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December 2021


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for December 2nd, 2021

Book Excerpt: A Cuban Inmate Uprising, the Salvation Army and Santa’s Helper

This is an excerpt from the book “FBI Case Files Michigan

By Greg Stejskal

This is a Christmas story, but it really began just before Thanksgiving in 1987, at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The Cuban inmates had rioted and had taken control of a sizeable portion of the penitentiary. The catalyst for the riots happened years before that in 1980.

The Mariel boatlift, a massive exodus of Cuban refugees from Cuba to the US, had among its refugees, convicted criminals. Fidel Castro had apparently thought the boatlift was an opportune time to decrease his prison over-crowding. Upon arrival in the US those Cubans who were determined to be criminals were detained and placed in US penitentiaries with no clear plan as to what to do with them in the long term.

This uncertain future led predictably to unrest and ultimately to the prison riots. When the inmates rioted and took control of part of the Atlanta Penitentiary, they also took some of the staff hostage.

The FBI was tasked with negotiating with the inmates and providing SWAT teams should it become necessary to retake control of the penitentiary by force and rescue the hostages. SWAT teams from many of the large offices were called to respond to Atlanta. Our Detroit team was one of those teams.

So, on a cold, rainy November night, an Air Force C-141, flying a circuit, landed at Detroit Metro Airport to pick up our team. Already on board were teams from Pittsburgh and Cleveland. We arrived in Atlanta early the next morning.

 The Atlanta Penitentiary is a foreboding place. It was built in phases beginning in the late 1800s, into the first few decades of the 1900s. It has 60-foot walls with watch towers on each corner. Upon our arrival we climbed to the top of one of the watch towers and looked down into the prison yard. It looked like a scene from a post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” movie. 

Inmates were walking around the yard, all carrying homemade weapons: long-knives, swords, etc., made from scrap metal and sharpened on some of the prison machine tools. After seeing that scene, we all assumed we were going to be in Atlanta for a while. We knew we would prevail if it came to having to use force. After all they had made the critical tactical mistake of bringing knives to a gun fight. But they had hostages and a large supply of non-perishable food in their control.

The next morning, I was walking to the Penitentiary administration building for the shift change briefing when I saw a tent where free coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts were being served. It was the Salvation Army tent. The Salvation Army was there every day of the insurrection including Thanksgiving serving coffee, donuts, smiles and kind words. I’ve been on a lot of SWAT operations, but I had never been offered coffee, donuts or kind words from the neighborhood in which we were operating. Knowing the Salvation Army was there for us, had me thinking that I owed this selfless organization a debt – a pay it forward kind of thing.

   The penitentiary insurrection was resolved peacefully after about two weeks. The key factor was that no social order was developed among the inmates just anarchy. They went through several months’ food supply in days. We all went back to our respective homes.

   I did not forget the Salvation Army’s generosity. I decided every holiday season for a few hours, I would volunteer to ring the bell and tend the red kettle in my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

   Some years later, I was ringing the bell at a local supermarket with my wife. We had both donned our Santa hats and were wearing the Salvation Army issue red vests. It was snowing lightly; the Christmas lights were shining, and Christmas carols were playing on the stores PA system. We were at one door of the store greeting shoppers and collecting donations in our red kettle, when all of a sudden there was a commotion at the other door.

 A man ran out of the store. He was closely followed by two other men in white butcher smocks. The men in the smocks tackled the man in the parking lot. They were trying to hold him down, but he was struggling & screaming as they pulled several cuts of meat from under his coat. The erstwhile meat thief continued to yell, flail and kick.

I turned to my wife and said, “I should probably go help them.” I kept flex-cuffs (large heavy-duty zip-ties) in my car. I grabbed some flex-cuffs, walked over and knelt next to the struggling man.

He was facing away from me. In my “soothing,” authoritative voice, that I used for arrests and reading someone their rights, I told him, we could let him up, but he needed to let me put these cuffs on him. The man turned his head to look at me, and his eyes got very big.

I’m about 6’4” and weighed about 235 lbs. I had forgotten I was wearing a Santa hat and a big red vest. After staring at me for a few moments, he asked, “who are you?” I smiled and replied, “I’m Santa’s helper.” He immediately stopped fighting and struggling. He submissively allowed me to place the cuffs on him. The butchers and I stood him up, and he placidly waited for the police to arrive.

I have often thought there might be some profound Dickensian message to be derived from this incident. I don’t know if the meat thief was stealing prime rib for his family, sort of a protein version of Jean Valjean, or maybe he was planning to host a barbecue at a homeless enclave.

There is certainly some irony in collecting donations for the Salvation Army at one door of a grocery store, and at the same time, to have an economically disadvantaged meat thief fleeing from the other door. Maybe the message is as simple as, if you’re poor and hungry at Christmas time, there are places other than your local grocery store you can go that care, like the Salvation Army.

Lengel: Michigan School Shootings a Reminder that America Loves its Guns More Than Its Children

By Allan Lengel

Some thought the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012 would be the horrific event that would lead to true gun-law reform. Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza used his mother’s Bushmaster XM-15 assault rifle to kill 26 people, 20 of them children no older than 8. Earlier in the day, he murdered his mother at home. After his shooting spree, he killed himself.

But nothing happened. No gun reform. No legislative ban on assault rifles. Nothing. The National Rifle Association dug in its heels, as did the nation’s many, many gun lovers, saying America needed to find ways to improve school security and address mental health, not gun reform and violence.  

“Rather than face their own moral failings the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws, and fill the national media with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action, and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away,” NRA head Wayne LaPierre said at a press conference after that shooting.

