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Saturday, October 8th, 2022

Our fascination with serial killers and their psychopathic ways has been enhanced with the advent of Netflix and other streaming services constantly pumping out documentaries, horror series, and docu-dramas like the newest series Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. So many people are captivated by serial killers and their lives, tendencies, and unique appetite for not just murder - but grotesque, evil mutilation of their fellow human beings. Jeffrey Dahmer is regarded as one of the worst of the worst, but why are viewers drawn into his story?


I may not have been alive when Dahmer prowled the streets of Milwaukee and West Allis, WI, but I was born and raised there. The home I was raised in, that my parents still reside in, is just a few blocks from Dahmer's Grandmother's house on 57th Street in West Allis.

The West Allis home of Jeffrey Dahmer's Paternal Grandmother: Catherine Dahmer

At this house, Dahmer killed 3 of his 17 victims right under the nose of his loving grandmother. Although the grisly reality wasn't discovered here and Dahmer took any evidence with him to his apartment in Milwaukee, this location is notable for me as I've likely driven or ran by this area on more than one occasion.


Once Dahmer moved into the Oxford Apartment building near Marquette University, his killing and sexual assault ramped up to an unbelievable level. This location is just 2 blocks from the famous Eagle's Ballroom, otherwise known as the Rave - a concert venue I've frequented with friends when I lived in the area.

Edna Parker using her video camera outside the Oxford Apartments at 924 N. 25th St.

SHY BUT SADISTIC

The most interesting part about Jeffrey Dahmer is his calm, welcoming demeanor. We know now that these characteristics allowed him to go undiscovered for so long, and made him seem trustworthy to the men whom he lured back to his apartment - but in every interview Dahmer seems unassuming, timid, soft-spoken, and intelligent.


For me, Dahmer's story mostly resonates because of the area he operated. But I am also perplexed at his demeanor and willingness to fully recount all of his victims, and offer himself up to psychological study while in prison.


Dahmer openly admits in every interview he gave that he knew what he was doing was wrong, but that he felt compelled to do so. What compels someone to do such heinous things to another human being? Dahmer stated that it was always about control, and that he kept body parts and cannibalized his victims to keep them close - because he was ultimately a very lonely person.


Killers like Dahmer, Bundy, and Gacy all share a very eerie similarity. They all act completely normal and would never raise suspicions. Where Gacy and Bundy failed to repent for their egregious actions, Dahmer made every effort possible to cooperate with the Milwaukee Police Department and offer what seemed to be sincere remorse and regret.


Its a weird feeling to feel some kind of emotion that is sympathy-adjacent for Jeffrey Dahmer. I of course have empathy for his victims, their families, and his own family - but Dahmer himself? It's not as easy for me to write him off as an evil maniac hell bent on killing, and that's what draws us in to further understand him as a person.

Jeffrey Dahmer's July 1991 Mugshot - Milwaukee Police Department

ECHOES OF THE PAST

  1. Milwaukee County Jail - Safety Building

When I lived in Milwaukee, I had worked at JusticePoint Inc - a pretrial service agency that assisted defendants with navigating the arduous court process and reporting their behavior both good and bad to their respective judge. JusticePoint's Milwaukee Pretrial office is located in what is now known as the Milwaukee County Safety Building, connected by walkway to the Milwaukee County Courthouse and Criminal Justice Facility (Jail).


The Safety Building was built in 1929 as the original Milwaukee County Jail and to this day still has the remnants of the jail. Fully abandoned, waiting for a purpose or to be demolished. The rest of the Safety Building houses offices, courtrooms, press boxes for larger cases, and of course my former office.


The new jail was built just a few yards away and the transfer of inmates began in 1993. The pictures below are from a tour we did of the space directly above our office and depicts the now abandoned jail - the same location Jeffrey Dahmer inhabited it during his trial.








