B

Figure 14.1 Self-inflicted intermediate-range gunshots with powder tattooing around the entrances. (A) Entrance of forehead from handgun. (B) Entrance of chest from sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun.

too great for powder tattooing of the face. Powder escaping out the cylinder gap produced the tattooing of her wrists.

Most people who commit suicide with a firearm, like suicide victims in general, do not leave a note; notes are only left in approximately 25% of all suicides. Therefore, the absence of a note does not indicate that a death was not a suicide.

In firearm deaths, the individual may attempt to make the suicide appear to be an accident. This generally takes two forms. The first of these is the "gun cleaning accident." The individual is found dead of a gunshot wound with gun cleaning equipment neatly laid out beside them. The proof that one is dealing with a suicide and not an accident is usually the nature of the wound — contact. An individual does not place a gun against the head or chest and then pull the trigger in an attempt to clean the weapon. The author has never seen a death caused by a self-inflicted wound incurred while "cleaning" a weapon that he believed to truly be an accident.

The second way an individual may attempt to make a suicide appear as an accident is the "hunting accident." Here the individual goes hunting and is subsequently found dead of a gunshot wound. Again, the nature of the wound (contact) will indicate that one is dealing with a suicide.

Self-inflicted wounds to the chest and abdomen from rifles and shotguns in individuals standing at the time they shoot themselves often have a characteristic trajectory that acts as confirmatory evidence that one is dealing with a suicide. The individual intending suicide braces the butt of the gun against the ground. They then lean over the weapon, holding the muzzle against the chest or abdomen with the left hand and reaching with the right for the trigger (if right-handed). In order to reach the trigger, the individual unconsciously rotates the body counter-clockwise. Thus, the bullet or pellets will follow a right-to-left path through the body because of this rotation. Because the victim is "hunched" over the gun, the trajectory of the bullet or pellets is downward and not the upward path one would expect. Thus, the trajectory of the bullet or pellets through the body will be downward and right to left. If the individual uses the left hand to fire the weapon, grasping the muzzle with the right hand, they will rotate the body clockwise, and the path of the bullet or pellets, while still downward, will be from left to right. As virtually all hunting is done with long arms, the trajectory of the bullet and pellets through the body is important in "hunting accident" cases.

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