COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – To celebrate National Forensic Science Week, the Columbus Division of Police opened its crime lab to NBC4 for a behind-the-scenes tour.
An entire team of scientists, technicians, and analysts at the Forensic Services Center process evidence collected during investigations.
Firearms ballistics specialist Brian Johnson processes more than 3,000 guns annually to determine if the weapons are operable and if they may have been used during a crime.
“We can look at bullets that have been fired from weapons and do a microscopic comparison and see individual characteristics,” Johnson explained.
Johnson compares casings collected at crime scenes with ones fired from confiscated guns. The tests sometimes help connect unrelated cases.
“We’re able to give the officers information about the caliber of the weapon or what type of weapon it may have been fired from,” he said. “And we’re also able to determine if they’ve been fired from the same gun, even if we don’t know what the gun was.”
Johnson’s team is one small part of the Columbus forensic lab. Michael Mooney processes fingerprints from multiple pieces of evidence for between 700-900 cases each year.
“Fingerprint comparisons, when they make an ID, that’s a pretty good idea that somebody was at a scene,” Mooney explained of the work. “So it gives a reason for a detective to contact a possible suspect and determine if charges should be filed eventually or not.”
Mooney’s latent print technology ranges from dusting powder to superglue to fluorescent lights. Each process works for specific materials.
“People have gotten prints off of rocks, human skin,” he said. “In training, I got prints off of a feather.”
Testing in the drug analysis lab determines not only what kind of drugs could be found on a suspect or at a crime scene, but the amount is carefully calculated to determine potential charges.
The lab contracts its services for neighboring agencies. Many of the pieces of evidence processed by teams at the Forensic Services Center ultimately build a case for guilt or innocence.