State police experts help in investigation
June 25, 2001
Lansing State Journal
By Katie Matvias
Lansing police turn to the Michigan State Police for their expertise and technology when it comes to complex homicide scenes.
State police are assisting in the investigation of Bernita White's shooting - the city's second homicide of 2001.
White was shot once just after 3:30 p.m. Saturday while walking with her daughter and friends from a picnic area toward the Potter Park Zoo ticket booth.
Witnesses reported hearing one or two shots, possibly from a wooded area north of the zoo entrance. No one has reported seeing who fired the shot.
Lansing's Crime Scene Investigation unit was at the scene Saturday collecting physical evidence, including photographs and blood specimens, Lansing police Lt. Raymond Hall said.
But they couldn't determine where the shooter was when White was killed and have been unable to locate the bullet, Hall said.
That's why Lansing turned to the state police for assistance. The state police can gather information beyond Lansing's capability, said Lansing police Chief Mark Alley.
"It's about being able to have an expert in trajectory of a bullet,'' Alley said. "When you need that, you need it now.''' Using a measuring tool called a total station, experts can determine where the bullet came from - and where it could have landed, said Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Reinhard Pope, who works in the agency's firearms unit.
For example, investigators might start with where a victim's body fell or where two cars collide in a traffic accident.
They use an infrared beam and a pole equipped with a prism to measure distance, angles and elevations from different locations.
Investigators press a button on the device to record the data from each location.
"And when you're done, it will make a scale drawing of the whole area. It's really similar to survey equipment,'' Pope said.
The total station measurements are much more accurate than using measuring tape, he said.
The state police helicopter also flew over the zoo to give investigators a better look at the area.