05/10/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Playing With Fire

If there was one lesson I could pass along to the youth of today, it would be that if you play with fire, you will eventually get burned.

Last summer I dealt with a case where a drug dealer had been shot and killed inside of his own home. The dealer had been shot several times while trying to get away and sadly lost his life while crawling toward his bathroom. This particular victim lived in a nice neighborhood on the north side of Indianapolis and according to his family and friends, was someone who "would never hurt a fly". The victim did not have a full time job and would generally take on part time gigs here and there. What he did have, however, was the largest marijuana growing operation that I have seen in my 15 years in law enforcement. His basement was full of plants and lights and it was obvious that a lot of time and effort had gone into this operation.

The night of his murder the victim was home on his computer when he heard his front door being kicked in and quickly ran to the front room of his house. He was met by three men and a struggle ensued during which several shots were fired. When they were sure the victim was dead, the men left and immediately went home, as if nothing had happened.

The police didn't receive any information about the murder until 24 hours later when the victim's friend went to check on him and saw that the front door had been broken into. When I arrived at the scene, the victim's glasses were on the floor and he was lying in the hallway near the bathroom. Crime lab began processing the scene and found a black hair pick under the couch. Upon testing for DNA and prints, we found that the prints from the hair pick were the same as the ones on a bin that we found in the kitchen.

After some research, I learned that the prints belonged to a gentleman with a lengthy criminal history from Northern Indiana who had recently moved to Indianapolis. With the help of several officers I found the suspect and interviewed him, but he denied ever having seen the victim before. I continued to work the case and learned that the suspect had called the victim just three minutes before the shooting. I arrested the suspect for murder and he spent several months in jail before the case went to trial. While in jail he made several phone calls, which I spent countless hours listening to in hopes of being able to identify the other suspects. The hours spent listening to those calls proved successful and I was able to make two more arrests in the case. All three of these gentlemen are currently serving lengthy jail sentences.

In the end, the victim's family was very happy that a conclusion had come from this seemingly senseless murder. They kept telling me what a kind and caring person he was -- never one for violent tendencies.

What I wish this victim had learned earlier is that no matter your demeanor, engaging in any illegal business will inevitably lead you to become involved with dangerous people who have hate in their hearts. This victim was in his home when three people broke in and killed him. The victim did not deserve this in any fashion, and no matter how senseless the murder appeared, it serves as a reminder that no matter who you are, when you play with fire, you will eventually get burned.