False Sense of Security
As Friday night gave in to Saturday morning, Jennifer Morey was putting up one hell of a fight.
"Please help me, I'm bleeding so much," Morey pleaded with the 911 dispatcher. "He cut my throat. I've got pressure on it, but it's spraying blood all over."
A few hours earlier, Morey, a 25-year-old lawyer, had been paying a Friday-night visit to the Ale House. Around midnight, one of her friends drove her home to the Bayou Park Apartments on Memorial Drive. The complex boasted 24-hour protection provided by an on-premises Pinkerton Security guard, and Morey, who lived alone, had chosen Bayou Park partly for that reason. She'd heard of Pinkerton; the name seemed old and strong, like Wells Fargo. It made her feel safe.
Morey went straight to bed. But around 4 a.m., she awoke with someone straddling her body and something pressing against her neck. Desperately attempting to shake off her dream state, she realized that she was about to be raped.
She tried to push the intruder off. But as her hands followed his arms toward her head, she realized that he was holding a knife to her neck. Still, she fought. During the struggle, the attacker slashed her throat, starting at her right ear then moving several inches down her neck, leaving her with a wound that looked like a second mouth. Blood poured over Morey, over her bed and over the stranger. The fight went out of her.
Grabbing Morey by her blond hair, the attacker pulled her off the bed, threw her into the bathroom and shut the door. He said that if she came out, he'd kill her. Morey, afraid he'd come for her again, placed her back against the bathroom door, slid down to the floor and, with all her remaining strength, pressed her feet against the bathtub in an attempt to keep the door shut.
Surrounded by her own blood, she was struck by the silence. Moments earlier, the apartment had been filled with noise: sounds from the struggle, her cries for help. Now the only thing she heard was the sound of a zipper. The man was zipping up his pants; she hoped that meant he was leaving.
After a few more moments that seemed like hours, she mustered the courage to leave the bathroom, afraid that she'd bleed to death otherwise. But her hands, slick with blood, couldn't grip the doorknob. Worse, she'd pressed so hard against the door that it was now jammed.
Morey laughed, an exercise of the darkest possible humor. She had fought off a would-be murderer; now she was going to bleed to death in her bathroom because she couldn't open a door that didn't even have a lock.
Finally, she pulled the door open. In the hallway, she fumbled for the lights, but when she flipped the switch, there was only darkness. She stumbled in search of the phone but, like the lights, it was dead.
She found her cell phone and dialed 911.
That night, Richard Everett was working his first shift as an emergency dispatcher. He tried to keep her calm until paramedics could arrive.
"You're doing fine," he told Morey. "Are you cut anywhere else?"
"All I know is my neck," she sobbed. Everett told her to check the rest of the body and instructed her to place a clean towel against her neck. For what seemed like forever, he tried to keep her calm, tried to keep her on the line.
After ten minutes, she told the dispatcher that someone was knocking at her door.
"Who is it? What's your name?" she yelled. A man replied, "Bryan Gibson."
Everett advised her not to open the door.
"They say it's security," she told the dispatcher.
"It's security?" Everett asked, obviously alarmed by the development. Neither the police nor the paramedics had contacted the building's security guard.
The dispatcher warned her not to open the door. It was excellent advice.
When Houston police officers arrived at the Bayou Park Apartments in the early-morning hours of April 15, 1995, they were greeted by Pinkerton Security guard Bryan Wayne Gibson.
Gibson was a mess. The 26-year-old was bleeding from his right hand. With blood on his face and his Pinkerton-issue shirt, he told the police that he, too, had been attacked, that an intruder had jumped to the ground from Morey's second-floor balcony and had wrestled with him before fleeing across a nearby field and into the darkness.
But as one of the officers shined his flashlight across the field, the dew-covered grass showed no footprints. And in Morey's apartment, police found a knife, male underwear covered in Morey's blood, and a Pinkerton Security cap.
When the officers searched Gibson, they found that he was missing his cap and underwear. Furthermore, he'd shaved his pubic hair, apparently in an attempt not to leave trace evidence at the scene of the crime. Instead of coming to Morey's door to help her, Gibson had most likely returned to retrieve his possessions -- and perhaps to finish off his victim.
Eventually, Gibson was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. But in Morey's opinion, Pinkerton Security should never have placed him in such a sensitive position.
