hunters & gatherers: the us marshal service

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Hunting bad guys in Texas.

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US MARSHALSjeans and boots to work. His business card carries a quote from American writer Ernest Hemingway: There is no hunting like the hunting of a man. And those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter. Smith has been Deputy Marshal for almost 20 years. His rst ever real job was guarding a nuclear power plant. That was the rst time he carried a gun. Then he worked in a prison with a Special Operations and Response Team. Theyre the guys who go in when things go very wrong. I got tired of being with crooks, he recalls. I was 22 years old and I felt these were all grown men but a lot of them were like children. They are whiny, they are needy, and they are manipulative. After a while it got on my nerves. I wanted to get out there and lock people up. The people who prey on other people. So Smith signed up for the Marshals and today oversees San Antonios part in Operation Falcon, a month-long campaign across the United States where, under US Marshal guidance, law enforcement agencies local cops, sheriffs, SWAT teams, US Marshal Tom National Guardsmen, Smith briefs local armed social security and federal police groups ahead of a round-up investigators, anyone of fugitives (top right). who wants to join in Smith works the phones combine force to clear in his San Antonio, Texas office (right). the streets. If you run, you will just get caught later, says Smith. The day began at 7am in 30 degree Celsius heat, fueled by a donut, a banana, and petrol station coffee. The command post roll call would see 11 Marshal-led teams of six law enforcement ofcers criss-cross San Antonio working their way through a room full of cartons of arrest warrants. By 9.05am, we arrived in a middle class neighbourhood that could be a substitute set for Desperate Housewives. Were looking for a guy new to Texas, a sex offender who has dodged compulsory registration, described as aged around 48, and a big bastard. He doesnt disappoint when spotted leaving a house with a young boy, around seven years old. Our teams vehicles click into gear and race down the street, brake in front of the house, and swarm the front yard. The kid turns out to be his son who sees his father cuffed in a blink. Its not a happy scene. Up against a car, hands cuffed behind his back, the guys leg shakes and twitches. He sweats. Hed been hoping to keep a low prole among his new neighbours. That hasnt quite worked out. Now everyones discovered who

/ US MARSHALSjust moved in, in the worst way possible. A few houses over, a neighbour continues mowing his front yard. A Deputy explains everything is good, sir. They talk of gardening and weather. A cop car arrives to take the sex offender away. One down. Its going to be a long day. Over the years, one particular case that stuck with Smith was the murder of a young deaf child. The kid had been standing on a street corner using sign language to communicate with a friend. A gang member had driven by, stupidly assumed the kid was

HUNTERS, GATHERERSWords Matthew Hall Photography Mark Sobhani

Its a simple plan: US Marshals nab their quarry and let others ask the questions.If something kicks in, theres no round in the chamber, says US Deputy Marshal Tom Smith bluntly, thumbing at the Colt AR-15 automatic rie stashed behind his car seat. It takes a few seconds to digest what he exactly means: If this stakeout gets ugly and I end up the only one on this side of the line still standing, I should grab his weapon and pull the trigger. Twice. At least, having never red a gun before, I think thats what hes suggesting. All of a sudden, I need to piss. Welcome to San Antonio, Texas, on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. You could visit the Alamo, take a stroll along the popular Riverwalk, eat a taco, or instead take part in a stakeout with local US Marshals hunting a killer. 142 MENS STYLE Rewind: In January 2008, Fernando Palomino was allegedly one of three men behind a massacre (as one TV station reported) in Chicago. Palamino and two buddies bound four people with duct tape in an apartment and shot them execution style. One victim survived. One killer was caught. Palomino ran and, according to an informant, is now hiding out in San Antonio with a girlfriend in an apartment across the street from where were now watching and waiting from Smiths vehicle. Theres a thing about being patient, Smith says as we sit in his Nissan SUV, a four-wheel drive he inherited after it was seized from a drug dealer. You sit and you watch for a deer to cross the trail and you are very quiet. At some

