(pictured above: Christopher Thompson was killed on March 25.)
A grieving mother who claims calls to the detective investigating her son’s death have gone unreturned should go higher up the chain of command, according to Winston-Salem Police Department leaders.
Crystal Thompson said she is frustrated with the lack of contact she’s had with Sgt. David Taylor, who is investigating her son’s murder. Christopher Thompson was shot outside of his home on March 23. The case remains unsolved. The family said they last spoke to Taylor on March 25 and despite often weekly calls, did not hear back from him until two months later.
“The detective just called us back May 22. To me, that is too long from March 25, the last time I spoke with him,” Thompson said. “I shouldn’t have had to tell him that I was going to the news and the newspaper before anyone would call me back.”
Thompson said the lack of communication was especially frustrating because the family wanted the case featured in the Crimestoppers program, which offers cash rewards for information that leads to the solving of crimes. The input of the investigating detective is necessary before cases are accepted into Crimestoppers. (The family is now in the process of adding Christopher’s case to the program.)
Police department leaders said there should be an open and regular dialogue between investigators and victims or the families of victims and that measures are in place to allow that.
“There is no set policy on interaction and each one of those cases vary. We have some homicide cases where the families want to be very involved, and, to those families, we release any and all information we can without hindering the investigation,” said Lt. Steve Tollie, lead detective in the department’s Criminal Investigations Division. “Unfortunately we have other homicides where the family doesn’t want to have any involvement. A lot of it depends on the family. We encourage family involvement because often families receive information that assist us.”
In this particular case, Tollie said that as Taylor’s supervisor, he is satisfied that Taylor has stayed in contact with Thompson.
“He has had considerable communication with her beyond the level that she has reported,” Tollie said. “The detective has informed me that he has had conversations with both the mother and the grandmother.”
Tollie said that there are times when a month or longer may go by before families hear from police officials.
“All too often, it may take that long for an investigative lead to develop,” Tollie said. “The detective wouldn’t call just to say that there is no new information to provide the family.”
Capt. Catrina Thompson, head of the Criminal Investigations Division, said that the department is still working to solve the murder of Christopher Thompson – one of six homicides in the city this year.
She said investigators have been out to the neighborhood, recanvassed the area and spoken with area businesses owners in an effort to solicit additional information. Lt. Tollie told The Chronicle that during that time – April 8 – the homicide detective reached out to the Thompson family so that they would be aware of what the department was doing.
Capt. Thompson said that it is standard policy for investigators to give out all their information and make themselves available to communicate with victims families.
“What we hope is that as we are doing our investigation on the case, they are seeking information and sharing that with us as well. We like to see the open dialogue between us and them,” she said.
To promote that open dialogue, Capt. Thompson noted that the department has a Victim Services Unit to assist victims and their families with things like counseling.
Tollie said that the department is just like any other business and if residents can’t get a hold of someone one in particular, they should always go a step above.
“If they reach out to the lead detective and don’t receive a response back from them in a reasonable amount of time, they need to go a step above to his or her supervisor,” Tollie said.
City Council member James Taylor said that if residents have an issue with getting in touch with an officer or are not satisfied with their interactions with the department, they should contact him.
“I don’t know if they have an obligation to speak with the families, but I think that it would be a good practice if it does not jeopardize the case,” Taylor said. “As chairperson of the Public Safety Committee, I will be happy to give them any information that I can.”
Anyone with information on any of the city’s homicides can contact authorities anonymously by calling the Crimestoppers hotline at 336-727-2800 or by contacting the police department directly at 336-773-7700.