Why you should care

Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers. 

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Robert McKeever
Rancho Cucamonga,California

It’s a pretty good day so far. We had a call first thing this morning for an attempted homicide and suicide at a local business, so we were dispatched to that. I sent my crew to clean up — it ended up not being as messy as we had expected. From what we know, someone broke in and took somebody hostage, and somebody got shot in the hand. Whoever it was, dripped a trail of blood through the store into the back of the warehouse.

I worked in the field for four years. I was 26 when I started. You never know if you can do this work or not until you do it for the first time. My first job, I’ll never forget. It was a suicide in Hesperia, California — out in the desert. We got there, and there was a distraught family, which is probably the hardest part of the job. It’s a matter of being professional but compassionate. The mess was down the hallway, in the bedroom. The job ended up being fairly simple — the person covered themselves with a blanket and was in the bed. There was quite a lot of blood in the bedding, so I gathered that and put it in a biohazard container. That’s when you know if you can do it.

We’ve had situations where people have cut off their heads with power tools … I’ve had a whole brain in my hand before.

 

Bodies are never there — rarely there, I mean — when we get to the scene. They’ve been there three times in my eight years. Here’s how the job works: We get a call. We always ask what happened to get an idea. We need to know where it happened — a home or business. And we have to know what type of surfaces are affected — tiles, walls, floors, ceilings, carpets.

Crime scene cleaners

Robert McKeever cleaning a car after a collision in Corona.

Source Courtesy of Robert McKeever

Any time we’re dealing with a residential or family situation, it’s a great feeling. Without us, people would end up cleaning it themselves. It’s a service for someone in the worst time in their life. The best thing somebody could ever tell us — and we are told quite often — is that they can’t thank us enough, but they hope they never see us again. We don’t take offense, we understand.

The thing I’ve found is that we’re so far removed from the situation and the people, if you treat it as providing a service, it doesn’t make it very traumatic. We’re there to clean a mess. The joke around here is “remove the red stuff.” The job itself doesn’t need to be more than that. Sometimes people overthink things.

We use a commercial-grade disinfectant that basically kills just about anything we could possibly encounter bacteria- or disease-wise. And we use a chemical called luminator in places where we anticipate there may be blood. If it turns white, it’s a biohazard and we have to remove it, no matter how small the dot. Sometimes biohazard has leaked from one floor to the floor below, which requires demolition work. We have a special truck, a pressure-washing machine that we use to clean streets or large, hard surfaces.

Our service is provided 24 hours a day, with technicians on call every night. I oversee the office nowadays, 8 to 5, doing estimates and the day-to-day office work. This week alone, we’ve done nine biohazard jobs. We have two offices that cover the whole state, from Fresno to the border. Typical starting rate is around $900 and can go up to $30,000. The average is about $3,000.

The first reaction is always “How could you ever do that?” It pays well, the schedule is great. And it makes me happy. Anybody in the business is always the most popular at parties, everyone has questions. We’ve had situations where people have cut off their heads with power tools, or where someone dies naturally and the pet is in the home and isn’t fed for a while so it starts eating the body. I’ve held a whole human brain in my hand before.

I enjoy what we do here, it’s different every day.

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OZYTrue Story

Good stories from around the globe. Essays and immersion, into the harrowing, the sweet, the surprising -- the human.