He says he heard the guy’s still too emotionally fragile. Like he just sits there all day with his head in his hands and won’t eat.

ER: What’s he so sad about? Shit, at least now he’s got a roof over his head.

DF: Maybe he knew the woman who got shot.

RH: Be a hell of a coincidence.

DF: Make as much sense as alla this shit.

RH: Fair point.

KY: What are you guys doin’?

ER: Sergeant Hendrickson found a coin in one of the pockets. We’re checkin’ to see if we missed anything else.

KY: Speakin’ of checkin’ things, stand aside for a sec.

RH: What the hell?

KY: Before I use these on the bag, I wanna know if I can cut this shit at all. Please feel free to report this.

RH: I will.


KY: Well, fuck. Do your thing, Sergeant.

RH: At approximately 1108 hours, Lt. Kyle Yardley of the DEA Task Force took it upon himself to slice into the bottom of John Doe’s coat with wire cutters, not in furtherance of the search warrant but to see if it could be done. There is now a - lemme grab the ruler real quick - roughly quarter-inch cut in the bottom of the coat and the wire cutters will need to be repaired or replaced. The blades have been forced apart.

KY: Well, now we know it’s not indestructible. We just need somethin’ stronger. Maybe a bolt cutter.

RH: Wait.


KY: What?

RH: There’s something weird - hand me the magnifyin’ glass.


Thank you. The cut - it looks like it’s closin’ up. I can see the - they’re not threads, they’re more like long feathers or live coral or somethin’ - but I can see ‘em movin’.


They’re - they’re fixin’ each other. This thing is mending itself.

ER: The fuck?

DF: You’re tellin’ me that thing is alive?

RH: I don’t know. But now we know why it looks brand new when the rest of this guy’s shit is all worn out.

ER: What if we pissed it off?

DF: Or it’s hungry?

KY: Then it’s a damn good thing it’s right near her instead of me.

RH: Still wanna go for the bolt cutter?


Look, the cut’s half gone now. Even if we do get the bag open, you seriously think it’ll have anything as normal as drugs in it?

KY: Personally, I’m about ready to call it a day. Maybe we’ll try again on Monday.

ER: You want us to put all his shit back where it was?

RH: I’m not here to tell y’all how to run I&R, but here’s my, uh, 20 cents’ worth. Even if this bag had nothin’ in it, this and the coat would have a higher black-market value than everything else we got in storage put together plus all our organs. Seriously, this is the kind of shit governments would pay for.

KY: In other words, first we need to lock all this shit up somewhere extra safe. Second, we all need to shut up about it. ‘Specially you.
This is something I've been working on recently. I posted it on and people seemed to like it. One reader compared it to the horror movie "The Objective."
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