Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Zachariah Peterson Threatens to Mow Down (Kill) Teachers at Local Christian School (Part 2 / update)

Just me perhaps, maybe I missed it; but the law enforcement handling of a recent situation strikes me as a little odd.  They are unusually quiet.  In view of several high-profile and tragic attacks on schools, we, locally, have Zachariah Peterson who, in an online statement, threatened to go to a local Christian school and “mow down,” “execute” teachers and administrative staff.  The school, located in the Portland Metro area, has not been specifically identified.

Refer my previous post

Peterson was arrested reportedly by the Oregon State Police and lodged in the Multnomah County Jail.  He has been charged as an x-felon in possession of a gun – as I understand it four guns.  His bail was set at $100,000.  There was some indication, early on, that federal charges were pending; but nothing has materialized.

This arrest occurred September 11th, and with the exception of the initial, somewhat perfunctory reporting of the incident, there has been little or nothing since.  Why?

It makes me wonder what is going on – a significant public interest arrest – and no reported follow up in more than two weeks – no official statements.  What’s up with that?  Was there some problem with the arrest?  Was the arrest and the circumstances misrepresented?  Is Peterson otherwise occupied with a pending psychiatric evaluation?  Has he been released on bail?  Was there some substance to Peterson’s claims of abuse?  Why hasn’t the school been identified?  Why hasn’t the school been called upon to comment?  

It seems like local media would be all over this story.  But, I don’t see it.  Strange.

True Nelson

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Zachariah Peterson Threatens to Mow Down (Kill) Teachers at Local Christian School

On September 11th, Zachariah M. Peterson, a Beaverton, Oregon resident, WMA, age 29, was arrested by federal and local authorities and lodged in the Multnomah County Jail.  He is currently being held on $100,000 bail and charged as an x-felon in possession of a gun – in this case several guns.  Other charges are reportedly pending.

This case interests me because of the stunning allegations that Peterson intended / threatened to go to a local school (a Christian middle school) and “mow down” the teachers with which he had grievances.

He has been arrested, but the resulting charges and bail, as well as the news coverage – so far – seems minimal.

“The investigation began Thursday (9-10-15) when state police received an email from the host of an unidentified online community forum.”

True’s note:  The online forum has now been identified as ‘General [M]ayhem.’  I had not previously heard of said forum.  I did check it out – a gathering of assorted nuts, in my opinion.  However, I’m glad this forum has an adult monitoring it with the good sense to report the psychotic posting of Peterson.

“The email alerted police about a disturbing post made on the forum site at 1:50 a.m. Sept. 4 by someone who claimed to have attended a Christian middle school as a youth and suffered abuse at the hands of teachers and administrators.”

“The poster wrote of planning to enter the middle-school building… catch each one of the abusive teachers and mow them down with a shotgun, according to a federal criminal complaint…”

“…the poster would enter the elementary school building and execute as many abusers as possible along with personnel in the administrative office, the federal affidavit said.”

True’s note:  I suppose it could be inferred that students present at the time, and injured or killed, would incidentally and merely constitute inadvertent collateral damage.

“The federal agents and state police traced the online post to an IP address…”

“On Thursday… the alleged poster, Zachariah M. Peterson, allowed investigators into his home. There, police located four firearms and ammunition. Peterson also admitted he sent the threatening online post and was taken into custody.”

“Oregon State Police arrested Peterson. He was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center at 1:17 a.m. Friday on a federal marshal's hold and accused of a single allegation of felon in possession of a weapon. Investigators also seized his firearms.”

** Above quoted information from an article written by The Oregonian reporter, Maxine Bernstein on 9/12/15.

More to follow…

True Nelson

Saturday, September 12, 2015

So you want to hire (or perhaps become) a Private Investigator. There are some things you should know. (Part 3 & Conclusion)

This informational essay, in three parts, is best read in order:

Who becomes a private investigator?

The answer to that is almost anyone who is interested, over the age of 18, who has a clean record. 

The background check performed by the state licensing agency is probably the principal benefit to the public, and does give the public some assurance that they are dealing with a somewhat reputable person.  Please note that I didn’t say the person was necessarily qualified.

