In August of 1997, just after midnight, I was called to a homicide scene to the “Sinking Ship” parking lot in Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle.
The victim, a 21-year-old black male, had been shot several times and was dead at the scene. He was identified as Malone Carter, aka Shakir Shabazz. A black male about eighteen was seen running from the scene.
It was a classic gang-bang.
After a few days of investigating, we were able to identify a suspect. We tracked him down and brought him in. He declined to give us a statement. (Big surprise).
We found out that he had been with another suspect at the time of the shooting. The second guy was from South Central Los Angeles but had been in Seattle for a few weeks. Our informant told us he thought that guy had returned to L.A.
We got a snapshot of the suspect, posing with friends, the Space Needle prominent in the background. I cropped the photo, so the Space Needle wasn’t in the shot.
I sent a bulletin to LAPD asking if anyone knew the suspect. A day or so later I got a call from Gang Unit detectives working the 77th Street Division. They knew our guy and thought he was back in town.
A day or so later, Greg Mixsell and I were on a plane to L.A.
We went to the 77th Street Division and met with the gang unit detectives there.
A few weeks earlier, I’d helped LAPD Robbery/Homicide detectives in Seattle track down witnesses in a cold case murder. I called Dennis Kilcoyne, the group supervisor, and told him I was going to 77th Street and needed a contact.
Robbery/Homicide are the big boys in LAPD and handle only the most serious murders.
When I arrived at the station, the gang unit sergeant met me. “I got a call from RHD” (Robbery-Homicide Division), and they told me to do anything you asked. My guys and me are yours as long as you need us.”
Whenever outside agencies came to Seattle, we had a policy of dropping everything and working their case just like it was our own. LAPD returned the favor.
It took all day to track this guy down. We staked our several houses in South Central L.A. looking for him. Finally, one of the detectives, a very sharp guy named McLeod, got the idea to call the suspect’s mother.
“This is (insert name) from Youth Corpse. I may have a job for your son, but we have to contact him immediately before it’s filled.”
She was elated and told Mcleod where he could be found in Van Nuys.
We drove there and took him into custody.
Back at 77th Street Station, I showed the suspect the cropped photo of him in Seattle.
“Oh, man!” he said. “That picture was taken at my homies house down here.”
“Really?” I said, producing an uncropped photo with the Space Needle in the background.
I looked at the LAPD detective in the room with me and pointed at the Space Needle.
“Do you guys have one of these down here?”
The suspect then admitted he’d been in Seattle but denied involvement in the murder.
I produced a type-written statement, purportedly from his co-defendant, which implicated him in the murder but said the writer had nothing to do with it. (I, of course, wrote the statement. It was a prop.)
“That son of a bitch!” he said. “I’ll tell you what happened!”
He then confessed, implicating both of them in the murder.
Both suspects pleaded guilty prior to trial.
Like they always say, we don’t catch the smart ones.