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Dart Award Honorable Mention

Aftershocks of a Crime Spree

A series describing the impact of a string of armed robberies on its many victims, including the trauma experienced by the police officer who shot and killed the suspect.  Originally published in the Detroit Free Press in 2001.

Police removed shotgun shells from the weapon Bryan Doyle carried the day of the robberies. The mug shot of Doyle is from 1994, when he was in prison for drunken driving.

A string of drug-fueled robberies lasted just six hours, but that was only the beginning

Bryan Doyle has his finger on the trigger, the shotgun pointed at his head.

"If you don't like how I'm treating you," he screams, "then why should I live?"

 

Debra Dando runs to the bathroom and grabs a bottle of Dilantin, prescription medicine she takes for seizures.

"If you kill yourself," she says, "I'll kill myself."

She tries to swallow 30 pills.

This has been their plan all along. They will die together. Doyle wrote his suicide note days ago. She didn't bother.

Dando is 5-foot-4 and 97 pounds, her face gaunt and haunting from crack cocaine. She has dishwater blond hair and pale white skin. His initials are tattooed on her right leg.

Doyle stands 6 inches taller and weighs 60 pounds more than his girlfriend. He forces his fingers into her mouth, digging out the pills, and she bites him. He whirls and hits her on the back of the head, breaking his right hand.

They leave their house on Crescent Lake Road in Waterford late at night on Jan. 27 and go to a 24-hour emergency center, where doctors wrap his hand.

Someone from the emergency center calls the Waterford Police Department to report domestic abuse because of a bump on Dando's head. Two officers show up at the center, but Dando denies there was abuse, saying Doyle hit her to get the pills out.

She loves him. They've been dating for nine months and plan on getting married in the spring. She is convinced he is a good guy, kind and sweet. It's the crack cocaine that turns him into a monster.

Dando agrees to commit herself to North Oakland Medical Center in Pontiac because she is suicidal. She is taken from the center in an ambulance, strapped to a gurney, and he goes home. If the police or medical workers committed her, she would have to stay for two days or more. Since she has gone voluntarily, she is free to leave.

"Did you swallow any pills?" she is asked at the hospital.

"No," she says.

And she is released. She calls Doyle and he is awake, doing drugs. She falls asleep in the waiting room until he shows up a couple of hours before daybreak on Friday, Jan. 28, 2000. The air is crisp and cold, a light layer of snow on the ground.

They leave the hospital and stop at a red light. Doyle lights up his crack pipe, sitting behind the wheel of his maroon pickup truck. He doesn't care who sees him. He stopped caring weeks ago.

The pipe holds about $25 worth of crack and will give him a high that will last about an hour.

But the clock is already ticking.

He needs more drugs, more vodka, more money. The truck is almost out of gas and they are broke again, as usual. Dando, 29, will get her $189 Social Security disability check in 12 more hours, but they can't wait that long.

Doyle, 33, decides to sell his fishing pole. It's one of the few things he has left, after pawning the rest of his possessions to support a drug habit that has spun out of control in the last week. He's spending $200 to $500 a day on drugs.

But who will buy the fishing pole?

They drive through Waterford with a sawed-off shotgun on the front seat, hidden under a Carhartt coat, listening to Martina McBride before heading out on a journey that will turn into a violent crime spree, causing a manhunt and a police chase, leaving victims throughout Oakland County.

A journey that will end in death.

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