My personal opinion, albeit somewhat controversial, is that I find it hard to believe that anyone, without at least five years of law enforcement or other very intensive investigative experience, can be an effective private investigator.  There is just too much to know.  There are too many unanticipated situations that can quickly arise and become a serious liability issue, a violation of law, or even dangerous.  If you put your faith in such a person, all I can say is ‘good luck.’

What about private investigators’ fees?  What’s fair?  Well, it’s kind of an over-generalization, and a cliché, to say that you ‘get what you pay for.’  This is not necessarily true.  There are some very good investigators who specialize in certain areas (like surveillance) with fees that are relatively modest.  On the other hand, you can run into private investigators that have fees that are over-blown and exploitive.  Be careful and do your homework.  If a PI is very qualified and has good references, you are better served to consider this option – even if their fees seem a little higher.  A bad, inexperienced, or poorly trained PI can cause a client untold grief.  Moreover, you may not have actually saved any money.  Good PIs cover a lot of ground quickly.

Do private investigators have variable fee structures?  Yes, they often do.  This is usually based on good business practices and self-protection.  Is the client a potential repeat client?  Am I assured that I will not have any collection issues with this client?  Is the proposed case very complex and demanding, with short deadlines?  Nonetheless, professional investigators should be able to explain their ‘fee structure’ without too much hesitation – and be able to furnish you this information in writing.

Regarding fees in Oregon, particularly in the Portland Metro area, a potential client should expect investigative fees in the neighborhood of $80 to $150 per hour, plus expenses.  If you are quoted more than that, I would spend some time looking elsewhere.

If you are shopping for a PI in a major metropolitan area such as New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco expect the hourly rate to be higher.  Rural areas, the hourly rate will be somewhat less.

How do I locate a private investigator?  Well, the telephone book is probably your worst resource.  Internet searches are good and becoming better.  If you can get a referral, that’s great.  Attorneys are sometimes a good source for referrals.  Professional associations can be a good source for referrals, particularly associations which require or expect certifications, and/or standards for continuing education.  A quick word about ‘certifications’ (and there are many floating about):  some ‘certifications’ can be simply purchased for a small fee, and as a result are meaningless.  Always investigate the certifying association or body, and what is required to obtain a particular certification. These days this is easily done on the internet.  As with any profession, private investigation is definitely a profession filled with many skilled, educated and experienced people, and unfortunately quite a few duds.  Ask questions, get quotes and be an informed consumer.  If you don’t, you could quickly find yourself on the receiving end of a civil suit.

When I search for qualified private investigators in other areas of the country, I almost always look for someone with a law enforcement background.  Again, anyone, and I mean almost anyone short of an identifiable ex-felon, can become a private investigator.  A potential client should look for experience, references, and educational background – anything about the private investigator that you could conceivably verify, and would tend to give him or her a degree of credibility.

Good private investigators do have a certain amount of overhead:

Some have offices and staff.

Truly competent private investigators will subscribe to several databases, not customarily available to the general public.  They are not free.  These databases greatly expedite investigations, not to mention that they contribute professional thoroughness.

Advertising is critical.  If a PI doesn’t advertise through various outlets, the public just won’t find him.

All licensed PIs are required to take courses on various investigative subjects, plus ethics.
They belong to professional associations (all have dues).

If ‘certified,’ the PI will have additional fees to maintain the certification – as well as educational requirements that must be fulfilled.

All PIs usually possess an abundance of investigation related equipment such as cameras (still and motion), recording devices, tracking equipment, telescopic equipment, and – if they do quite a bit of surveillance – they will have a specially outfitted van.

Last, but not least, the professional PI must carry Errors and Omissions Insurance as a protection for the Client and for himself.

Final Thought:  Many believe that private investigation is easy.  Those people watch too much television.  It isn’t easy.  It can be difficult, stressful and sometimes dangerous.

Oh and one other thought:  As the client of a PI, you are invariably going to reveal some information that you consider confidential – perhaps even intimate details of your personal life.  Pick someone that you feel you can trust.

