There's a line in the Leonard Cohen's song "Everybody Knows" that says: "Everybody knows the war is over. Everybody knows the good guys lost." Fortunately, that's not always the case. The good guys don't always lose the war.
Last month the good guys in law enforcement scored two major victories in the war against evil. I say evil because these victories were not over street criminals looking to make an easy buck or gain power; they were over people who just wanted to inflict as much death, terror, and pain on society as they possibly could.
I'm referring to the victories over the serial bomber who killed and injured people in Austin, TX, out of no known motive and the active shooter who was stopped by a school resource officer before he could rack up a major body count at a Maryland high school.
We can't officially call the Austin serial bomber a "terrorist" because we have no evidence that he acted out of ideology, but he clearly terrorized the people of the city and its suburbs. There's nothing more frightening than knowing someone in your city is killing people at random because the next victim could be you. And there's nothing more difficult for the good guys to investigate than random killings because… Where do you start? Most murder victims knew their killers; they had personal or business relationships with them or they were rivals for personal or business relationships. Most other murder victims were killed in the act of another crime such as a robbery. The random killer is a great rarity. Thank God.
A massive amount of resources were poured into finding the Austin bomber. More than 500 officers were involved in the hunt for clues and suspects. The team was led by the Austin Police Department, but it also included officers and agents from the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI, the ATF, and other agencies. These officers got their man through a combination of dogged police work that involved long hours of examining evidence and the use of high-tech equipment to track the suspect and process the clues. On the human side, you can imagine how bleary-eyed the investigators were as they searched through mountains of receipts looking for someone who bought the components used in the bombs. On the high-tech side, the team used forensic tools, cellphone tracking, and even a Texas DPS aircraft that was designed for watching the border.
In the end all of this work and technology paid off, as the team was able to identify a number of possible suspects. And they were able to narrow in on a prime suspect when he was recorded on video shipping packages at a FedEx store. That video taken the day before a package blew up in a FedEx plant outside of San Antonio was the break the officers needed to close the case. They were able to locate the suspect in his SUV in a parking lot. He drove away and Austin SWAT made a felony stop on I-35. As they closed in to make an arrest, the suspect killed himself with a bomb that was fortunately not powerful enough to harm the officers. Score one for the good guys. POLICE salutes all the officers who worked this case.
The Maryland high school incident involved a single school resource officer from the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office engaging a school shooter. Unlike a Florida SRO who I won't mention by name in this commentary on law enforcement victories, Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill responded to the shooter by running to the sound of gunfire. Sadly his response was too late to save one student from being killed and another from being wounded. But he likely saved many lives when he opened fire on the 17-year-old gunman who shot and killed himself during the confrontation.
There are those who want to say Gaskill didn't end the threat at Great Mills High because the gunman shot himself. Those people are idiots. Gaskill used every bit of his training to engage the gunman, forcing him to choose from three options: surrender, shoot it out with the officer, or kill himself. Score two for the good guys. POLICE salutes Deputy Gaskill and all the other SROs who would charge toward the sound of gunfire to save kids