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It s been 15 years since I was involved in a case that appeared on America s Most Wanted (AMW), but I remember it like it was yesterday because the whole experience was the best thing that happened to me in the 30 years I wore a badge. The incident began as a brutal home-invasion rape case in which the suspect repeatedly raped and sodomized his victim for several hours. He forced her to scrub herself in the shower and then bound her with duct tape before he fled. Although the investigation ultimately identified the suspect, he seemed to have vanished; every effort to locate him ended with nothing. Due to an upside-down real estate market and a husband who left her, the victim was unable to move from her home, and she constantly feared her attacker might return.
I don t remember what prompted me to call AMW, but it started a chain of events, including a TV reenactment of the crime and a trip to Washington, D.C., to take calls as the show aired across the nation in multiple time zones. More than 300 calls came in that night, but there was one that made the difference and resulted in the capture of the rapist.
I got the call that he was in custody at 0300 hrs and immediately called the victim. I simply said, Ann, we got him. The next few seconds were almost indescribable. I could feel her relief and excitement through the phone. She didn t care about how or where, just that he couldn t hurt her again.
I was in D.C., so I went to the National Memorial the next morning, and I was surprised to see a TV camera crew. Looking closer, I saw the camera was pointed at John Walsh, the host of AMW. I learned the taping was to help find the killer of an Arizona officer who had been murdered just a couple of days before.
During a break in the taping, my wife and I got to visit with Walsh for about 15 minutes, and I can say the man definitely leaves an impression. He combines both a deep empathy and a powerful intensity, revealing his passion for catching society s worst criminals or scumbags, as he frequently calls them.
The capture I was involved in was number 250, and AMW has now captured more than 1,000 hardcore crooks. Some were serial child molesters, some were cop killers, but all of them had successfully eluded capture until AMW focused on them. Think about that for a minute more than 1,000 criminals who had committed very serious crimes and eluded the long arm of the law were brought to justice as a result of a TV show.
Most of you know the story of AMW. It was born out of the horrible 1981 kidnap and murder of Walsh s six-year-old son Adam Walsh. Though this would have destroyed most men, Walsh was determined to fight back. Today, he continues this fight as the host of AMW, serving as a powerful influence on legislators and policy makers.
On May 14, AMW and Walsh were honored in New York City in recognition of the show s 1,000th capture. The event was sponsored by Sprint and Panasonic, both longtime supporters of law enforcement. I had the opportunity to attend this event and represent Law Officer.
It was one of those experiences that really make you feel proud to be one of the good guys. Walsh was visibly humbled by the event and emphasized that the show proves One person can make a difference, which is what every cop must remember every day when hitting the streets.
Society has given you a tremendous amount of power and needs you to make a difference. By the way, Walsh dedicated the American Hero Patriot award he received to the officers killed in the line of duty during the past year, which was truly a class act.
It was an honor to be there and a strong reminder that we choose how we deal with challenge or tragedy. You can choose to withdraw or choose to engage it s absolutely up to you.
Walsh and AMW are to be congratulated for their ongoing efforts to make our streets safer and for their continued support of law enforcement officers. If you haven t seen the show, give it a look on Saturday night on your local FOX station or check out AMW s Web site at www.amw.com. Who knows? You might find someone you know who s looking for some government-sponsored room and board.
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