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Coup de Grace
Coup de Grace.jpg
Season 10
Number 4
Writer David Rambo
Director Paris Barclay
Original Airdate October 15, 2009
Navigation
Previous Episode: Working Stiffs
Next Episode: Bloodsport

Coup de Grace is the fourth episode in season ten of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

When a police officer shoots and kills his ex-partner in a parking lot, the team must figure out if was premeditated or even racially motivated.

Plot

Victim: Scott Johnson (deceased)

On the case: entire team

In the White House Burgers fast food restaurant, a waitress, Denise Devine, brings food out to her son, Avery. Avery watches a customer pay for his food and spots a gun in the man's pocket. The man is next seen dead in the restaurant's parking lot.

Officer Danny Finn tells Brass that he saw the suspect firing his gun and, fearing for someone's life, he engaged the suspect. He fired three rounds and, with the suspect down, he kicked his gun away and handcuffed him.

David Phillips tells Langston and Nick that the victim has three gunshot wounds. The bullets are consistent with the department issued guns. Four shots were fired from the victim's gun, corroborating Officer Finn's statement. Onlookers yell out to the CSIs that the victim was shot when he was already down. To make matters more complicated, the victim is black while Officer Finn is white. When the body is rolled, a bullet is found underneath, which makes it seem possible that the onlookers are telling the truth. It's discovered that the victim is a member of the LVPD - Sergeant Scott Johnson.

Brass interrogates Officer Finn, while Catherine enters the room to collect his service weapon. The officer shows Catherine on a diagram where he and the suspect were positioned when everything occurred. He says that he fired from behind the driver's side door and fired three shots until the suspect went down, after which he approached him. Catherine informs him that eyewitness statements say different, something Officer Finn denies. The officer can't remember whether he identified himself to the suspect or vice versa and clams up when informed that he shot a fellow officer.

At the scene, Langston and Nick find two shell casings in the police car, but are unable to locate the third. As they search the premises, they come across the third casing, but it's far away from the other two, which seems to line up with the witness statements. Back at the station, Denise tells Greg that Sergeant Johnson ran out of the restaurant and she hit the ground when the gunfire started. She then exited the restaurant after the gunfire stopped and saw Officer Finn shoot Sergeant Johnson while he was already on the ground.

Ecklie tells Sara that Sergeant Johnson had no reason to be in the area - he was off-duty, the location wasn't in his district, he wasn't undercover and he had no informants. In autopsy, it's discovered that Sergeant Johnson was also a vegetarian, making his visit to a burger joint seem out of place. Doc Robbins tells them that the third shot was fatal, piercing the heart; however, he can't definitively say whether the officer was standing or in a prone position when he was shot.

Greg photographs the interior of the restaurant, including the tray Avery was eating from. He notes to Sara that Sergeant Johnson ordered two burgers, two drinks and a salad. Since he was a vegetarian and witnesses say he entered alone, the officer must have been meeting someone.

Officer Finn's partner, Officer Donna Grayson, recounts the events to Catherine and says that she was on the radio calling for backup and could not see Sergeant Johnson. She dropped her radio and heard Officer Finn fire two shots. Upon picking the radio back up, she noticed that Officer Finn was gone and heard another shot fired from a nearby location. When she looked around, she saw Officer Finn standing over Sergeant Johnson's body. Catherine goes to retrieve the dispatch calls from Officer Finn's patrol car and is shocked to hear the officer, whose mic was stuck in the open position, refer to the suspect as a "black son of a bitch."

Brass confronts Officer Finn, whose union rep tells him to keep his mouth shut. He instead decides to defend himself and claims that he doesn't remember saying what he said on the open mic. Brass reveals that Officer Finn and Sergeant Johnson had a history - they were partners for four months a few years back, and Sergeant Johnson had filed a former complaint against Officer Finn for racial discrimination. An irate Officer Finn says that he didn't recognize Sergeant Johnson and says that he used street talk all the time with this trainees; Sergeant Johnson was the only one to ever complain.

According to the dispatch recording, there were 5.4 seconds that elapsed between the second and third shots, time enough for Officer Finn to run over to the body and fire the final shot. Catherine tells the team that Brass found out that Officer Finn was denied a promotion a year ago and took a swing at Sergeant Johnson a few weeks later. The team wonders if Officer Finn recognized Sergeant Johnson and had his resentment take over. Langston mentions that a study done showed that an officer has less than a third of a second to decide whether to use his or her gun. He adds that they're not after Officer Finn's motives, but rather what the evidence says about his actions.

Sara volunteers to respond to a body found near an abandoned school. Upon arriving, she's told by David Phillips that the victim, a young boy, was killed at least 16 hours ago, putting his time of death around the time of the gunfight in the parking lot. A 9mm bullet is found near the body and Det. Moreno notes that the victim was shot in the throat and is missing a finger - in other words, he was a snitch. Sara spots a few bags of drugs on the ground along with a blood trail leading away from the body. She posits that their suspect was wounded.

Langston and Nick go through Sergeant Johnson's belongings, with Nick wondering how Officer Finn just happened to roll up on the very guy he had a beef with. They wonder if the whole thing was a setup, but Langston notes that Officer Finn radioed the gunshots in before he could even see that it was Sergeant Johnson firing the shots. The questions still remains - what was Sergeant Johnson doing in the area in the first place? They go through his phone and find that he made a call to someone named Anthony eight minutes before the gunfight, and that they had called each other several times over the last few days. When they call the number, they are surprised to hear Sara answer it down in the morgue - her John Doe victim from the school is Anthony.

