Monday, June 09, 2008

Possible suicide by snitch who alleged police doping deserves outside inquiry

As the mainstream media continues to focus on whether the National Football League will investigate allegations by deceased Plano steroid dealer David Jacobs, I continue to wonder who will investigate allegations that he sold steroids to police in five Metroplex departments?

Jacobs' death was ruled a suicide, but the more I learn, the more I think his case deserves an outside investigation.

Let me be clear I have no first-hand knowledge; I can't know what happened. Perhaps it really was a murder-suicide, the denouement of a rocky and jealous relationship with his bodybuilder girlfriend
Amanda Jo Earhart-Savell. But when a police department Jacobs accused of harboring steroid abusers is the same one conducting the investigation, that creates an inherent appearance of conflict that would be better served by enlisting independent investigators. I agree with Bill Baumbach from the Collin County Observer who:
hope[s] Collin County DA John Roach takes a very hard look at this case. Even if the evidence supports suicide, Rossi died before he could give testimony against law enforcement officers . An outside investigation is warranted. If Mr. Roach will not investigate, then the feds should.
I'd earlier compared Jacobs' case to a New York steroid dealer who accused police and was soon thereafter found dead from gunshot wounds to the chest and head, which was ruled a suicide. (NYPD instituted department-wide steroid testing as the result of his allegations.) It turns out David Jacobs was also shot in the abdomen and head, but the medical examiner concluded his death was a suicide, too.

In general, how likely is it that a suicide requires two shots? Certainly possible, but statistically speaking, not very. Via Steroid Nation I found this study from North Carolina that has the biggest dataset I've seen on the topic. Here's the abstract:
Suicide by firearm is a frequent mode of death and the most common mode of suicide in the United States. So typically is there but one bullet entrance would in the suicide victim, and so often are there multiple wounds with homicide that some investigators and the public are unaware or forget that the person intending suicide may discharge his gun into himself more than once. The frequency, incidence, and other characteristics of the phenomenon deserve more recognition. The data presented are from medical examiner reports and related material from 7,895 gunshot deaths, including 3,522 suicides by firearm, that occurred in North Carolina in the 7-year period 1972-1978. The 58 multishot firearm suicides represent 0.7% of all firearm deaths (one in 136) and 1.6% of forearm suicides (one in 61). Characteristics of the individual entrance wounds such as body regions involved and muzzle distance were the same as those of single shot cases. Long gun use was not rare, but 0.22 caliber handguns predominated. Other characteristics of weapon, victim, wounds, and situations are presented. Each of the cases was assessed by forensic pathologists as it was reported and was reviewed again for the study. The type of data presented is one advantage of a structured, centrally guided, statewide medical examiner system.
So .7% of gunshot deaths were two-shot suicides, but steroid dealers who accused police in New York and Plano both died that way? (A possibly probative followup study question might have been, "what percentage of two-shot suicides were people who had pending accusations against police officers regarding misconduct?")

Also, who tries to commit suicide by shooting themselves in the abdomen?

Another piece of datum makes me think there's more to investigate: the North Carolina study found most two shot deaths were with "long guns" and .22 caliber handguns. But David Jacobs supposedly couldn't do the job with a .40 caliber Glock?

Over the weekend, Tanya Eiserer at the Dallas News gave more detail about what police found ("Steroid dealer David Jacobs death ruled a suicide," June 7):

Police responded to Mr. Jacobs' home after receiving a missing-person call about midnight Wednesday from Ms. Earhart-Savell's family. The family told police they had not heard from her and thought she might be at Mr. Jacobs' house.

Police were still trying to determine who owned the gun believed to have been used in the shootings.

Authorities said they found "no sign of forced entry" and have no reason to believe anyone else was in the home at the time of their deaths. But according to the court records, they found signs of a struggle, six fired bullets and 10 bullet casings.

After the bodies were found, Plano police wearing masks over their faces were seen entering the house and taking evidence away, some in boxes. Police say they were undercover officers who need to protect their identities because of other work.

According to the court records, police seized computers, several cellphones, video equipment and other computer-related equipment, as well as more than $3,000.

One wonders exactly how many undercover Plano cops are working on steroid cases? After all, Jacobs already cut a plea deal and was no longer an investigative target. For whole groups of investigators to be hiding their identity while they're investigating the snitch who accused their colleagues of crimes simply leaves an eery and decidedly ambiguous impression. Wrote Dallas News columnist Kevin Sheridan:

Frankly, Jacobs made lots of public allegations, which was part of the problem. Besides counting athletes as customers, he said he sold to police officers in Garland, Richardson, Dallas, Arlington and Plano. He even said a Plano cop stole $4,500 from him during a raid last year.