These pictures are hardly that relevant to Dahmer himself other than the fact that he lived in this exact space during his trial at the courthouse next door. But I thought it was a perfect opportunity to share my having been there, and reflect on our interest in the creepy parts of our history.


Abandoned buildings, serial killers, horror movies? I think we are all enthralled by them. But Dahmer specifically holds a place in my brain as someone who was born and raised in West Allis. My small little hometown suburb of Milwaukee is only nationally recognized for 3 things: Liberace's birthplace, home of the Allis-Chalmers Tractor factory, and Jeffrey Dahmer. I have no personal connection nor have I ever met anyone that was personally affected by Dahmer's actions - yet seeing photos from Dahmer's life and more specifically when he was caught in 1991 seem surreal.


One of the most infamous, grotesque serial killers in American history was born and operated right in my hometown. I find myself watching these dramatized documentaries to make sure they get the city and its locations correct.


2. Club 219 Bar

The well known gay bar at the time in Milwaukee was where Dahmer would frequently patron to scope out his victims and lure them to his apartment, hotel room, or grandmother's residence. While Club 219 operated until its closure in 2005, it saw dwindling popularity following the opening of La Cage in 1984. La Cage became downtown's premier gay bar and still enjoys lots of success from college kids from Marquette, MSOE, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


Dahmer took advantage of a vulnerable community at the height of awful stigmas and rhetoric surrounding HIV/AIDS. To this day, venues like La Cage and other bars pay tribute to Dahmer's victims by training staff to be eagle-eyed and ensure everyone is feeling safe and protected within the walls of a social environment.

The front of Club 219 circa 2005

3. 924 N. 25th St. Unit 213 Milwaukee, WI - Oxford Apartments

Most of Dahmer's atrocities were conducted at this location, that has since been torn down. Smackdab in the middle of low income housing in a predominantly black neighborhood, Dahmer already stood out like a sore thumb, and made his targeting of black, Hispanic, and Asian men and boys all the easier.


To this day, no memorial or park has been built on the empty lot and many wonder what will ever happen with the location. The Netflix documentary sparked a newfound interest in making a monument to his victims a reality, but many argue its time to move on and not have constant reminders peppering the city.


Personally, I think a memorial garden along with a playset would be a perfect way to honor the innocent lives that were taken and also spruce up the city with amenities.

The empty lot where the Oxford Apartment Building once stood

4. Tracy Edwards - The Lone Survivor

Edwards is the sole person to fully escape Dahmer's murderous attempts and successfully hailed a police car for assistance when running away. With his testimony in Dahmer's trial, the public got a first hand account of Dahmer's apartment, intentions, and actions. Edwards stated that Dahmer told him he was going to eat his heart, was eventually detained with handcuffs and being threatened with a machete.


Unfortunately, Edwards never sought help after the events of the trial and has since bee embroiled in his own legal troubles. In fact, his prominence in the Dahmer trial alerted authorities to his whereabouts. Edwards had an outstanding warrant for sexual battery, and was eventually arrested by Milwaukee Police on behalf of the Tupelo Police Department.


Sadly, Edwards legal troubles spiraled from there and he has consistently been in and out of custody as well as homeless. Edwards never sought psychological treatment or therapy for his dealings with Jeffrey Dahmer.


Not to excuse away any crime Edwards himself committed, but could you imagine the broken pieces of the man who escaped Dahmer? He ran away and led police to the infamous apartment, not knowing the severity of the situation - only to later find out from police that he's luckier than he thought to have escaped.

Tracy Edwards provides his testimony in the Dahmer trial

PERPETUAL EXPLOITATION

The saddest reality of Dahmer's story is his overshadowing of his victims. Many documentaries and dramatizations have been made about him and his actions with the desperate attempt to find answers in his childhood or any external forces. As human beings, we aren't hardwired to accept that someone does these heinous things with no explanation.


While on this quest for answers, we've allowed Dahmer to become a folk legend and seem to forget that he really did these terrible things to very real people and their families.