The victim is identified as Anthony Lopez. His mother told Sara that her son wasn't involved with gangs or drugs; his tox panel also came back clean. She also said that she didn't know Sergeant Johnson. The officer wasn't working gangs and Anthony didn't have a record, but Catherine believes that the case has "gangs" written all over it.

Nick and Brass bring Officer Finn back to the crime scene and have him walk through the night's events again. Officer Finn admits that he couldn't see Sergeant Johnson's face or who he was shooting at. When asked why he decided to fire his gun, he becomes irate at all of the questions and starts ranting about putting his life on the line for the people in a predominantly black neighborhood. After Officer Finn is escorted away, Nick guesses that Sergeant Johnson was going to meet Anthony in the parking lot and that he was firing at Anthony's killer. They trace the trajectory of Sergeant Johnson's gunshots and find a bullet embedded in a car tire. The bullet is a .38 caliber, the same as Sergeant Johnson was firing, and it's got traces of blood and tissue on it. Brass spots a trail that tests positive for blood - whatever Sergeant Johnson was shooting at, he hit.

Using a computer program that links gang-related crimes, Det. Moreno is able to surmise that Anthony was murdered by a member of the D-Street Killers. Meanwhile, Hodges runs trace from the bullets and cartridge casings and discovers that the supposed coup de grâce was actually fired from the cartridge case found on the patrol car - 40 feet from Sergeant Johnson. Furthermore, there were denim fibers in the nose of the bullet found under the officer, leading the team to conclude that he landed on top of the bullet that went through his leg. Nick points out that without corresponding trace, they can't match bullets to cartridge casings. Curiously, Hodges informs the team that a sticky substance was on the casing found near the fence - grape jelly. The casing also has a fingerprint on it, which didn't get any hits in the system. Since the jelly would have been burned off in the chamber when the gun was fired, the casing had to have been touched after it was fired.

Greg goes through the photos from inside the restaurant and discovers that Avery was eating grape jelly with his meal. When questioned, Denise tells Greg that her son didn't touch anything; however, when run, Avery's print matches the one on the casing. Denise suddenly remembers that Avery did pick something up. A flashback shows him picking the casing up and throwing it away when his mother told him to. Greg assures Denise that her son isn't in any trouble; however, this now proves that Officer Finn didn't kill Sergeant Johnson after he was already down. He tells her that witnesses sometimes merge what they actually saw with prior assumptions; this causes Denise to leave silently with her son in tow.

Brass informs Officer Finn that he's been cleared of committing a coup de grâce. However, he's still on administrative leave for his earlier outburst and won't be issued a replacement weapon until he's been cleared by the department shrink. Brass tries to convince Officer Finn to retire and get out clean; the officer asks if that would be the sentiment if Sergeant Johnson was white.

On the roof of the station parking garage, Sergeant Johnson's father tells Langston that his son was trying to save Anthony's life. He explains that Anthony had been caught robbing a jewelry store as part of a gang initiation and that Sergeant Johnson had gotten the store owner to not press charges. They wait to take the elevator down, but find that Officer Finn has ridden it up. The officer looks at the two men and walks by them silently. On a hunch, Langston leaves Mr. Johnson's side and follows Officer Finn to his car. On his way, he sees the officer get in, put a gun to his chin and fire.

Members of the D-Street Killers are brought to the station, where one of them is found to have a bullet embedded in his backside. The gang member admits to Sara and Det. Moreno that he knew Anthony was a snitch and that he was going to talk to the cops. He recounts that he started shooting at Anthony, only to get shot at by the Sergeant Johnson. Sergeant Johnson was then shot by Officer Finn and, at that point, the gang member fled the scene.

In autopsy, Langston notices bruises on Officer Finn's knees; David Phillips mentions that his grandmother has the same thing from constantly bumping into things. Upon examining the officer's eyes, both Langston and Doc Robbins find something interesting.

Langston brings the rest of the team back out to the restaurant's parking lot at night. With Nick assuming the position that Sergeant Johnson was in, Langston hands the team a tube to look through. He tells them that Officer Finn's vision was severely impaired by retinitis pigmentosa - in other words, he was seeing the world through a straw. His eyesight got worse over time, which means that there's no way he should have still been on patrol. Ironically, the officer's poor eyesight allowed him focus more on the immediate threat, which explains why he was such a good shot. Finally, Langston points out that the patrol car's headlights weren't facing Sergeant Johnson, which means the parking lot was lit by a single lamppost. The events were a perfect storm: Officer Finn's condition at night with poor lighting. They conclude that there's no way Officer Finn knew who he was shooting at and that there may not be a bad guy in all of this.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

Music

  • Inner Island by El Perro Del Mar

Goofs

  • When Sara and Ecklie are in the hallway talking about notifying the dead man's family, Ecklie has one arm in his coat but in the next shot, he has both hands in the coat and is buttoning the front of it.

Notes

  • Liz Vassey (Wendy) is credited, but does not appear in this episode.
  • Langston brings up the incident where he had to fire his weapon. This occurred in the season 9 episode All In.
  • Officer Finn brings up the fact that Brass shot a cop once, which happened in the season 6 episodes A Bullet Runs Through It, Part 1 and A Bullet Runs Through It, Part 2.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 10
Family AffairGhost TownWorking StiffsCoup de GraceBloodsportDeath & The MaidenThe Lost GirlsLover's LanesAppendicitementBetter Off DeadSin City BlueLong BallInternal CombustionUnshockableNeverlandThe Panty SnifferIrradiatorField MiceWorld's EndTake My Life, Please!Lost & FoundDoctor WhoMeat Jekyll
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