point that deer will probably cross in front of you. At some point, you do something or you dont. You make a decision and roll with it. At that point, Smiths radio cracks into life with a message from a Deputy Marshal on the other side of the apartment block: We got movement someones coming out. The United States Marshals are the Presidents cops. First appointed by President George Washington in 1789, these days tasks include prisoner transportation, protecting witnesses and judges and hunting down fugitives. In the past, US Marshals have protected civil rights protestors and abortion clinics and also chased Mexican Maa and white supremacists across state lines. Far from bounty hunters, these guys are government man hunters pursuing wanted men and women. They get the job done and let others ask questions later. Tom Smith is the supervising Deputy Marshal for the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force based in San Antonio, Texas. Aged 45, he has greying hair, enjoys talk radio and wears a black t-shirt,

throwing antagonistic gang signs in his direction, and shot and killed him. You cant sleep because this person has done such a harmful thing, explains Smith. Each night that theyre out, there is a family hurting somewhere, there is somebody terried because they think that person is going to revisit them. You try and outthink them. You try to get into their head, what theyre thinking. When I was younger I came to a crossroads where I could have gone either way. I can still think like a bad guy. Thats helped me. To join the US Marshals Service, you must be a US citizen and have a university degree or three years law enforcement experience. You then ll out an application form, take an aptitude test, and pass an interview where questions may cover whether youd rat out a corrupt partner (right answer: probably) or whether you should leave a Witness Security post to save a drowning kid (right answer: the kid drowns). Then you prove your tness (33 MENS STYLE 143

US MARSHALS /Cleavus, a comedic bucked-tooth alter ego somewhere between Flavor Flav and Dennis Rodman. Cousin Cleavus, legend has it, knocked on the door of a fugitives house with a pizza delivery. Theres also Chip, who plays The Pogues version of And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda on his car stereo when he learns an Australian is on the team, before delivering an impromptu history lesson on the Gallipoli campaign. The talk at Fridays roll call is about last nights action. As Marshals busted into a house, a woman unleashed a dog. It was Tasered and crapped itself before collapsing. The woman who let the dog loose was dumped in the dog shit. Justice at work. At least you dont have a dead dog, says Smith. Legally, the marshal could have shot and killed the dog. But its not the dogs fault. She had puppies. She didnt know who we were. If you hung out with Tim Smith everyday then you might think San Antonio is infested with sexual predators and serial killers. Theres an underbelly in any city. I never feel totally at ease. I never let my guard down. Late on Friday afternoon, as the day and operation winds down, Smith suggests maybe meeting up with his wife at a local bar and, later, catching a band. A rare treat. My wife doesnt ask me when Im coming home for dinner anymore, he says. Then the radio crackles into life. Its Mark Gator Rodriguez, who wed earlier been with as he arrested a woman wanted on robbery charges. It turns out, during the drive back into town for processing shed ipped, giving up her Bonnie and Clyde accomplice. Shes decided shes not going down alone and offers up an address where she thinks her ex-accomplice is staying. Smith guns his SUV and we drive into rush hour trafc. Thirty minutes later were parked, again, on a quiet street in another normal suburban neighbourhood. Were watching a house with two pick-up trucks in a driveway, three guys working away on one of them, drinking beer, and hanging out as you would do on a Friday evening. After an hour, one guy gets in his truck and drives off. We cant see the target the wanted man but over the radio, its agreed with Gator that the two guys working on the truck will know him. What do you want to do? Smith asks Gator over the radio. On this hit, there is just Smith, Gator, and his partner Quito. Burn the location or come back tomorrow? This is the US Marshals. They hate to wait. They like to get the job done. Lets do it, crackles Gator. Smith pulls on his ak jacket and checks his weapons, and clips a laser pointer onto his Glock pistol. Its now dark and a good idea to know where your bullets might be going. He takes a swig from a giant bottle of mouthwash, as he does anytime the pressure gauge goes up a notch, and says, When we pull up, Im going to throw you the keys to our car. If it gets out of hand, use the vehicle as a weapon. The signal drops and our two vehicles, the SUV and an unmarked cop car, land quickly and precisely in the front yard of the house. Our SUV pops its lights at the last second. I want them to know we are cops and not just gangsters making a rip off, says Smith, smartly.

/ US MARSHALSThat confession, although not the reason why this guy is wanted, is enough to open up the brothers to Federal charges of harbouring a known felon. The cell phones are worked some more. The sister is nally located. Shes driving around San Anton

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