Vargas: Why would police shut down a freeway?


If you were one of the thousands of motorists impacted by the shutdown of the 91 freeway on Monday night I’d like to say on behalf of all law enforcement, “We’re really sorry about that.”

But it was necessary.

As someone who has commuted on the 91 freeway for more than two decades I know the angst and frustration that occurs with even the smallest accidents let alone a full-blown shooting investigation. On more than one occasion I have really regretted that second cup of coffee.

You see, forensic specialists (among the unsung heroes of law enforcement) are really good at what they do, which is the collection of evidence. The best ones cross every “t,” dot every “i” and are painstakingly meticulous. Apparently, you can’t be quick and meticulous at the same time.

You have to understand in the case of a freeway shooting an expended cartridge or any bit of physical evidence could make all the difference when it comes to identifying a suspect and prosecuting him.  A crime scene is hard enough to process inside a home let alone a freeway when victims and suspects are moving at speed of 65 mph or faster.

With every lane shut down, teams of investigators form lines and canvass entire sections of the roadway for any little bit of evidence. In a recent case, the discovery of a piece of paper with a license plate number helped convict a suspect in a freeway homicide nearly 16 years after it occurred.

You never know what’s going to be important.

Your patience is appreciated. Consider it a small contribution towards justice.

The great news is freeway shootings are infrequent if not rare.

But take if from an experienced commuter who is also a former cop: never get on an elevator or a freeway with a full bladder.

Vargas is a retired Anaheim Police Captain.