Here we are in 2022 with yet another drama series about his life, something I am sure surviving family members of the victims have a very difficult time hearing about.


However, this series was different. The director and writers set out to tell Dahmer's story from the point of view of the victims and their families - giving them their due screen time. The best example is that of Tony Hughes, 31, who was a deaf aspiring model looking to leave Milwaukee to pursue his dream.


Prior to watching, I only knew Hughes was deaf and didn't know much else about him. The series depicts a normal relationship brewing between Hughes and Dahmer and almost makes the viewer think history could turn out differently. Paired with scenes of his family life, the struggles of being both gay and deaf in public, and scenes with a charismatic Dahmer - Hughes' story captivated me and made Dahmer's actions all the more surreal and heinous.


I can only hope Hughes' family, and others, receive some compensation from Netflix rather than profiting off of people's pain and terror. Or at the very least I hope this series and any other dramatization receives a blessing from each of the 17 victims' families.


I want to reiterate that while Dahmer is a supremely interesting character, his actions are still considered to be one of the most grotesque of any serial killer. Our fascination with these grisly crimes is rooted in a sense of disbelief that anyone could every be capable of this atrocity, especially when by all accounts the perpetrator is eloquent and tranquil. Among the numerous streaming service documentaries, true crime podcasts, murder mysteries, etc. - this new Dahmer series on Netflix handles the victim's legacy in a very judicious way, giving new light and empathy to their stories.


 

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Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

I find it increasingly easy to get spun up about different news topics or the outrage of the day. If you only spent your time on specific Twitter feeds, you'd think that Disney is frantically trying to destroy the fabric of America. In other feeds you'd think they are the arbiters of truth, justice, and representation. We see a couple posts or a quick twitter thread about someone getting hot and bothered by a decision, and we immediately attribute sentiment to the "other side". Its right vs left yet again.

Spoiler alert, both sides are out of touch.


In reality, no one with half a brain really cares. Everyone goes about their day and only really forms an opinion online for the sake of virtue signaling or clout. I know, I've done it.


If you routinely log into social media and find yourself getting furious over an idea or comment made by another person on the internet? Take a step back and realize that those ideas and comments are outliers and/or trolling to garner a reaction. Social media also routinely lacks nuance, and we often read further into a 240 character post than we should.


Yes, sometimes a spade is a spade. But sometimes we overreact based on our preconceived notions about certain groups. The ability to discern between the two is a lost art.


DISNEY DOLLARS

Much to our dismay, Disney is yet again digging up the bones of its former successful animations. While most of them have been CGI technical achievements, they lack the magic and captivation of the original. Pinocchio starring Tom Hanks, released earlier this year, sits at a low 27% on Rotten Tomatoes and streamed exclusively on Disney+. Disney's business model is clearly focused on 3 things: Making money, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars.


The MCU and Star Wars, for better or worse, are the only properties where new and original content is being pumped up. Creatives are given more freedom and whiteboarding abilities here and their curation is geared up to help the fans.


But Disney's #1 goal is to make money, and they seem to think that re-hashing their beloved animated movies with live-action makeovers is a cash cow - and maybe it is. Doesn't change the fact that it's creatively bankrupt.

THE SAGA OF THE RACIST MERMAIDS

Among the live action outputs from Disney have come disgustingly racist responses to Halle Baily being cast as live action Ariel for The Little Mermaid. In the animated film, Ariel is white with red hair. Halle Baily is black, with what appears to be somewhat red or auburn hair in the trailer.


My gut reaction is "who cares". If you have such a visceral anger with this casting choice, you have more time on your hands than you need. I find it hilarious that this is making as much news as it has. I guess it plays into a good marketing play by Disney. No press is bad press.


I have already laid out my disdain for Disney's creative issues. I don't care about who is playing Ariel, I care that Disney is clearly incapable of making a new story with new characters - a perfect conduit for diversity and representation. Nonetheless, get over it, or don't watch it. Its a fictional story about a fictional character.


