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6 Terrible People and How They Were Captured

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Recent events have provided an interesting look at how law enforcement officials identify and hunt down very terrible people. Here are a few infamous killers, and how they were captured.

1. James Earl Ray

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After murdering Martin Luther King, James Earl Ray beat his feet to Canada, where he holed up under the name “Ramon George Sneyd.” Two months later, he tried to abscond to London, but was detained at Heathrow for having a fake Canadian passport. It didn’t help that he was found to be carrying his actual American passport as well. (Passports are not Pokemon cards, and Customs does not like it when you try to collect ‘em all.) He was extradited and spent the next 29 years rotting in prison. 

2. Eric Rudolph

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Though the 1996 Olympic Park Bombing is his most infamous attack, Eric Rudolph whiled away the years that followed by sending bombs to abortion clinics and a lesbian bar. He spent five years on the FBI Ten Most Wanted list, and roamed the Appalachian Mountains. He was accidentally captured in 2003, when a rookie cop thought he was robbing a convenience store.

3. Ted Kaczynski

The Smoking Gun

The Unabomber, as Ted Kaczynski was better known, spent 17 years sending bombs to schools, airlines, and businesses. The best way to summarize Kaczynski is to say he was really crazy and really smart. He was accepted to Harvard at the age of 16, earned his PhD from the University of Michigan, and at age 25 was made a professor of mathematics at Berkeley—the youngest in the university’s history. Then he built a cabin in Montana and created his own little Walden in Hell. Basically, his motivation for becoming a terrorist was a seething hatred for civilization. Also, he loved trees. He was captured when David Kaczynski noticed that the Unabomber Manifesto basically plagiarized the unhinged writings of his brother. For what it’s worth, David was a little leery of just calling of the FBI, fearing a repeat of Ruby Ridge. At any rate, if the search warrant is any indication, the FBI wasn’t all that convinced that it had the right guy. This changed when they raided the little cabin and found a bunch of bomb parts and tens of thousands of handwritten pages of insanity.

You might be wondering how he got a cool name like Unabomber. The FBI task force investigating him was called UNABOM, for “University and Airline bomber.” Today he is an active member of the Harvard Alumni Association. 

4. John Wilkes Booth

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Originally, John Wilkes Booth planned to kidnap Lincoln, but later thought it might be a good idea to kill him, the vice president, and the secretary of state. After he shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, he dashed for the stage door, on the other side of which was a horse. (His accomplice: Joseph “Peanuts” Burroughs.) Booth saddled up and bolted for Confederate territory. It was a surprisingly well-thought-out plan. His path south had a minimum of railroads or telegraphs, and was dotted with sympathizers. Two weeks later, he had taken refuge in a tobacco farmer’s barn. (The farmer didn’t know Lincoln had been assassinated, as mail delivery had ceased with the collapse of the Confederacy. At any rate, Booth was hiding under the name “James Boyd.”) When federal agents, ever on his path, finally tracked down Booth, they ordered him out of the barn. Booth refused, and so they set the barn on fire, and shot Booth just to be sure.

5. Lee Harvey Oswald

The Smoking Gun

Forty-five minutes after Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger that killed John F. Kennedy, a policeman spotted him on the street. Oswald shot the cop four times. He then slipped into the back entrance of a movie theater without paying. A nearby shopkeeper noticed him doing this, and told a clerk in the box office, who called the police. When the 5-0 arrived, the movie was stopped and the lights were brought up. Oswald tried to kill his second cop of the day, but his pistol misfired, and he was apprehended. (All of this presupposes that the actual assassin wasn’t the Cigarette Smoking Man.) 

6. Carlos the Jackal

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Ilich Ramírez Sánchez is better known as Carlos the Jackal. He tried to blow up the Bank Hapoalim in London, but when he threw the first bomb in the building it bounced against the door and caused only cosmetic damage. The second bomb didn’t detonate, merely breaking a window. He launched car bombs against newspapers, threw grenades into restaurants, and tried to blow up a couple of airliners. He murdered two French investigators and an informant. He held attendees of an OPEC meeting hostage, threatening to “kill one every fifteen minutes” until his demands were met. (Three people had already been killed in the attack.) Carlos didn’t follow through with his threat, sparing an Iranian finance minister and a Saudi oil minister. Because of this, the terrorist organization to which he belonged fired him for not being evil enough.

