2018 Biometric Identification Award
The FBI’s 2018 Biometric Identification Award recipient is the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Las Vegas, Nevada, for their work in using a palm print to identify the perpetrator of a burglary and attempted sexual assault.
Narrator: The FBI Biometric Identification Award is presented to an outstanding law enforcement officer or agency for their efforts in solving major cases through the use of the Next Generation Identification System, or NGI. The 2018 Biometric Identification Award is presented to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Sheriff Joseph Lombardo: It's a little bit unique here in Las Vegas because in 1973, the city and the county merged the police department. Ninety percent of what you see on national TV, in the movies, and everything else that goes along with it is actually in the county.
So I'm the sheriff of Clark County, obviously, but I'm also the chief of police for the city of Las Vegas. And we don't really get a break around here. Graveyard is our busiest shift. We have over 4,000 special events a year that we're required to police, and I believe we do a great job doing it.
When I became the elected sheriff, we decentralized the detectives, pushed them out into the particular area commands, culled it down to a smaller geography, and subsequently, their investigations were more timely, and they got to know who the victims were versus a number. And in this case in particular, it was solved because the detectives took it personally, and they drove it to ground. And I think that's directly related to our violent crime numbers. We've seen a reduction.
Detective Juan Fernandez: Detective Guyer received a call from patrol officers, reference attempt sexual assault. He notified me of this incident due to the victim speaking Spanish only. I speak Spanish, so I was assigned to help him in this investigation.
We responded to the victim's residence and completed a taped interview with her. During that interview, she explained in the middle of the night she heard something [clanking noise] and woke up.
The apartment was very dark, and she saw a male figure she could not identify. A struggle ensued, and he finally told her, "Money, give me the money." And she had a jar near her bed and gave him $26, and he ran out the front door. So after the interview, she did a walkthrough with us to tell us where the struggle happened, and we also walked the outside of the apartment. There was a small table that might have been used to get up to the bathroom. So that was photographed along with a shoe print that was left there.
The difficult part about this case was that the victim was not able to identify the suspect. We had nothing, but we spoke to our crime scene analyst and she told us that she pulled a palm print. She advised us that we might be able to run it through the system. This is the first case that I've been involved in where a palm print was used to identify a suspect. We had nothing except for that palm print.
Eric Sahota: Sheriff Lombardo has an emphasis on violent crime, so when certain crimes occur that have a disproportionate impact on public safety, those cases get put to the top of the pile.
I received a phone call from the LVMPD Sex Assault Detail and they informed me that they were working a case where they had no leads on a sex offense, but there were some latent prints recovered by the crime scene investigators and they wanted to know if we could expedite those for analysis and then potentially enter them in our AFIS system and generate some leads for them.
After receiving this information, I went to our secure storage area. We keep all the latent prints in the forensic laboratory. I pulled the packet and did my preliminary exam. I determined that there were two latent palm prints that would be eligible to go into the AFIS system. I went ahead and did my encoding and pushed it through our local AFIS database, but was not able to get any hits.
At that point my only other option was to look at NGI, Next Generation Identification. It was the, still is, the only other palm print database available to the LVMPD. So, after doing my encoding for NGI, I sent off the search, and then I was rewarded when the search responses came back. My initial impression was that it was a hit. I was able to obtain the FBI palm print cards from their electronic database and then conduct a manual comparison and then I confirmed that, in fact, was an identification.
So per our laboratory procedures, I brought in another analyst to conduct a verification. After the verification was completed, I was able to contact the sex assault detail and provide that subject information to them.
Fernandez: We were notified that the palm print came back to a suspect who was identified as Phillip White.
We were able to get a photograph from his previous booking photos. Patrol detectives were conducting surveillance in the area, and they actually observed him walking down the street.
We were able to arrest Phillip White on the charges of attempt sexual assault, burglary, robbery, and battery to commit sexual assault. He pled guilty and was convicted of attempt sexual assault. He received eight to 20 years in prison and is required to register as a sex offender and be supervised for his lifetime.
The victim lived by herself, and she didn't have any family here in the United States. I remember notifying her that we captured Phillip White, and you could tell she was very happy. So a case like this to be resolved, it's great for the department, great for the victim, and we were able to get a bad guy off the street.
Sahota: And what's of special note in this case is that NGI palm searches are a relatively new feature and that we didn't have any other way of identifying this person. If not for the latent palm identification from NGI, we would not have had any leads in this case.
Kim Murga: In about a third of our cases we get hits on actually come from NGI. The amount of print records, fingerprint records and palm records available far surpasses any capability within our state. NGI has over 136 million fingerprint records and they have over 15 million palm print records. So, the NGI database has been very useful in helping to provide us with investigative leads to help solve crimes.
Lombardo: I want to thank everybody, and when I say everybody, in particular the police department and all the men and women of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for doing what they do on a daily basis. It's a tough job.
So why are we here today? In particular, we want to thank a couple individuals: Jeff and Juan and Eric and Noreen for the job they did on this particular case. You know Jeff and Juan for doing the investigation, having the ownership, wanting to solve the case for the victim.
And then obviously Eric for being the forensic scientist that was called by the detectives and say, hey, we need something done about this and he did his job that he was trained to do, eventually ended up to the appropriate database where the suspect was identified.
And Noreen, the crime scene analyst that processed the scene. You know a lot of times you get that apathy. This is the 1000th case I've gone on. There's no evidence. There's no viable evidence. In this case, they did it by the numbers and the proof is in the pudding.
The suspect was identified. He was arrested. He was prosecuted. This individual is going to jail, a person that deserves to go to jail, and there's some closure for the victim.
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