The ability to show bullet trajectories on a vehicle, notes Eric Richardson, a master sergeant with the Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) Police Department and a trained crime scene reconstructionist, is an especially key part of the diagram's details. "You want to be able to determine distance — height of the gun off the ground and distance away from the first primary defect," says Richardson, a 15-year veteran with his police department's crime scene unit. The reconstructionist uses The CAD Zone Inc.'s Crime Zone V. 7.3 drawing software, designed for creating crime scene investigation diagrams, with a 3D Viewer. "We're dealing with height, space and width," Richardson continues. "The 3D aspect of the software helps show where a person was shooting with respect to the trajectory. It helps establish an approximate point of origin."
Adding to Richardson's comments, Jordan notes that shootings are a good example of complex crime scenes because bullets travel in 3D space. While a simple overhead view can be used to show the compass direction of the bullets' path and the side view (elevation) gives the angle (up or down), it takes a true 3D model to completely show the bullets' trajectory, he argues. With a 3D model and accurate scene measurements, one can show where a shooter was standing, the direction he was firing, and the elevation of the weapon in his hand. According to Jordan, one can even extend the trajectory path to potentially see where the bullets may have entered other structures or vehicles. "These details can be critical in proving a point to a jury or in a use-of-force board investigation for an officer-involved shooting," Jordan adds.3D mapping looks at training
For the Rapid City (North Dakota) Police Department, the application of 3D mapping not only helps in crime scene investigations, but is a valuable tool for training purposes, too. "When we map a scene, especially officer-involved shootings, we do it two-fold," explains Sgt. Brad Booth, who supervises the department's traffic section and oversees forensic mapping for traffic crash scenes. "First, we map a scene for evidentiary reasons. We provide diagrams to aid in court testimony. Second, when we create our maps, we want to learn if everything was done according to training procedures." Rapid City PD uses the MapScenes program from MicroSurvey Software of Westbank, B.C., Canada, because of its ability to illustrate 3D surfacing.
"That doesn't mean having a [diagramming software] program that will simply allow placement of 3D symbols," Booth explains. He says software must be able "to actually do surfacing so we can see contours in the land so that we can see if the officers had the best available cover, and whether they had a low spot in the ground they were lying in, or if they had adequate cover and concealment." Booth says the MapScenes program provides this capability.
A recent shooting in Creswell, Oregon, which is part of Lane County, illustrates how effective a 3D diagram can be for showing bullet trajectory. In the incident, a male suspect kidnapped his girlfriend in a trailer park. Shortly after the kidnapping, the girlfriend escaped. When Lane County deputies arrived at the scene, the suspect fired several shots through his trailer's walls. The Eugene-Lane County Metro SWAT Team was activated, arriving at approximately midnight. The suspect continued shooting outside through the walls of his trailer. Negotiators tried to talk the suspect out. But when the suspect emerged from the trailer the next morning, he began shooting at the SWAT team with a handgun. The SWAT team returned fire, hitting the suspect several times. During the shooting, some of the SWAT team's rounds, which had been fired from across the street from the suspect's trailer, penetrated a modular home on the north side of the fence that ran between the RV portion of the trailer park and a section of modular homes.
Upon reviewing the shooting incident, the Eugene PD's use-of-force board wanted to know from where the ammo rounds that struck the modular home were fired. Consequently, it was critical to determine the trajectory of these rounds.
An ideal way to determine the trajectories was to create a scaled diagram in which the location of the SWAT personnel could be carefully plotted. Jordan used a drawing program that has 3D drawing capability. The 3D diagram clearly showed that a SWAT team member lying prone across the street from the suspect's trailer had fired the errant rounds and that those rounds had been fired at the suspect.
These drawing programs also offer other capabilities that are designed just for creating crime and crash scene diagrams. These capabilities enable the user to draw 3D surfaces and bullet trajectories, place symbols on slopes and assign exact heights to symbols, generate profiles, calculate slopes, and easily show evidence like blood spatter on walls and vertical surfaces.