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Angle Of Attack
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Season 15
Number 11
Writer M. Scott Veach
Director Kevin Bray
Original Airdate December 21, 2014
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Previous Episode: Dead Rails
Next Episode: Dead Woods

Angle Of Attack is the eleventh episode in season fifteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

The CSI team investigates a victim covered with shards of glass whose evident hit-and-run accident leads them into the world of aeronautics.

Plot

Victims: Bradley Weeks (deceased), Robert Holland (deceased)

On the case: entire team

Greg and Nick are called to the scene of a hit-and-run, where a male victim was apparently dragged several feet after the impact. There are no skid marks in the road, so the driver never even slowed down. Furthermore, the angle of impact is wrong, as it lines up with the side of the road.

Nick finds broken glass in the road that he believes is too thick to have come from a car. When David Phillips turns the body over, he finds that the victim is covered in the same glass shards. The glass is thick enough to have come from a window, so the thought is that the victim may have jumped; however, there's no tall building adjacent to the street. ID on the victim identifies him as Bradley Weeks, an accountant who works on the 30th floor of an office building nearby. The CSIs look up and spot the building with an broken window - over 100 yards away. How did the victim jump and end up so far away from his original point?

Greg and Russell go the 30th floor and find it a mess. Two windows have been blown out, causing papers to fly everywhere. The radial patterns of the glass indicate that something went through the first window, took a turn, and exited out the second window. Unfortunately, Bradley seemed to be in the object's path and got blown out the window upon impact. The glass is quite thick, so whatever went through it, had to have been powerful. Scorch marks on the desk lead to the theory that the object was rocket-powered. Greg wonders if it was a rocket-powered grenade that never detonated, possibly because of a remote signal never being sent.

In the lab, Finn and Greg piece together the first window the object impacted with. When the window is pieced together, they find that the impact zone measures between 24 and 30 inches, way too big for something rocket-powered. Meanwhile, Morgan finds that the accounting firm Bradley worked for has tenuous ties with the Colombian cartel; it's possible this was a cartel hit.

Hodges analyzes the scorch marks in the desk and finds traces of fuel residue; more specifically, Jet-A aviation fuel. Whatever entered the office and killed Bradley was jet-powered. This also seems to indicate that the device was piloted rather than fired. Hodges explains to Henry that based on the amount of ash in the scorch marks, he can determine how hot the fire was burning. Furthermore, by measuring the wood ash over the length of the burn, he can determine whether the jet-powered object was gaining or losing speed. As it turns out, the object was slowing down rapidly, possibly from loss of fuel. If this is the case, it couldn't have traveled very far after exiting the office.

Nick crunches some numbers and narrows down the area where the object could've landed. When some officers search the area, they find a taxi van nearly blown to bits. Finn and Nick arrive at the scene and spot a charred and dismembered body in the back of the vehicle. The thought is that the driver was sitting in the front seat, but when he emerges from his house, the theory shifts elsewhere. When the CSIs find a helmet and boots with feet still in them, the conclusion is that someone flew into the back of the cab. The missile was actually a human being.

Back in the lab, Nick and Russell watch a video of someone flying in a wingsuit, which can travel upwards of 220 MPH if constructed properly. Apparently, this wasn't fast enough for the victim, who decided to strap jet engines to his feet. In the layout room, Morgan has the suit laid out, and Nick sees that it's more advanced than the one in the video. The suit resembles a metal exoskeleton, and the propulsion system seems to have been expertly crafted. It also contains a device similar to a black box, so there may be a recording of the accident.

The victim is soon identified as Captain Robert Holland, a member of the United States Air Force. Russell speaks with Captain Holland's wife, Amanda, and Major Bernard Mills, his commanding officer. Major Mills confirms that Captain Holland was off-duty last night, adding that the wingsuit was property of TRP Aeronautics, a Department of Defense contractor. Captain Holland was on loan to TRP as a test pilot, but it's unknown why he was wearing the suit and flying through downtown Vegas. Major Mills puts forth the notion that Captain Holland stole a prototype, but Amanda is certain that this is something her husband would never do. As the conversation continues, Major Mills keeps subtly putting the blame on both Captain Holland and TRP Aeronautics. Later, in private, Amanda tells Russell that the Air Force is covering something up, as her husband would've never flown without authorization. She explains that if Robert is blamed, the Air Force can avoid paying death benefits and can take away his pension.

Greg examines the wingsuit and finds that it has two parachutes, a primary and a reserve; however, neither one of them deployed. Captain Holland was likely dead or unconscious when he hit the office tower, so this would explain why he didn't pull the ripcord. However, the reserve parachute has an automatic activation device (AAD), which should've deployed on it's own. The trigger is based on air pressure, so it needs two things to pop: one has to be close to the ground and falling at a very high speed. Greg and Nick put the wingsuit in a chamber and trick the sensor into popping the parachute; however, nothing happens. When Greg takes a look at the sensor, he sees that someone tampered with it and cut the circuit using a two-pronged instrument. When the circuit is bridged, the sensor acts normally and the parachute deploys. The team is now looking at murder.

Nick and Det. Crawford travel to TRP Aeronautics and speak with CEO Claudia Mason. She leads them to the Project Icarus lab, which is responsible for the development of the wingsuit. There, Claudia introduces them to Captain Jack Ferris, one of the engineers. When told about the accident, Captain Ferris is adamant the wingsuit is brought to him so he can determine what went wrong; however, it's now evidence in a murder investigation. Nick observes that one of the tools in the captain's kit is a homemade two-pronged instrument, similar to the one used to sabotage the AAD on the parachute.