He eventually linked up with the East German Stasi, and went on a European bombing spree. In 1991, he moved to Sudan, where he was granted asylum for being just the right amount of evil. Three years later, however, Carlos the Jackal had minor surgery on his testicles, and Sudanese agents tranquilized him and handed him off to the French. These days, he alternates between boasting of his wicked deeds, and then claiming innocence of the ones keeping him in jail.

Why is Ilich Ramírez Sánchez called Carlos the Jackal, you ask? When he joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, his recruiter nicknamed him “Carlos” because he (i.e. Ramírez Sánchez) was born in South America, and political correctness just wasn’t a big thing at Terrorist H.Q. The Guardian newspaper affixed “the Jackal” after a copy of the novel The Day of the Jackal was found with some of his belongings. If only Ramírez Sánchez had picked up a copy of William Blatty’s novel from the same year, we might today speak of Carlos the Exorcist.

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8 Arresting Facts About Scotland Yard
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Jack Taylor, Getty Images

Depicted in fiction for well over a century as the world's premier police force, Scotland Yard might be the most famous banner for law enforcement in history. Though the name itself is officially a term for the location of the London Metropolitan Police headquarters, it’s taken on a colloquial use to describe the collective brain trust of that station’s patrolmen and detectives. Here’s what we’ve deduced about the past, present, and future of this historic—and sometimes controversial—institution.

1. IT GOT ITS NAME FROM A TRICKY BIT OF GEOGRAPHY.

London didn’t have a formal police force until 1829, when Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel arranged for a squad to replace the fractured system of watchmen, street patrols, and the River Police. Colonel Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne were tasked with organizing the force: Mayne’s house at 4 Whitehall Place opened to an adjacent courtyard that had once been a medieval palace that hosted Scottish royalty while they were in London. This “Great Scotland Yard,” which was also reportedly the name of the street behind the building, became synonymous with Rowan and Mayne’s efforts to create a new era in law enforcement.

2. CHARLES DICKENS TAGGED ALONG ON PATROLS.

Author Charles Dickens poses for a photo
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The renowned author of Great Expectations and other literary classics wasn’t a policeman, but he did perform the 19th-century equivalent of a ride-along. Dickens was friends with Charles Frederick Field, a Scotland Yard inspector, and their relationship led to Dickens occasionally accompanying patrolmen on their nightly rounds. He even based a character in his novel Bleak House on Fields.

3. THERE WERE DIRTY COPS AMONG THE RANKS IN THOSE EARLY DAYS.

For all of the public acceptance of Scotland Yard—Londoners were initially wary of the plainclothes cops walking among them—the squad suffered a sensational blow to its image in 1877. Known as the “Turf Fraud Scandal” or the “Trial of the Detectives,” the controversy erupted after a Parisian socialite named Madame de Goncourt was conned by two men named Harry Benson and William Kurr. Scotland Yard inspector Nathaniel Druscovich was dispatched to Amsterdam to capture a fleeing Benson while others pursued Kurr. The men proved surprisingly elusive, which prompted suspicion among Scotland Yard officials. When the two con men were finally arrested, they explained that an inspector named John Meiklejohn was taking bribes in exchange for tipping off Kurr to police activity. Two other policemen were implicated; the three each received two years in prison. The high-profile breach led to a reorganization, with the Yard inserting detectives into a new Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to help minimize misconduct.

4. THEY HELPED PIONEER FINGERPRINTING.

A Scotland Yard employee examines fingerprints
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At one time, the science of fingerprinting was more of a theory than anything that could be put into practice. Most police forces instead relied on anthropometry, a system created by French police officer Alphonse Bertillon, which used 11 body measurements taken by calipers to provide a unique physical identity for an individual. While fingerprinting was beginning to take off in India in the late 1800s, the English-speaking world didn’t adopt the forensic technique of lifting and matching prints until 1901, when Sir Edward Henry, then the assistant commissioner of Scotland Yard, instituted the Metropolitan Police Fingerprint Bureau. In 1902, a billiard ball thief was convicted based on a fingerprint he left on a windowsill. In 1904, a Yard detective demonstrated the efficacy of fingerprinting at the St. Louis World’s Fair, helping spread the new science to American law enforcement officials.

