By Clint Confehr
NASHVILLE, TN — Neighbors of the man who found a murder victim in his back yard were traumatized recently, as he was. Emotions intensified without insight on police procedures.
Dr. Shirley Lightfoot called 911 at 3:55 a.m. Feb. 4 to report gun shots — later revealed as a death knell for Julian Williams, 31. She complained he remained uncovered four hours after police arrived at her Heiman Street backyard.
No disrespect was intended, police spokesman Don Aaron explained. Murder victims are “generally not disturbed” as police use “a state-of-the-art, pan-a-scan device” to find and preserve evidence.
Heiman Street neighbors noticed Williams wasn’t moved until 1 p.m.; nine hours after he fell.
“The scan of the scene takes time,” Aaron said.
Such complaints aren’t unusual, officials said during a recent tour of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab. It has equipment like Metro’s FARO Technologies device.
They’re “useful in the prosecution of major cases,” Aaron said. They give “judges and juries a 360-degree view of the scene … Medical examiners were asked to respond at 11:20 a.m., and arrived on the scene at 11:50 a.m.” Aaron said. The body was removed after the medical examiner’s on-scene work. Williams was identified by his fingerprints.
Neighbors asked: why didn’t police find Williams first? Gun shots were reported 4.5 hours before another caller was asked to confirm Williams’ death.
Police were sent to the 1800 block of Scovel Street at 4 a.m. after callers reported gunfire, Aaron said. Police saw a gold Ford Taurus that had a window apparently shot out. Before dawn, police couldn’t contact the car’s owner. It’s not registered to Williams.
Lightfoot asks if police looked in back yards bordering an alley to Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Boulevard at Lee Chapel. She thought Williams was shot in the alley.
At 4 a.m., police “had no indication” someone was shot, Aaron said. Shell casings were found by police responding to the 8:31 a.m. call. At 4 a.m., if police thought someone was shot and nearby, they’d look further. Later, police thought he “was shot on Scovel Street before sunrise and ran through a [SunTrust bank] parking lot before collapsing in the yard.” Scovel Street is in the area scanned. “The crime scene tape covered a wide area to prevent citizens from … observing the body” which couldn’t been seen from Scovel Street. The area taped off included part of the parking lot.
Officers and several North Precinct detectives responded, Aaron said. It was evident the man had been murdered. Medical examiners are called after an area is processed and documented. They then conduct a “‘hands on’ examination of the body for trauma. The medical examiner’s work is photographically documented.
Machines like FARO’s will be displayed at The Inn At Opryland Feb. 23-27 during the International Association of Forensic & Metrology’s annual convention.
Heiman Street residents felt police should have said more about the investigation.
Aaron said, “Officers are approachable… [I]n a murder case, there’s limited information [to] be provided. Still, people “should feel like they can ask” police or North Precinct Commander Terrence Graves. Detective Stanley Truitt is leading this investigation. At a Scovel Street rooming house, police spoke with a woman who wouldn’t identify herself. “She referred to a ruckus outside the house, but didn’t elaborate.”
One of Williams’ relatives said he’d be buried in Pleasant Rest Memorial Gardens near Millington. He was a cook. His wife mailed him a bus ticket home to Shelby County’s Raleigh community.