But this ties into my aforementioned comments. No one with half a brain really cares about this at all. People outraged, claiming Disney is going "woke" are simply outraged for clout and exposure online. Same goes for those sounding the racist alarms on anyone who isn't a fan of this casting. Mountain out of a mole hill.

Ariel from Disney's 1989 animated classic (left) & Halle Baily, set to portray Ariel in the 2013 live action


While I think its an interesting conversation about pop culture focusing more on diversity and inclusion in general, the sentiment and intent isn't a bad thing. I saw numerous videos of young black children seeing the trailer for the new Little Mermaid and they were mesmerized by the fact that Ariel wasn't white in this new iteration. Inclusion and representation matters, but it needs to be handled properly, and not in a patronizing way.


I have often used Miles Morales' Spiderman as the perfect example of how to handle bringing more representation into popular character's worlds. Rather than make Peter Parker himself a different ethnicity, introduce a new character ripe with their own incredible backstory and culture.


GET OVER IT

My general reaction to anything Disney is doing nowadays is "meh" and my problem with the new Little Mermaid is that it's getting made at all. Disney needs to stop digging up old intellectual properties and making everything live action and spend more time and energy on good storytelling.


The Little Mermaid will likely be a continuation of the "just OK" trend for Disney live action remakes. Special effects will look fine, the story will be a beat for beat recreation of the animated film, the singers and music will be nostalgic and well done, but it will fail to capture the magic that was the original.


That failure is regardless of the ethnicity of any of the actors. For anyone to misconstrue the criticism of these films as "racist commentary" is perpetuating our communication problem and fails to see the forest for the trees.


Obviously racism is as real as the sun is hot, but the use of that word has diluted its true horrific meaning. While I am sure there are people out there having a coronary over this casting choice - does that include the internet trolls on twitter or the political pundits who want to dunk on "wokeism"?. Is anyone who isn't a fan of this casting choice automatically a racist?


Real instances of horrific prejudice should always be called out, but is every distasteful tweet worthy of response?


Nuance and context matters - but for this? Who cares. Its a movie about a mermaid and an evil octopus. Those who are spun up about this casting clearly have nothing better to do than to make snide remarks. Why give them the reaction they so clearly crave?


SELECTIVE OUTRAGE STRIKES AGAIN

Rather than be concerned with Ariel being casted with a black actress and calling each other racists in the process, perhaps we should spend more energy calling out Disney for their coziness to the human rights violation capital of the world: China.


We should be better about walking and chewing gum at the same time. Calling out those who make awful remarks to the new Ariel star doesn't mean you can't also chastise Disney for its ties to communist China.


Don't forget that China has reeducation camps (aka concentration camps) with Uyghur Muslims being forced into slave labor. And more importantly, never forget that Disney thanked the Chinese government for its help in producing the live action Mulan film - at locations near these concentration camps.


So, if your qualm is with black mermaids - get over it.

I will, however, take issue with any non-Jamaican casting of Sebastian the Lobster

 

Check out our newest episode available on all podcast platforms!

Allan is joined by Drew Johnson, Joshua Peer, Jake Wilamowski, Kash Dhanapal, and one of their favorite cadre members: Jordan Pisacrita. Together they discuss their OCS experiences at Fort McClellan, AL.





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Monday, August 29th, 2022

August 26th marked the 1yr anniversary of the 13 service members were killed in a suicide vest bombing at Abbey Gate of HKIA in Kabul. The 20 year war began and ended with tragedy, and many mark the chaotic withdrawal as the lowest point in the Biden Administration.


The decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 years began with President Obama in an agreement with former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai signed in 2010. However not much movement had been made until significant drawdowns occurred by President Trump. Trump also worked out timelines and small details with Military advisers. Had Trump won reelection, he would have overseen the evacuation but it was eventually fully executed by President Biden.