Under interrogation, Captain Ferris denies sabotaging Captain Holland in order to gain a leg up in the test pilot competition. He says that he's certain Captain Holland didn't steal the wingsuit, as Claudia was the one pushing the limits. This included encouraging after-hours flights, having the pilots logging extra hours in the simulator, and even paying cash incentives when the pilots hit milestones. During the interrogation, Captain Ferris complains about a headache, which rapidly gets worse. He soon zones out; when he comes to, he starts talking nonsensically. Suddenly, he collapses to the ground and starts to seize as blood starts coming out of his eyes and mouth. Det. Crawford rushes to get the paramedics, but it's no use; Captain Ferris dies shortly thereafter.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins labels Captain Ferris' cause of death as a cerebral edema; the brain swelled against the skull and cut off the oxygen supply. Because Captain Ferris was a pilot, the doc believes he could have suffered a high-altitude cerebral edema, or HACE, which is a form of altitude sickness caused by repeated rapid ascents. In fact, Captain Holland's brain tissue exhibited the same thing, so it's possible he could've suffered a stroke mid-flight. Such injuries could be consistent with a hypobaric chamber, and Finn notes that TRP Aeronautics uses them for training.

At TRP, Nick confronts Claudia Mason and provides her with a search warrant. The warrant allows the LVPD to seize medical records, program schedules, flight data, and all materials related to Project Icarus. Claudia maintains that both deaths were accidents, but Nick tells her that she's hiding something from them. When Nick asks for the decryption key for the code from the black box on Captain Holland's wingsuit, Claudia informs him that the boxes are Air Force property. Back in the lab, Major Mills is reluctant to give up the code because all information is classified. However, when Russell encourages him to do the right thing, Major Mills relents.

Hodges tries to retrieve the data from the black box, but finds that the numbers don't make sense. He shows Greg that Captain Holland's vitals were all flatlined before he even took flight. The altimeter reads 2,920 feet, way too low for this to have been a body dump from an airplane. Since Vegas is roughly 2,200 feet above sea level, Captain Holland had to have jumped from a height of 700 feet, which is more indicative of a BASE jump. The flight data stored the GPS coordinates; since the team knows where Captain Holland landed, they can use the coordinates to find out where he started from.

Greg is able to determine that Captain Holland's point of origin was the top floor of the Delmore Towers, a condo owned by TRP Aeronautics. Claudia used the condo herself when she was staying in town, and the data on the black box shows a history of BASE jumps at the same condo over the last several months. Captain Holland was using the condo to train off base, off hours, and off regulations, likely with Claudia's approval.

Greg theorizes that Claudia was providing Captain Holland with bonuses and incentives, as well as some "other things." The thought is that the two decided to have a pre-flight tryst; however, Captain Holland stroked out in the heat of passion. Since calling 911 would destroy the company, Claudia decided to fit Captain Holland with the wingsuit, drag him out to the balcony, fire up the jet engines, and give him a little push. She also disabled the backup parachute, so nothing could be traced back to her when the captain eventually crashed.

When Greg and Morgan search the condo, they find blood drops on the bed frame and a large blood pool on the floor nearby. A trail of blood drops leads to the wall, where the CSIs observe castoff. The evidence suggests something much more violent than HACE, as it appears Captain Holland was beaten to death. Evidence of sexual activity is found in Claudia's bed, and Morgan finds that a statue was used as the murder weapon; however, there are no fingerprints on it.

Under interrogation, Claudia denies having an affair with Captain Holland and claims to have not known that he was using the condo to practice his BASE jumping. It's possible she's telling the truth, as security footage from the condo's lobby shows Captain Holland getting into an argument with his wife on the night he died.

Amanda had previously said that she hadn't seen her husband for several days, but the security footage says otherwise. She admits to Russell and Det. Crawford that Robert had been acting differently for the past few months. When he said he was going to TRP that night, she decided to follow him, assuming he was having an affair. She confronted Robert in the lobby, but when he showed her his wingsuit and gear, she believed his story about training. Amanda denies killing her husband, but admits to lying to the police so she could keep his death benefits. After all, what Robert was doing was strictly against Air Force regulations.

The expanded tox panel on Captain Ferris reveals that he tested positive for furosemide, a hardcore diuretic. The drug caused a major sodium imbalance, and time logged in the hypobaric chamber would cause the reaction to be lethal. It seems that Captain Ferris was murdered, as well.

DNA from the blood in the condo is a match to Captain Holland, but semen on the bed comes back to a surprise source: Major Bernard Mills. Major Mills' DNA was also found on the murder weapon, and he confesses to Finn and Det. Crawford that he was in a relationship with Captain Holland. However, Captain Holland decided to end things and stay loyal to his wife, which angered Major Mills. The major murdered Captain Holland, cleaned up the scene, put him in the wingsuit, and sabotaged the parachute so it wouldn't open. A search of Major Mills' place uncovers a bottle of furosemide. Major Mills admits to killing Captain Ferris because he and Captain Holland were best friends; if anyone knew about the secret relationship, it would be Captain Ferris. Upon mentioning that he had no choice, Major Mills is informed that he had a choice - and he chose wrong twice.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Alimi Ballard as Detective Kevin Crawford
  • Matt Letscher as Major Bernard Mills
  • Virginia Williams as Claudia Mason
  • Tamara Feldman as Amanda Holland
  • Arjun Gupta as Captain Jack Ferris
  • Robert Romanus as Taxi Driver
  • Cuyle Carvin as Captain Holland
  • Amanda Troop as Secretary
  • Sam Laming as Wingsuit flyer

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 15
The CSI EffectBuzz KillBad BloodThe Book of ShadowsGirls Gone WilderThe Twin ParadoxRoad to RecoveryRubbery HomicideLet's Make A DealDead RailsAngle of AttackDead WoodsThe Greater GoodMerchants of MenaceHero to ZeroThe Last RideUnder My SkinThe End GameImmortality


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