Douglas High students hone investigation skills
A bullet shell rested on the edge of a desk Friday morning at Douglas High School, while an overturned chair lay nearby and a CD case sat open on the floor.
Students eyed the items, taking photos, measuring and sketching them.
The students were analyzing a mock crime scene that simulated a school shooting as part of their final exam in Kim Tretton’s forensics class. The bullet shell, chair and CD case were all pieces of evidence for students to document.
“They all kind of have to figure out what happened with minimal info,” Tretton said. “They’re honing in their skills … I want them to see all the inner workings a crime scene team has to go through.”
The final exam, which also included a written portion, challenged students to use the skills they’d learned throughout the semester, Tretton said. Those skills include dusting for finger prints, photographing crime scenes and evidence collecting.
Tretton has offered the hands-on practical to her students for the past 10 years. The first several years the investigations stemmed around mock sexual assaults, and for the past few years they’ve focused on school shootings.
“This is real life,” she said. “I think we’re blessed we live in a community where this doesn’t really happen.”
At the crime scene each student had a designated task. Some served as photographers, while others were sketch artists or evidence collectors.
“Photographers need to take pictures first (before people can enter the room) to preserve the crime scene and protect evidence,” junior Serena Williams said.
The crime scene was set up by members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, who observed and graded the students on their investigation.
“If you walk away and you think you’re done, you’re not,” Sgt. Ron Elgis told a group of students who were missing a key piece of evidence. “If you double check and you really are, then you’re done.”
The Sheriff’s Office has helped with the event for the past three years, Elgis said.
“We enjoy the profession and we want to see it passed on,” he said. “We want to see people embrace it. Hopefully some of them (students) will.”
Senior Anthony Soria, who was serving as an evidence collector, said he hopes to pursue a career in law enforcement.
“I want to find the people who do crimes,” he said. “I want to find bad people and put them behind bars.”