Harrisburg PD opens up about what goes into solving fatal shooting cases, getting answers for families

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — As Harrisburg Police make an arrest in the murder of Christopher “CJ” Hill, it begins investigating another shooting death, this time the victim being a 16-year-old.

The department recently announced it’s taken nearly 1,400 illegal guns off the street since 2015, an effort officials say is critical in preventing violence. Now, abc27 News is learning more about how the force works to get answers for families impacted by crimes.

“Our forensics person will go out,” said Harrisburg Bureau of Police Capt. Terry Wealand. “They also attend the autopsy, whenever that may be scheduled, and it’s a total team effort.”

Capt. Wealand leads Harrisburg’s Criminal Investigation Division, which has detectives split up into sections, focusing on specific crimes. Some of these crimes go back years; there’s no limit.

“We never stop looking into those cases,” said Harrisburg Police Commissioner Thomas Carter.

As detectives retire, new ones takeover.

Commissioner Carter says it’s not what you know, but it’s what you can prove in court.

He says getting families answers isn’t just his officers’ jobs. It’s personal.

“It stays with you,” said Carter. “If you retire as a police officer and you leave here with an open homicide case, that stays with you and it constantly haunts you because you weren’t able to bring that family closure.”

The department investigated 25 murders in 2020.

This year, that number is four so far, with Thursday’s early morning shooting of a 16-year-old being the only case without an arrest.

Commissioner Carter says for all investigations, cooperation from witnesses and victims is key.

“I know that that’s a big ask in today’s age to ask people to cooperate with the police because of the climate of the country right now, but I do feel people generally care, good-hearted people. They want to see cases solved as much as we do,” said Carter.

“If we do get some level of cooperation from eye witnesses and we’re fortunate enough to draw technology into the investigation, in the form of cameras, social media, internet…those cases get solved pretty quick,” said Capt. Wealand.

Something that may take years could get wrapped up in hours. It can be the smallest bit of information that makes the biggest difference.

“They may not think that what they have to offer can help an investigation, but that’s that little piece that our officers are looking for,” said Capt. Wealand.

In 2019, Harrisburg had its lowest crime rate in 20 years. That did rise in 2020, but the commissioner notes that was the trend across the country during the pandemic.

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