"One of the feds told me that [Jacobs] was talking a lot more than they wanted him to," [said Don] Hooton [father of a steroid using high-school pitcher in Plano who committed suicide] ... "They weren't happy about that at all.

"The last thing they want to see is all this stuff on the evening news."

I've argued previously that the Department of Justice has little business investigating drug use by professional athletes, but DOJ has longstanding authority and responsibility to investigate allegations of police corruption. If it's true that Jacobs operated one of the largest steroid rings in America and sold his product to police officers, the feds need to step in so the public can feel confident nothing will get swept under the rug. At the end of the day, it's a lot more important to root out police officers who're trafficking in illegal steroids than to investigate a bunch of overpaid NFL jocks.


Anonymous said...

You are correct; this deal needs an outside investigator, preferably from the Feds.

But keep in mind, Texas has an interesting history of gunshot suicides. For instance, about a decade back, the body of a local book-collector/gambler of Bastrop washed up on the bank of the Colorado. Decedant had been shot in the head, maybe in the back of the head. The intrepid local sheriff of the time, a retired, former Austin PD detective, after full investigation, issued his opinion of suicide. Extensive search never turned up a gun on the River banks or bottom. That was because, said the sheriff, the decedent had tied the gun with a short cord to a capped plastic jug. Upon the release of the gun after decedent shot himself in the head, the gun was carried far downstream on the current, perhaps even into Matagorda Bay. I'm not making this up.

In yet another "suicide", a banker in a Central Texas rural town was found dead in a pasture. There was speculation that decedent had been involved with organized bad guys in a program of peculation of the bank's money. Decedent's death was due to two gun-shot wounds to the back of the head. I don't know if the gun was found or not.

I suspect that stories like this are more frequent than we know, because they are not picked up by the big city press. Strange things happen in sparsely populated areas which the locals would rather not know too much about.

Anonymous said...

I agree. This is a major topic of discussion in the Texas bodybuilding and fitness community. I was at the 2008 NPC Lone Star Classic contest in Plano this weekend with this tragic event weighing on the minds of many in attendance.

Both David Jacobs and Amanda Sevall were well known within the community (although ostracized because Jacobs was thought to have ratted out other pro and amateur bodybuilders in spite of his statements to the contrary).

The consensus among people who knew Jacobs was that a murder-suicide was most likely scenario; the big surprise was not that he did it but that Sevall was still with him and that he was able to take her with him.

I agree with the murder-suicide ruling. But the appearance of police corruption is unacceptable. Jacobs was disliked by enough bodybuilders, athletes, cops that conspiracy theorists will keep the suspicions alive indefinitely.

An independent investigation needs to be called.

Anonymous said...

Given the oddities of these fatalities in the Plano steroids case, and the similar examples described by Doran Williams, it seems like there could be a general problem in some Texas law enforcement departments.

If the problem is general, then the use of assisted suicide may not be the only questionable practice being used. That might make it easier to identify problem-departments, since any of multiple potential lines of investigation could be productive.

In the interest of a full accounting, in the Plano case if not others, it is also possible that 3rd parties (steroids suppliers?) wanted to prevent loose talk. These 'others' could have plugged the leak, with or without the police department being involved.

Pinkycatcher said...

Grit's, the .40 cal Glock from it's website (I just happen to have up, I'm looking for a new gun) is called the G22, with the subtitle being "The U.S. Law Enforcement Pistol" I'm just wondering if this guy has had his glock for a long time, or if it's just a coincedence, but that's too easy to cover up if the whole force is issued that gun.

Anonymous said...

NPR news tonight never even mentioned the Metroplex police angle.

For dubious suicides, none matches that of John Paisley, ca late 70s. But that wasn't Texas and besides the spook is dead. (Try Wikipedia for an account).

chartelle said...

I don't know if the rest of the local tv stations are reporting in a similar manner as channel 4...but the other night when I heard that story reported on that station there was no mention whatever of any police being the alleged customers for that dealer's steroids - only sports figures? "All the news thats fit to print"? Not in this case.

Anonymous said...

Where is the Cedric Benson fan thread?

Anonymous said...

"Suicide" has become so popular as a means of eliminating your for that it has become a verb now: suicided means killed to look like a suicide and is very popular in the military when they want to get rid of a colonel investigating corruption in Iraq, for instance. Or in the case of the nuclear warheads transported illegally from Minot AFB ND to Barksdale AFB LA on August 30, 2007 and then the crew and some related people ended up inexplicably dead or suicided so they could not talk. I guess the police have picked up on that trend.