In 1992, Gilbert had started at Pinkerton, earning $5.25 an hour, $1 above minimum wage. During his three years on the job, he had been removed from two assignments after getting crosswise with clients. And Pinkerton officials had reassigned Gibson yet again after another client complaint: At a construction site, the guard had allegedly used one of the client's vehicles without permission, a violation Morey's attorney says was tantamount to auto theft. But rather than terminate Gibson, much less file charges, Pinkerton instead reassigned him to the graveyard shift at Bayou Park, a complex where many young women lived alone.
"I think he was a sexual criminal who was put into a situation like a kid in a candy shop," says Morey. "And he used that opportunity to pick his favorite flavor of candy."
After the attack, Morey filed a lawsuit against Pinkerton Security in state district court. While researching the suit, she and her attorney learned that Bryan Gibson was far from the first Pinkerton guard to go bad. Texas state records show that between 1991 and 1995, approximately 130 Pinkerton guards -- or people recently employed as Pinkerton guards -- were convicted of felonies.
In August 1992, a 15-year-old El Paso girl was returning home after a movie. As she walked along the sidewalk, she was cut off by a car driven by a man in a Pinkerton Security uniform. Witnesses saw Kenneth Wayne Scott flash a badge at the girl, handcuff her and throw her into his vehicle. He drove to the desert northeast of El Paso, where he raped her before shooting her in the back of her head at point-blank range. Miraculously, the teenager survived. Partially nude, she crawled back to the highway, where she was rescued.
Scott was arrested and convicted of attempted capital murder. He is currently serving a life sentence.
A routine check should have alerted Pinkerton that Scott wasn't guard material. "At the time, Scott was on parole on federal firearms charges," says former El Paso County prosecutor Robyne Bramblett. "He had a number of prior convictions out of Florida and another state that were easily accessible, had anybody bothered to look."
On January 3, 1993, Troy H. Dennis and several other men had been drinking beer. When the beer was gone, they decided to rob a nearby convenience store. During the holdup, the 59-year-old clerk, Lanorah Tetzman, and a customer, 20-year-old Todd Thompson, were shot to death. Baytown police followed a trail of beer cans to the house where 20-year-old Jones and his buddies had been imbibing.
Jones, one of the shooters, was sentenced to life in prison. State records show that less than a year before the murders, he'd been employed by Pinkerton Security.
Similarly, in 1995, 22-year-old Christopher L. Jones received a 30-year sentence for murder. State records show that, at the time of the shooting, Jones was employed as a guard by Pinkerton Security in Dallas.
Those are among the worst cases; and obviously, most of the 4,000 or so licensed Pinkerton guards in Texas are not felons. But as the company's critics point out, Pinkerton's Texas contingent is roughly the size of the Houston Police Department -- and having 130 former Houston police officers charged and convicted of felonies over a four-year period would boggle even the harshest critics of the city's law enforcement.
It's hard to say how Pinkerton's record compares to that of other security companies.
According to the Texas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies -- the agency charged with watching the watchmen -- Pinkerton is one of the four largest security companies in the state, along with Wackenhut, Burns and Ranger American. But agency officials have difficulty saying much more.
Three weeks ago, the Press filed an open records request for a company-by-company breakdown of the number of security guard licenses revoked during the past four years, as well as the total number of licenses granted during the same time period. According to the regulatory agency, those numbers are very difficult to access.
"Those are all very good questions," says executive director Jay Kimbrough, who acknowledges that he should have the answers at his fingertips. He'd also like to determine the effect, if any, of new state guidelines requiring that a national criminal history check be run on all security guard applicants.
"I'd like to know those answers myself," says Kimbrough. "That's why I asked for a new computer system."
Kimbrough says it's now difficult for the state to track security guards, who tend not to last long on the job. Due chiefly to low pay -- most guards start around minimum wage -- security personnel working in Texas can turn over by 50 percent in a given year.
"It's like trying to keep track of bricklayers," Kimbrough says. Until the computer system is upgraded next year, says Kimbrough, gathering information about security agencies in Texas is expensive, tedious and time-consuming.
In other words, let the security client beware.
For more than 100 years, Pinkerton has been a leading force in the security business. In the 1850s, Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish immigrant, started the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Chicago; he's generally credited with pioneering standards now routine in the industry. The Pinkertons protected railroads and pursued outlaws such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; the company developed a reputation for effectiveness and relentlessness. (The image was only somewhat tarnished by Pinkertons' use of force in quashing labor disputes in the late 1800s.)
In 1983, Pinkerton company was purchased by American Brands, Inc. In 1988, American Brands sold Pinkerton to California Plant Protection. According to the company manual, the two companies "joined forces to become the largest nongovernmental force of uniformed security officers and investigation services in the world."
