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Thread: Homicide vs. Suicide: Multiple gunshots to chest?

  1. #1 Homicide vs. Suicide: Multiple gunshots to chest? 
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    I am trained in human anatomy... but not forensics. I am researching a 'cold case' and am stuck on a forensics question. The case was quickly ruled a suicide. I am stuck on the following from the Coroner's report; C.O.D.: gun shot wounds, (2-3), to the chest. This was done with a .22 caliber, semi-automic handgun. I do have experience with this particular gun and have a hard time understanding how someone could point this at their own chest and 'squeeze-release, squeeze-release, squeeze-release' in an attempt to committ suicide. I can understand how such a small caliber gun may not 'do the job' with the first bullett... but to be conscious and have the mental clarity to try again and again, I'm having difficulty with.

    I have come across much research on this matter of multiple gun shot wounds... but it is always primarily referring to the head where the skull and sudden movements have an impact. I would very much appreciate if someone with experience in this area could explain to me the plausability of this sequence of events or the improbability of such an explanation. Thank You for your time and cooperation.

    Dr Dave


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    I don't qualify as someone with experience in the area, but I know a little bit about guns. I don't find it surprising. You would have to try pretty hard to kill yourself by shooting yourself in the chest with a 22. Even with larger handgun calibers, people in gunfights often fight on for quite a while after taking fatal hits in the chest.


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    Quote Originally Posted by docdave24 View Post
    I am trained in human anatomy... but not forensics. I am researching a 'cold case' and am stuck on a forensics question. The case was quickly ruled a suicide. I am stuck on the following from the Coroner's report; C.O.D.: gun shot wounds, (2-3), to the chest. This was done with a .22 caliber, semi-automic handgun. I do have experience with this particular gun and have a hard time understanding how someone could point this at their own chest and 'squeeze-release, squeeze-release, squeeze-release' in an attempt to committ suicide. I can understand how such a small caliber gun may not 'do the job' with the first bullett... but to be conscious and have the mental clarity to try again and again, I'm having difficulty with.

    I have come across much research on this matter of multiple gun shot wounds... but it is always primarily referring to the head where the skull and sudden movements have an impact. I would very much appreciate if someone with experience in this area could explain to me the plausability of this sequence of events or the improbability of such an explanation. Thank You for your time and cooperation.

    Dr Dave
    Do you have details about angle of entry and the distance the gun was held at? Powder residue on the victim's hands, burn marks on his shirt? Fingerprints? Eyewitness accounts? Was his house secured or where did this take place? Was the gun found and who owned it? Etc.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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    This case took place in 1978 so I do not have a lot of details to go on. The Coroner's report that I have been able to obtain was incomplete at best. I did just locate the Sheriff's 10 page report and am attempting to obtain it. To give a little history of what I do know; This individual was diagnosed with bi-polarism at a time when it was not so readily treatable. He was not experienced with any sort of firearms and purchased the gun used within a couple of days of the 'suicide'. The shop owner said that the individual claimed he was buying it for protection. He started a new job, (having lost his last job), selling cars on the morning of the 'suicide'. He sold his first car that day. His car was found that evening on the side of the road in a rural area outside of town. The search was called off after dark and resumed in the morning. He was found in a nearby wooded area. He sat propped up under a tree with his business card beside him under a stone and his cigarettes as well. There was not any sort of note recovered anywhere. He was very close to his sister and mother having survived an abusive, alcoholic father together. He had a wife and three children that he loved very much. That is most of what I have at this point. I am trying to locate the coroner to see if I can uncover more 'physical evidence' from the scene.
    Last edited by docdave24; February 14th, 2012 at 02:50 PM. Reason: increase font size
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    Semi automatics may fire several times from one squeezing of the trigger. So if the guy held the gun to his chest and squeezed the trigger with force, it may have fired several times before he released it.

    I am not a gun expert, but I remember a case here in New Zealand. A policeman who fired his glock hand gun at a guy rushing him brandishing a baseball bat, fired off several rounds into the man's chest. The policement was severely criticised in the media for firing more than one shot, and a police expert mentioned that the gun would fire repeatedly as long as the trigger was depressed. I can understand that anyone under great stress might depress the trigger with force, and fire several rounds.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Semi automatics may fire several times from one squeezing of the trigger. So if the guy held the gun to his chest and squeezed the trigger with force, it may have fired several times before he released it.
    No, that would have to have been a full auto, unless it is a semiauto equipped with some special trigger that will fire a burst. I can imagine that the guy was not too familiar with guns, or else he wouldn't have been using a 22. He probably expected to die right away, like people do when they get shot in the movies. When he didn't feel much of an effect after the first round, he probably thought it was a dud, and pulled the trigger a couple more times.

    I am not a gun expert, but I remember a case here in New Zealand. A policeman who fired his glock hand gun at a guy rushing him brandishing a baseball bat, fired off several rounds into the man's chest. The policement was severely criticised in the media for firing more than one shot, and a police expert mentioned that the gun would fire repeatedly as long as the trigger was depressed. I can understand that anyone under great stress might depress the trigger with force, and fire several rounds.
    Well, I think that's wrong. It would have to have been a defective Glock. I don't know why the policeman would be criticized for defending himself.
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    I also heard a case where a bi-polar was murdered by his own husband. Prosecutor claim that a multiple gunshot to the head is not consistent with a suicide, but the defend attorney claims that this multiple gunshot from a single trigger is possible. In the end: the jury found the accused guilty, hidden note written by the victim also showed that the victim feared for her life and implicate her husband for trying to kill her.

    It need more than a 'multiple gunshot wound' to assume a murder....

    Source: crime & investigation channel
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    The policement was severely criticised in the media for firing more than one shot, and a police expert mentioned that the gun would fire repeatedly as long as the trigger was depressed.
    That sounds a bit garbled to me. Most Australian police forces training on use of deadly force is 1) avoid using a gun unless circumstances are truly extreme. 2) don't try to be clever. Use enough shots to the centre of the body to ensure the person goes down. IIRC the recommendations are at least 2, often 4 shots. Basically, if you use your gun at all, be prepared for the fact that you are more likely than not to kill the person you're shooting at.

    This police 'expert' probably said something like ... once a police officer starts shooting, they keep on shooting. And was unclear enough that a careless listener could get the impression it was the gun, rather than the shooter, causing the repeated shots.
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    Quote Originally Posted by docdave24 View Post
    This case took place in 1978 so I do not have a lot of details to go on.
    Why is this case of such importance to you? Are you connected in some way to the deceased?

    You're an expert in anatomy, so does it make more sense to shoot yourself in the chest with a small calibre gun than in the head, especially if you wanted to be sure to kill yourself?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by docdave24 View Post
    This case took place in 1978 so I do not have a lot of details to go on.
    Why is this case of such importance to you? Are you connected in some way to the deceased?

    You're an expert in anatomy, so does it make more sense to shoot yourself in the chest with a small calibre gun than in the head, especially if you wanted to be sure to kill yourself?
    On the other thread, he said it was his dad.
    It probably makes more sense if you want to avoid the chance of remaining alive but brain damaged. Or, maybe he just didn't like the idea of getting shot in the head.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    On the other thread, he said it was his dad.
    It probably makes more sense if you want to avoid the chance of remaining alive but brain damaged. Or, maybe he just didn't like the idea of getting shot in the head.
    When I read the story I couldn't help feeling there was something very personal going on. Sorry about his dad. Sounds like more than one victim here.
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