True Nelson

Friday, September 11, 2015

So you want to hire (or perhaps become) a Private Investigator. There are some things you should know. (Part 2)

This is part 2 of an informational essay on what is necessary to become a private investigator; and / or how a potential client might find and retain a qualified private investigator.  Information most understandable if read in order.

In Oregon, for example, you should understand that the licensing process is basic and generally attempts to determine if the potential applicant understands associated State law and general liability issues.

Additionally, the applicant is fingerprinted to verify that there is not some sort of criminal background of which the State should be aware.  The applicant is required to be bonded or insured.  In Oregon, a minimal bond is required.  However, many PI firms carry liability insurance for the protection of themselves and the client, with coverage in the neighborhood of one million or more.

In Oregon, and there are variations of this in other States, applicants with little or no prior investigative experience are allowed a ‘provisional license,’ – until they gain some rudimentary experience.  This might be something the potential client may want to inquire about.  Experience is generally important in most professions, but particularly in PI work.  Some states, a few, require no licensing whatsoever.

The ‘excepted category,’ referred to under Oregon law and frequently used in other States, largely refers to private investigators who work for a single employer.

Many law firms use this exception for the purpose of deploying their paralegal or administrative assistant (secretary) to conduct investigations, rather than retaining a licensed private investigator.  It is a practice that is not, for the most part, known to the public.  Theoretically, the paralegal or administrative assistant is under the constant supervision of an attorney; and, I believe, covered by the attorney’s ‘errors and omissions’ insurance.  Whether or not this constant supervision is actually true or even practicable is a controversial issue within the private investigative field.

Clients, when dealing with investigative fees incurred by a law firm (sometimes very expensive investigative fees), should not be shy about asking who conducted the investigation and what was his/her qualifications.  Attorneys use this ‘excepted category,’ as an additional profit opportunity.  Some paralegals and administrative assistants, possibly through trial and error, become quite competent.  Nonetheless, if a client has an important issue that requires a professional investigation, I recommend that you not trust that investigation to the Attorney’s secretary.

Furthermore, attorneys should be aware of the potential requirement that they might have to call a private investigator as a witness – perhaps to impeach another witness or another PI – and what type of impression their PI may have on the jury, including whether or not the PI appears qualified and professional.

One additional comment, that hopefully most attorneys are aware, is that attorneys need to insulate themselves from the witness interview process to preserve their own credibility.  Whether this necessary insulation is preserved by having one of their employees conduct a witness interview is, in my opinion, doubtful.

Some companies and corporations have ‘staff’ investigators.  And, I suppose it makes sense that these staff investigators not be required to be licensed in every state in which they work on behalf of their employer.  On the other hand, if the staff investigator is headquartered in a state that requires licensing, it’s hard for me to accept that he/she should be exempted from usual and customary standards, including the required periodic training and educational programs.  I think the public should expect consistent standards all around – just my opinion.

Who becomes a private investigator?

To be continued…

True Nelson

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

So you want to hire (or perhaps become) a Private Investigator. There are some things you should know. (Part 1)

This will be an informational essay on what is necessary to become a good private investigator; and / or how a potential client might find and retain a qualified private investigator.  I will split this essay into 'parts' to accommodate my blog format; and the information would be the most beneficial if the parts are read in order.

Many believe that the sole purpose of a private investigator is to ‘observe or interview and then report.’  As a result, it is commonly believed that these attributes fall within the province of almost any literate person regardless of background, experience, education and training.  Experienced investigators not only know the quickest, most cost efficient manner of accomplishing a project, they also carry-out the assignment in a legal and professional manner which does not adversely impact the client.  Furthermore, the more an investigator knows and understands about a situation the more useful and valuable his observations will be to others.

I’m occasionally asked about how one selects a private investigator.  And, I must admit this can be difficult.  I will attempt to simplify the process.

Licensing:  Most states now have licensing for private investigators, but not all.  Oregon and Washington do have licensing.  In other states, generally typing in your online search function ‘a State’s name with a request for licensed Private Investigators’ will immediately display the necessary information.

