“Wise men, when in doubt whether to speak or be quiet, give themselves the benefit of the doubt, and remain silent.”
Joseph Paul Franklin and I went way back together, to the fall of 1980 when FBI Civil Rights Section chief Dave Kohl, one of my close friends in the Bureau, asked me to do a fugitive assessment on the serial killer of African Americans, interracial couples and Jews. He had been arrested and interrogated, but managed to slip out a police station window. I thought he’d be difficult to catch because he was extremely sophisticated about police procedures and techniques, but I felt he would come back to somewhere along the Gulf Coast where he felt comfortable and our best shot at getting him would be when he needed money. He was spotted and identified from his tattoos by nurses at a Lakeland, Florida blood bank, where he’d gone to sell his plasma. FBI agents arrested him at a nearby store where he’d gone to cash the check.
Franklin died early yesterday morning by lethal injection at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Bonne Terre for the 1977 sniper style killing of Gerald Gordon outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue. That he was executed for this particular crime was almost arbitrary, though. In total, Franklin killed at least 22 and is most famous for two he only managed to wound: civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, whom he left permanently paralyzed.
Despite the fact that I conducted a long interview with Franklin about 20 years ago, corresponded with him, taught his case and wrote about him, I’m in no way sorry to see him go.
In February of this year, The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) celebrated its 30th Anniversary. On May 17th HRT suffered two fatalities during a training exercise off the coast of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Agents Christopher Lorek, 41, and Stephen Shaw, 40, were part of a small, highly skilled and elite FBI tactical support team.
As a former hostage negotiator for the FBI and then during joint operations with them as chief of the Investigative Support Unit, I had the opportunity to know many of the HRT’s members on both a professional and personal level, at the FBI Academy and at various scenes of action. It is tough enough to qualify as an FBI special agent. And thousands of superior agents have applied for positions with the team since its inception, but very few meet the high standards set by this elite group. In fact, since, 1983 fewer than 300 agents have been elected to HRT.
HRT consists of some of the finest people I have ever known. They are all dedicated and brave agents who define what a real hero is, and should be, in our daily lives.
It is with profound sadness that we note the passing of retired FBI Special Agent Robert K. Ressler after a long and valiant struggle with an increasingly debilitating disease. Back in the 1970’s, when Bob and I were instructors assigned to the FBI Academy in Quantico, we decided we’d have a lot more impact in our discussions of violent and repeat offenders if we could verify what we were teaching through actually interviewing the “experts” – the violent offenders themselves. We became partners, and for a long time you didn’t hear my name around the Bureau without hearing Bob’s, and vice versa.
The story has been told many times now, including by Bob in his own books and by Mark and me in Mindhunter, about how Ressler and I took every opportunity we could during our traveling “road schools” to go into penitentiaries and conduct exhaustive interviews with violent serial offenders. Out of that effort came the first organized study of such individuals, the landmark Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives we co-authored with Dr. Ann Burgess, and ultimately the Crime Classification Manual, which the three of us produced along with Ann’s husband, Dr. Allen Burgess. It is now in its third edition. And out of that effort emerged the FBI’s criminal profiling program, of which I was the first operational agent, and VICAP, the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, of which Bob became the first manager. By the time he retired from the Bureau, his story was already the stuff of legend.
Bob’s contributions to the fields of behavioral profiling and criminal investigative analysis will be long remembered. He left the field in a far better and more advanced state than he found it. He was one of the pioneers. May his family find peace and grace in his many accomplishments and his lasting legacy.
As we’ve often said, the solution to most violent crimes, especially predatory crimes, is the equation: Why + How = Who. And in a case as tragic and impactful as these twin bomb blasts near the finish line to the Boston Marathon, there are always going to be “media experts” who want to offer their opinions. For the time being, in my opinion, they ought to be honest enough to say, “I just don’t know.” The analysis of the structure of the bombs themselves will help determine whether this is a domestic or international conspiracy or some lone wolf looking for personal fame.
Beyond that, I think it is best that the so-called “experts” keep their mouths shut and let law enforcement investigators do their job without speculation that could very well lead to copy cat crimes or misguided reports that send the investigation off in a wrong direction. The consideration for would-be commentators should be the same as it is for physicians: First, do no harm.