Leaving Afghanistan has been long supported by the majority of the public, and congress, across the political spectrum. The problem is that no one expected how ill-planned and abrupt the withdraw would be - eerily resembling our retreat from Vietnam years ago.

The evacuation from Afghanistan lasted from August 15th through August 30th, but is remembered for its two main highlights: videos of desperate Afghan people clinging to C-17 as they took off from the airport and the suicide bombing at Abbey Gate.


Despite Pentagon reports and preparation for mass casualty events at the airport, personnel on the ground struggled to close Abbey Gate. Abbey Gate had been the designated entry point for American citizens and certain allies to gather and join in the withdrawal.


Politico reported the following:

Commanders detailed a plan to close Abbey Gate by Thursday afternoon Kabul time. But the Americans decided to keep the gate open longer than they wanted in order to allow their British allies, who had accelerated their withdrawal timeline, to continue evacuating their personnel, based at the nearby Baron Hotel.
American troops were still processing entrants to the airport at Abbey Gate at roughly 6 p.m. in Kabul on Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest there, killing nearly 200 people, including 13 U.S. service members.

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/30/pentagon-mass-casualty-attack-kabul-507481


The attack, which was attributed to a branch of the terrorist group ISIS, killed:


Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover

Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario

Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee

Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez

Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page

Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui

Navy Petty Officer Third Class Maxton W. Soviak

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss


To this day there is no explanation as to why these 13 were where they were at the time of the bombing, and experts across all capacities consider their deaths completely preventable.


LT. COL. STUART SCHELLER SPEAKS OUT

Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller famously took to social media to express his disdain for our botched evacuation amid the deaths of 13 service members - most of which who were Marines. His words resonated with many, and he soon became a political pariah for many who were critical of Biden's handling of the situation. His wearing of uniform and addressing the topic within his official military capacity - openly criticizing his chain of command - is a no no, but he knew what he was doing. It doesn't matter how right his words may have been or how justified his contempt was. Consequences came quick.


“The reason so many people are upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down... People are upset because their senior leaders let them down, and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, ‘We messed this up.’”

- Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller during his 4min 45sec video posted to LinkedIn & Facebook.


There is no doubt it was a clear violation of the military’s Uniform Code of Military Conduct, and by December of 2021 he was a civilian.


However, this bleeds into a larger command climate issue within our military's ranks. Criticism of your boss shouldn't be something posted on social media for clout, but open door policies to hash out disagreement and disdain need be better followed. Far too many lower ranking service members are too fearful of ruining their careers to speak out or offer different ideas in problem solving situations.


Scheller read the room and decided to bet on the court of public opinion rather than his own chain of command. In the end, the public sided with him and anger with our top officials only grew when he was reprimanded.


Rank structure and decision making at the higher levels matters, but that doesn't mean we should abandon collaboration or punish those who see things differently. Scheller, for better or worse, made himself the face of questioning military authority. His sentiments may have been more welcome in a private setting, but his public questioning of leadership while wearing the uniform sealed his fate.


What is notable is that Lt. Col. Scheller gave a voice to the growing sentiment of many who felt a sense of loss and purposelessness. 20 years, thousands of fellow service members killed, for what? For the Taliban to retake the country as if we were never there? His insubordination couldn't go unpunished, but his willingness to speak out shows that there is a true lack of patience brewing with higher brass. Th 13 killed was clearly a breaking point for many, and it was enough for Scheller to willingly end his career.


Service members, active or not, are pissed and heartbroken. Heartbroken doesn't even begin to describe what many have felt. For the evacuation to be conducted in such an irresponsible manner is difficult to accept.


LASTING PAIN, UNADDRESSED

Anyone who knows someone who has served during our occupation of Afghanistan knows the scar this has left. Anger, distrust, and depleted morale. Afghanistan still begs the question of "why?" and salt is poured on the wounds when reports of further humanitarian crises emerge from the new Taliban controlled government.