What is a Private Investigator:  Per Oregon Statute:  “Investigators solicit or accept employment to obtain or furnish information about persons, property, crimes, accidents, etc. [Oregon Revised Statutes 703.401(3)]

Investigators must be licensed unless they are in an excepted category. [Oregon Revised Statutes 703.411]” Other States generally have a similar definition.  (Will explain this later.)

What you really would like to know is what makes a good PI and how do you select a private investigator from the several hundred, perhaps thousands that are available in each State.  OK - can do.

To be continued...

True Nelson

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Nicholas Kristof / Guns / His View from the Ivory Tower

I must take issue with Nicholas Kristof, and his recent op-ed piece “Lessons from the Murders of TV Journalists.”  Of course, Kristof had to give us some clarity and expound on his anti-gun position, relevant to the tragedy in Virginia.  Mr. Kristof, do they actually pay you for this stuff?  Oh yes, I almost forgot.  You went to Harvard.  OK, I apologize and retract that insensitive remark.

However, if I might digress for a just a moment, Harvard is becoming a sort of inside joke (from Frazier Crane to Barrack Obama); a joke that everyone appreciates – other than Harvard alumni I understand.  It must be a very difficult school to get into – unless you are wired in some way.  I know our President had a difficult time preparing himself for the rigors of a Harvard education.

Obama quoted:  “Man, I wasted a lot of time in high school.  There were times when I, you know, got into drinking, experimented with drugs.  There was a whole stretch of time where I didn’t really apply myself a lot.”

I wonder if Harvard has that Presidential quote prominently displayed on campus as motivation for their new recruits.  I might suggest a caption:  See, anyone can do this.

Back to the topic at hand:  statistics lie and liars use statistics.

Kristof:  “More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on the battlefields of all the wars in U.S. history.”

Hardly original, that old stat was drug-out years back by Mark Shields, who we all know from the PBS News Hour.  And, yes, apparently that is a fairly accurate statistic from what I can determine.  But, what Kristof fails to mention is that the vast majority of those deaths were by accident or suicide.  Kristof would probably respond, ‘Well, yes, but so what?’  It’s the implication Mr. Kristof – don’t you get it?  Accidents happen (car accidents, occupational accidents, and stupid accidents) and people intent on suicide would have found a way under any circumstances.  Furthermore, Kristof, by inference, seems to minimize the sacrifices of our military for what I consider to be a meaningless comparison.

Kristof:  “More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides every six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.”  Again, he drags in military deaths and our military personnel’s, relatively speaking, inconsequential sacrifices – something he knows little about – having never served in the military.  That said, I can’t statistically refute the statement he makes, other than possibly the word “every.”  Those kind of statistics are harder to track down.  But, Mr. Kristof wouldn’t try to mislead – or would he?

Oh, just a small additional observation, why does Obama tend to label obvious terrorist attacks as workplace violence?  Is he attempting to tamper with statistics?
Kristof:  “To protect the public, we regulate toys and mutual funds, ladders and swimming pools.  Shouldn’t we regulate guns as seriously as we regulate toys?"

I guess Kristof is unaware of the fact that there are in excess of 20,000 statutes, ordinances and regulations regarding guns and ammunition at the Federal, State and Local levels.  Can some improvements be made?  Yes, but shouldn’t we look at strong enforcement of current laws first?  I’d support that.

Here are a few new laws that I would favor:
  •                Convicted felon in possession of a gun:  automatic three years in prison – no judicial discretion, no chance for parole.
  •                Knowingly selling or furnishing a gun to a convicted felon:  automatic three years in prison – no judicial discretion, no chance for parole.
  •                Theft of a gun, during the commission of a felony:  automatic three years in prison – no judicial discretion, no chance for parole – in addition to any time associated with the attendant felony.

I could go on, but what’s the point?  A few, very few, people will read my blog post.  Whereas, millions will read and be influenced by Kristof’s ramblings.  That’s not really fair; but is, nonetheless, one of the benefits of a Harvard education.

True Nelson