5. THEIR PATROL OFFICERS DIDN’T CARRY GUNS UNTIL 1994.

The uniformed police officers who wander London’s streets with an eye on keeping the peace were unarmed for most of the 20th century. It wasn’t until 1994 that select patrol officers were permitted to carry guns, a policy shift that stemmed from increased assaults on police. The addition of firearms was limited to armed response cars intended to be dispatched to high-risk calls; previously, officers were instructed to keep their weapons in a lockbox inside their vehicles. Today, 90 percent of Metropolitan police officers go on duty without a gun, a policy largely maintained in response to a relatively low number of guns carried by civilians. Less than four in 100 British citizens own a firearm.

6. THEY HAVE A SQUAD OF “SUPER RECOGNIZERS.”

A surveillance camera is posted in London
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With surveillance cameras dotting London, facial recognition for identifying criminal suspects is in high demand. But no software can outperform Scotland Yard’s team of “super recognizers,” who are recruited for their ability to match a face to a name based on their own memory. These officers are hired by administering a facial recognition test first implemented by Harvard in 2009. Those in the top percentile have an uncanny ability to retain facial feature details and are often dispatched to cull out known criminals like pickpockets at public gatherings. One such specialist, Constable Gary Collins, identified 180 people out of 4000 while examining footage of the 2011 London riots. Software was able to identify exactly one.

7. THEY KEEP A SECRET CRIME MUSEUM HIDDEN FROM THE PUBLIC.

Housed across two floors at the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police in London is the Black Museum, a macabre cavalcade of evidence from nearly 150 years of investigative work. Established in 1875, the collection houses body parts (gallstones that failed to dissolve in acid along with the rest of a murder victim) and seemingly innocuous items that take on sinister connotations: A set of pots and pans that once belonged to Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen and were used to boil human flesh. It’s closed to the public, though visiting law enforcement and sometimes celebrities can secure an invite: Laurel and Hardy and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have toured its inventory. A sample of the collection went on display at the Museum of London in 2015.  

8. YOU COULD LIVE THERE ONE DAY.

The former New Scotland Yard building at 10 Broadway
Jack Taylor, AFP/Getty Images

The Metropolitan Police have changed locations several times over the years. It was situated at its original location of 4 Whitehall Place from 1829 to 1890, then housed in a large Victorian building on the Victoria Embankment from 1890 until 1967. That’s when the operation was moved to a 600,000 square-foot building at 10 Broadway in Westminster: a famous revolving sign announced a New Scotland Yard was taking up residence. In 2014, the building was sold to investors from Abu Dhabi for $580 million: London cited operating expenses and budget cuts as the reasons for the sale. The buyers plan to mount a residential housing project in the spot. Scotland Yard staff moved to a trimmed-down facility at the Curtis Green Building in Westminster and within walking distance of the Houses of Parliament.   

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Why an Ex-FBI Agent Recommends Wrapping Your Keys in Tinfoil Whenever You Leave Your Car
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A car thief doesn't need to get their hands on your keys to break into your vehicle. If you use a wireless, keyless system, or fob, to unlock your car, all they need to do is steal the signal it emits. Luckily there's a tool you can use to protect your fob from hackers that you may already have in your kitchen at home: tinfoil.

Speaking with USA Today, retired FBI agent Holly Hubert said that wrapping car fobs in a layer of foil is the cheapest way to block their sensitive information from anyone who may be trying to access it. Hackers can easily infiltrate your car by using a device to amplify the fob signal or by copying the code it uses. And they don't even need to be in the same room as you to do it: They can hack the fob inside your pocket from the street outside your house or office.

Electronic car theft is a growing problem for automobile manufacturers. Ideally fobs made in the future will come with cyber protection built-in, but until then the best way to keep your car safe is to carry your fob in an electromagnetic field-blocking shield when you go out. Bags made specifically to protect your key fob work better than foil, but they can cost more than $50. If tinfoil is all you can afford, it's better than nothing.

At home, make sure to store your keys in a spot where they will continue to get protection. Dropping them in a metal coffee can is a lot smarter than leaving them out in the open on your kitchen counter.

[h/t USA Today]

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