On Tuesday, in suburban Detroit, a 15-year-old Oxford High School sophomore shot and killed four students and wounded six others and a teacher.

Again, nothing will happen — not in Lansing, not in Washington.


Because America loves its guns far more than its children.

Gun culture and politics runs deep in this country. The NRA throws its weight around in Washington like a sumo wrestler. Cross the NRA, particularly in certain states, and kiss your political career goodbye. In Washington, a nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the chief enforcer of our nation’s federal gun laws, can’t get Senate approval without the NRA’s blessing. That explains why the agency has lacked a permanent director for six years

NRA ad

Michigan Native

David Chipman, a former ATF official, is the latest, example. President Biden nominated him this year to head the agency.
NRA ad on Facebook

But Chipman, in the eyes of gun lovers, has a big hurdle: He became a gun control advocate after leaving the agency and was named a senior policy adviser for the Washington-based organization called Giffords: Court to Fight Gun Violence. The group was founded by  Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in a 2011 mass shooting in suburban Tucson.

A man with a 9mm pistol, like that used in the Oxford shootings, shot 19 people and killed six, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old child.

Imagine Chipman’s chutzpah, to be affiliated with an anti-gun violence organization and wanting to head an agency that enforces our gun laws to make us safer. After seeing he didn’t have enough Senate support, Biden in September withdrew the nomination.

Our gun laws are so inadequate, full of more loopholes than a giant corporation’s tax forms. Although the Oxford shooting involved a semiautomatic pistol, most U.S. mass shootings involve assault rifles, which no one outside of the military needs.

In the Oxford case, we know the father of accused shooter Ethan Crumbley bought a 9mm handgun four days before the shooting. We assume he easily purchased the gun, and from reports, likely knew his son was using it. The parents have gotten their son a lawyer and no one in the family is talking.

Talk or not talk, the kid is screwed because many students, teachers and cameras saw his spree. Being bullied or breaking up with a girlfriend – if either of those played a role – are irrelevant. Those hiding from legal responsibility at this point are his parents, who should be worried about criminal liability. 

What we’ve yet to hear from any member of the family is a public apology. That’s not asking too much.

Days Before Shootings

I’ve covered mass shootings like this for years. Often, the killer buys his weapon at a local gun shop with ease days before the shooting. The weapons of choice are almost always assault rifles and 9 mm pistols.

The NRA makes it easy for people to get them. (And by the way, for all the NRA’s blather after Sandy Hook about mental health, nothing has been done to make it easier for troubled young people to get mental-health services. As for school security, how many parents want their children entering school through a metal detector. How many want to see teachers carrying sidearms?)

When are we going to fund agencies like ATF to fully enforce laws, give politicians backbones to stand up to the NRA and let our lawmakers create effective legislation to ban assault weapons and make it tougher for just anyone to obtain a gun?


When America starts loving its children more than its guns.

Volunteers to Assemble Appreciation Bags for Border Patrol Agents

The medical team prays with Border Patrol agents. Photo: Facebook/Mercy Works

By Steve Neavling

When a medical team in East Texas traveled to the U.S. and Mexico sides of the border to provide free treatment, they learned about the challenges facing Border Patrol agents. 

When the team of doctors, dentists and nurses returned home, they had a mission: Assemble appreciation bags for 600 agents, The Morning Telegraph reports.

The agents work hard and face dangers, and yet they are underappreciated, said Debbie Lascelles, founder of Mercy Works, a division of Youth With A Mission. 

The bags will be filled with items such as beef jerky, protein bars, sunscreen, socks, gum, gift cards and handwritten notes of appreciation. 

“Many of our Border Patrol agents feel overwhelmed and underappreciated,” Lascelles said. “It’s past time that those of us living in Texas show them we are grateful for the job they’re doing to try and keep us safe and uphold the rule of law.”

K-9 Named in Honor of Fallen FBI Special Agent Charles W. Elmore

The 1-year-old German shorthaired pointed is named after FBI Special Agent Charles W. Elmore. Photo: Leesburg Police Department

By Steve Neavling

A police department in Virginia named their new K-9 in honor of FBI Special Agent Charles W. Elmore, who was killed in the line of duty on Aug. 9, 1979.

The 1-year-old German shorthaired pointer, Elmore, recently graduated from training in patrol duties and drug detection for the Leesburg Police Department. 

The police department received an anonymous $15,000 donation to cover the costs of purchasing and training the dog. The donor requested that the dog be named in honor of Elmore.

Elmore and Special Agent J. Robert Porter were fatally shot by an assailant while in the FBI office in El Centro, Calif.

Elmore, who became a special agent with the FBI in 1972, was 33 years old. 

“It’s been more than 42 years since the tragic killings of Special Agents Charles Elmore and Robert Porter at our El Centro Resident Agency,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner said in a statement. “There have been many tributes and memorials throughout the years honoring both men, to include streets in El Centro being named after each of them. We honor them every year on August 9 here in our field office. They are on the FBI Wall of Honor in every FBI field office and at FBI Headquarters and Quantico. This gesture is a very thoughtful and unique tribute to Special Agent Elmore—a tribute which will carry his name and legacy while continuing the fight against crime.”

FBI Special Agent Charles W. Elmore

Leesburg Police Chief Gregory Brown said the K-9 will he helpful. 

“I am excited to welcome Elmore to the LPD family. Working together, K9 Elmore and Officer (Lelia) Brickley will assist in serving and protecting our community through such tasks as locating missing juveniles, as well as locating those experiencing cognitive impairments who become lost,” Leesburg Police Chief Gregory Brown said in a statement.  “I also want the community to know that true heroes are never forgotten.  We honor the memory of FBI Special Agent Charles Elmore through our newest K-9 team member.”