As the world is modernizing day-by-day, use of firearms is increasing also leading to the increase in number of crimes. Here, in this article, I will discuss the 5 peculiar cases where Forensic ballistic experts had to involve in order to solve the case.
Ballistics is the study of the motion of projectiles and the factors associated with it. Ballistics is broadly divided into three main branches which are: internal, external, and terminal ballistics. Forensic ballistics expert deals with the examination of firearms-related evidence discovered from the crime scene.
Forensic experts deals with different varieties of criminal cases from simple burglary cases to murder cases to poisoning cases to high profile horrendous crimes to shooting cases. Ballistic experts handle criminal cases where shots have been fired to link the suspect with the crime scene and the victim.
5 Cases Solved by Forensic Ballistic Experts
Though there are numerous Ballistic case studies, here, I have discussed few of them in brief.
1. Jessica Lal Murder Case Study
Jessica Lal was born on 5th January 1965. She was a model working as a celebrity barmaid in new Delhi. She was shot dead on 30 April 1999 at 2:00 am. She was 34 years old when she was shot dead for the sole reason that she had refused to serve a drink as the bar had been closed.
This case was not taken up soon as Siddharth Vashisht (suspect) who was also known as Manu Sharma had great political influence.
Media played an evident role in providing justice to Jessica Lal. Manu Sharma fired a .22 caliber pistol twice, the first bullet hit the ceiling which was shot as a warning to Jessica and the second bullet struck Jessica in the head at point-blank range.
The case was solved by forensic ballistics. The various firearm evidence including the two empty cartridge cases of the .22 caliber that were recovered from the crime scene helped in convicting the offender.
2. John Orner Murder Case
John Orner was a Cab driver who was robbed and murdered by Edward Freiburger in 1961. Edward Freiburger was US Army Private at Fort Jackson who went AWOL after the murder.
In 1961, John was killed cruelly and was made to disappear. Few weeks later when Edward was found in Tennesse, a .32 calibre gun was recovered from him by Tennesse Police. However, due to inconclusive evidence, Edward was freed and released of all charges.
As time passed, the case went cold until the Sheriff’s department cold case unit arrested Edward in 2001 after 4 decades of murder. It quite came as a shock to the unit that the files of 39 year old case were still complete and intact.
With the advance in technology, it was found that the fingerprint on a bullet matches the fired bullet and firearm recovered from Edward in Tennesse.
3. Gauri Lankesh Murder Case
Gauri lankesh was an Indian journalist from Bangalore, Karnataka. She worked as an editor in lankesh patrike, a Kannada weekly. She was assassinated on 5th September 2017 outside her residence in Rjarajeshwari Nagar, Banglore. Gauri was known for being a critic of right-wing Hindu extremism at the time of her death.
She was shot to death by three unidentified men. Around 8 bullets were fired at her at night during 8 P.m when she was opening the main door of her home after returning from her office.
The offenders were wearing helmets and escaped on two-wheelers. Three of the bullets that were fired pierced through her head, neck, and chest, causing her death on the spot.
The police have filed a chargesheet against 17 persons for murder, conspiracy, destruction of evidence along with several other sections under the Indian Penal Code. The police have also invoked sections of the Indian Arms Act and KCOCA against all the accused
4. Ronni Chasen Case Study
The Ronni Chasen case was solved by Forensic ballistic experts. Ronni Sue Chasen was an American publicist. Ronni was shot and killed on November 16, in the year 2010 while she was driving back home from her premiere of the film Burlesque.
Chasen was shot in Beverly Hills at around 12:28 am on November 16, 2010. After being shot multiple times she guided the car down Whittier drive where she collided with a utility pole. Out of the 4 bullets fired, two had hit her chest, one in the right arm, and the fourth at her shoulder.
There were no cartridge cases or weapons left behind at the crime scene. As the investigation was under progress, police found a lead and found Harold Martin Smith as the main suspect.
The police went to confront Harold in his apartment where Smith shot himself in the head before the police could ask him questions. Ballistics test on Smith’s gun revealed that it was the same firearm that was used to killed Ronni but no forensic value and the evidence was insufficient to prove it.
Various theories for the murder were built for no avail. This case though solved in court remains far from over.
5. The Assassination of President William McKinley
William McKinley the 25th President of the United States who was fatally shot and assassinated on September 6th 1901. He was shot and killed at the pan American exposition in Buffalo, new York.
He was shaking hands with the public when he was shot twice in the abdomen by an anarchist Leon Czolgosz. Leon had earlier also tried to shoot the president but had failed to get close to him.
He was the third president of the United States to be assassinated following Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and James A Garfield in the year 1881.
After the assassination, Leon was put on trial for 9 days, convicted of murder and was executed through electric chair in October, 1901.
Forensic Ballistic experts have been an essential part of investigation in Shooting cases to confirm the trajectory, motion and the place from where the shot was fired on the victim.
It takes great deal of expertise and experience in this field for an expert to link the bullet with a firearm, victim and the suspect. With the ease in owning a firearm nowadays, crimes with firearms have surged insignificantly in the past creating demands for more ballistic experts.