TJC’s Pirtle Technology Center was transformed into a mock crime scene recently as criminal justice students took their final exam for the Criminalistics II course.
Professor Jason Waller, who also serves as department chair for TJC’s Law and Public Service Careers, had set up the mock crime scene for his students to “investigate” the simulated crime.
The mock crime scene, secured with crime scene tape, included empty alcohol containers, fired bullet casings, stage-prop-style weapons, imitation blood stains, and a crime scene dummy that simulated a body. There was also a dirt area outside with shoe impressions.
The students arrived at the scene at 1 p.m., and began processing the area, carrying out their assigned duties.
Students examined the “evidence,” taking photos and recording statistics about each element and its position. Then, they bagged the evidence to be evaluated on how they processed each item.
“This class provided hands on experience that is a stepping stone to a future career,” said Gavino Rongel, a sophomore from Fruitvale, who plans to become a state trooper after completing his education at TJC.
Passion Johnson from Gilmer said the crime scene course was beneficial. “When I watched TV shows, I thought that was how you do it, but this class taught me how it is really done,” she said.
“This course really opened my eyes to the work that goes on behind the scenes and helped give perspective,” said Alonso Ramirez of Tyler. “It gives me a better appreciation of the tedious work that goes into solving each and every crime.”
Next semester, many of these students will continue their criminal justice education with Criminalistics III, a more intense class in the associate degree program.
“The criminalistics courses at TJC allow these students to gain experience in simulated situations so that they will be prepared to conduct real crime scene investigations in their careers,” Waller said.
Waller, who has been in law enforcement for 35 years, joined TJC in 2001 as a full-time faculty member and became department chair in 2008. He holds an Associate in Applied Science from TJC, a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Texas at Tyler.
He is also a graduate of the East Texas Police Academy, where he was valedictorian of his academy class. He previously served with both the Tyler Police and Smith County Sheriff’s departments and spent the last five years of his full-time career as a lieutenant supervising violent crimes and the Crime Scene Unit. He holds a Master Peace Officer License and is a licensed TCLEOSE instructor.
Waller and some of the cases he investigated over the years have been featured on A&E’s Cold Case Files and Justice Files, ABC’s PrimeTime Live, the WE channel’s Women Behind Bars, and the ID Channel’s Hardcover Mysteries. One of his capital murder cases has had two award winning documentaries made about the case, Licensed to Kill, which won the 1996 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Award and Lone Star Hate, a BBC film that won numerous awards.
Waller has twice been awarded the NISOD Excellence Award for Teaching by the University of Texas at Austin and was awarded the Dorothy Faye and Jack White Endowed Chair for Teaching Excellence. He also serves as a faculty advisor for TJC’s Criminal Justice Students Association.
For more information on TJC’s criminal justice program, visit www.tjc.edu/criminaljustice.