Biggest, of course, doesn't necessarily mean best -- or in some cases, even good enough. Morey's attorney, B.J. Walter Jr., suggests that Pinkerton's low-cost security is also low-quality security; he blames poor background checks and inadequate psychological screening of potential employees. For example, says the lawyer, Morey's attacker Bryan Gibson flat-out lied on his Pinkerton employment application.
"The guy was supposed to have stability in his employment," says Walter. "The guy was supposed to have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. He didn't, and they didn't check up on him to find out that he didn't."
As for the company's psychological testing, Walter charges that it is a watered-down version. At the time Gibson was hired by Pinkerton, the company used the Minnesota Multi-Phasic Inventory, a proven psychological examination geared toward pointing out character flaws. But instead of the full test's 500-plus questions, Pinkerton used an abbreviated MMPI with only 168.
In a 1997 deposition, Pinkerton's own psychologist, Arthur C. LeBlanc, disparaged the short-form MMPI. "The short version doesn't measure everything," said Walter. "It doesn't give you enough data to make an informed decision about a potential employee. And it gives potential clients a false sense of security."
These days, Pinkerton uses a test called the Stanton Survey. The reason for the switch, says Pinkerton senior Houston district manager Marion Hambrick, is simple: Pinkerton bought the company that owned the test. Never mind that even Pinkerton psychologist LeBlanc, in his 1997 deposition, gave the Stanton Survey low marks as a pre-employment screening tool.
Still, Hambrick argues steadfastly that Pinkerton is the class of the security industry. "I'm proud of the background work that Pinkerton does," says Hambrick, who says the company always checks every applicant's credit, criminal history and employment history -- the Bryan Gibson case notwithstanding. Says Hambrick, "We probably have one of the lowest incident rates amongst security companies."
Hambrick also points out that of 130 current or former Pinkerton guards convicted between 1991 and 1995, all but two had been terminated by the company before the state board revoked their licenses.
Hambrick, the former head of the Houston office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, acknowledges that those numbers point to some sort of problem in screening -- but, he says, "you also have to look at the total number of people processed and hired during that time." He estimates that number at around 8,000 in Houston alone. He points out, proudly, that many of Pinkerton's guards have been with the company for "over a year."
This September, Pinkerton Security paid Jennifer Morey an undisclosed sum to settle her personal-injury lawsuit. And in the meantime, Morey has begun to rebuild her life.
Two weeks after the attack, unable to face her apartment, she moved to the Woodlands. She returned to work as an attorney for a Galleria-area law firm. Two weeks later, while working alone late on a Sunday night, Morey came unglued when she spotted a man she didn't recognize walking on her floor of the office building. The following day she packed her belongings and drove to her mother's house in Fort Worth. For the next six months, she rarely left her mother's side. If the cat bumped into something accidentally, Morey called 911. At night she prowled the house, not sleeping until almost sunrise, then staying in bed until after noon.
At Thanksgiving, more than seven months after the attack, her brother decided he'd had enough. He told Morey she had to snap out of it, that she was weak and pathetic. Her parents could not afford to pay her $400-a-month car note. She had to get a grip.
Morey began by applying for work with temporary agencies. Most told her she was overqualified. And at her few assignments, she felt that the regular workers treated her shabbily. But she stayed with the work. After a Houston jury sentenced Gibson to only 20 years in prison, she felt devastated -- but held on to her job as a way to hold on to her sanity.
After a few months, Morey was assigned a temporary job at Fort Worth's Justin Boot Company, where she worked in product development. For the first time since the attack, she made new friends, and with their support began contemplating returning to law.
This April, she met the man who would become her husband. With his encouragement -- and with the money from Pinkerton's settlement -- she finally opened her own shop, a family law practice in Fort Worth. "My life right now," she says, "I'm very proud of it."
In many ways, Morey considers herself lucky. When Bryan Gibson slashed her throat, he missed her right jugular vein by only a couple of millimeters. So deep was the cut, doctors have no explanation why the nerve that controls her facial muscles wasn't severed. As Gibson slashed her, the knife caught the corner of her right eye, but the blade somehow missed her eyeball. The knife also caught on a gold chain her mother had given her for her high school graduation; otherwise the blade might have pierced her larynx. "There was a series of little miracles that prevented me from dying," says Morey.
But the experience changed her forever. "I have a theory that the Jennifer Morey that existed on April 15, 1995, died," she says, "and that a new one had to come out of that."
Pinkerton Security, however, remains the same.
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