Horry-Georgetown Technical College’s Crime Scene Investigation program got a little muddy and a little bloody Monday morning in Conway.
Professor Jeffrey Scott and a handful of students trekked onto a muddy field to create and study blood splatter patterns on shooting victims.
Scott soaked several kitchen sponges in forensic blood – which has the same viscosity and color and human blood – and hung the sponges in a cardboard box. Scott then demonstrated the patterns that blood makes by shooting at the sponges with different weapons from varying distances.
“We want to show the different dynamics of the guns, especially at close range,” Scott said.
The course teaches students how different weapons cause different blood stains at crime scenes. This is the first year students have been able to see blood patterns from guns in the field. In the past, students could only watch videos or examine photos.
“We want to give students a chance to see the trauma up close and personal, because this is similar to how things look in the field,” Scott said. “Now we’re looking at the trauma during and after the gun shot.”
Students on Monday also witnessed a demonstration of an explosion of “blood” and “brain matter” when two weighted heads made of ceramic and Styrofoam were shot with a pistol while within a cardboard box.
The first head was shot at at point-blank range, causing the ceramic material that represented skull to burst out of the cardboard box and sent flying the bloodied sponge, which represented brain. Some of the “brains” landed about 15 feet away from the firearm.
“This is way more fun than what we’ve done before,” said 21-year-old student Zack Slocum. He’s taking this class to fill out his criminal justice degree, and said forensics is an integral part of field training.
“There’s a lot of shootings, so it’s good to get out and see what everything looks like in the field,” Slocum said. “It’s good to know what you’re getting into.”
Scott has been involved with crime scene investigations for over 18 years, and has been in forensics for about 14 years. He teaches medium-impact splatters in the school’s lab, which includes damage from hammers, baseball bats and fists. This training allows students to see “dynamic-impact” stains, which occur at high velocity, high impact gun shots.
“Some of this training is understanding that other factors play into the impact splatters, such as clothing, hair and skin. The absorption rate differs, which means patterns differ,” Scott said. “But this is a good start for these students.”
The reconstruction was held at the Conway Police shooting range off John Doctor Road in Conway. Several area deputies were on-hand to ensure the safety of the students and to fire weapons as the bloodied sponges. Officers used a shotgun, and AR-15 rifle and a pistol for each demonstration.
Surfside Beach Police Chief Rodney Keziah, who fired all the weapons, is a student of the course. He said this class is offered to all local agencies to better their forensic skills.
“It’s good for the department,” Keziah said. “Any kind of forensics and training you can get, especially local, is good for us.” Keziah said this caliber of police training is usually held in another state, but HGTC’s class is a “win-win” for local police departments.
It was a win-win for the forensic students as well, said Alyssa Sawyer, 20.
“This is my all-time favorite experiment we’ve done,” Sawyer said. “It’s going to help us see a more three dimensional view of this, since there’s many different aspects of blood splatter.”
Sawyer’s long term goal is to work with juvenile delinquents, since “everyone deserves a second chance,” but for now plans to go into law enforcement.
“I’ve always had a passion for making the streets a better place,” Sawyer said.