The 13 service members and 200+ civilians who died at Abbey Gate stings. Our failure to heed warnings about ISIS-K in the region and our overall rushed approach to the evacuation cost lives, and the lingering pain from that fact exists more so each day responsibility isn't taken.


At a time when soldier suicide is through the roof, morale is low, recruiting and retention is abysmal - the idea that the war we've been in for the past two decades was worthless is a hard pill to swallow. Mental health is a stigma that needs to be broken within our forces, and its awareness is needed now more than ever.


ACCOUNTABILITY?

Not only has there been zero public accountability for this botched withdrawal, but US officials have pivoted their attention to Ukraine as a new flavor of the week. To this day, thousands of US citizens and our allies still remain in the region - left behind due to a logistical quagmire and rushed planning. They are hunted every day by the Taliban. So many questions remain as to why this withdrawal was so chaotic.


We have billions and billions to throw at Ukraine, and millions of aid to give to Taliban controlled Afghanistan for "humanitarian aid", yet we couldn't use proper resources to efficiently plan out an orderly withdrawal? Leaving billions worth of equipment doesn't seem to remotely bother the powers that be. Optics can be everything, and all this handling does is throw sand in the eyes of those who've served.


Unfortunately, this administration has done every song and dance to avoid any blame - going so far as to point the finger at previous President Donald Trump. Claiming his planned timeline boxed them into a corner. Yet intel reports suggest our officials failed to properly assess Taliban advancement and failed to secure Bagram Air Base as a more tactically fortified evacuation site than HKIA in Kabul.


It doesn't matter to me what either administration did or didn't do. Intelligence reports of the Taliban's ability to retake the country were ignored, and we underestimated how ill-prepared Afghan National Security Forces were. During the transition of power between Trump and Biden in January of 2020, politics were center stage and no known meeting between the two occurred.


This lack of passing of the baton doesn't provide the best optics or sew much public trust in how things transpire within our government. I'd like to trust top brass behind the scenes within the DOD and IC communities actively worked every angle and prepped beyond the changing Commander in Chief, insulated from politics. Yet, by all accounts, this was a military failure.


But who is to blame? Did political officials actively ignore insight from top brass? Did top brass fumble the planning of the evacuation when they were seemingly blindsided with Taliban advances? The buck should stop somewhere, and the fact that no one has accepted responsibility or resigned for the deaths of the abovementioned heroes and the countless left behind is a failure of leadership.



Senator Josh Hawley, love him or hate him, has been one of the few consistently calling for CENTCOM hearings to get to the bottom of how things went down during the withdrawal. Hawley, who has been hyper critical of Biden, called out Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley for their "lack of leadership" and demanded their resignation in the face of our failures in Afghanistan.


Now, I want to be very clear here. Josh Hawley is as partisan and divisive as they come. Is unabashed loyalty to Donald Trump and his insistence on election fraud claims long after they've been disproven does him no favors. But, to his credit, he has consistently called for answers on Afghanistan. Unfortunately he's likely using it as an easy political football to lob insults at President Biden, but perhaps he and others can make it lead towards further investigations and hearings.


Getting answers for this debacle shouldn't be political. Its been an entire year and most mainstream outlets have moved on from Afghanistan. It feels as though this issue just gets swept under the rug and the next thing we all need to change our profile picture to is a Ukrainian flag. "Support the troops, but only when its politically convenient or when we want online clout and attention!" I've become jaded and cynical, and I don't expect any answers to come, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep attention on this. 13 service members were killed due to apparent negligence.


The least we can do is look into it and hold anyone accountable whose lapse in judgement contributed to their deaths and the abandonment of our equipment and more importantly our allies and other personnel who remain in Afghanistan to this day.


 

Listen to my discussion with fellow Officer Candidate School graduates as we reminisce about our time down in Alabama.


I'm convinced this will be one of many discussions in this lane!


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