VANCOUVER, Wash. — When reports of a homicide in Northeast Hazel Dell came in this week, two local high school students answered the call.
Clair Becker, 18, and Edgar Quintero, 17, second-year students in the Clark County Skills Center's Criminal Justice program, responded with detectives from the Clark County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit.
The students' mission: observe and assist with crime scene documentation.
The program offers students a chance to explore the criminal justice field and prepare for careers, teacher Tony Shaver said. He moved to teaching after working with the Department of Corrections for several years.
"We're teaching them the same skills that we learned as officers in our training at the academy," Shaver said. That includes verbal skills, defensive tactics and how to deal with people.
Students also review court cases, study the U.S. Constitution and amendments, take fitness classes and get a chance to learn from visiting professionals.
Becker and Quintero spend a few hours each week as interns working with detectives.
Becker, a senior from Battle Ground High School, said Monday's homicide investigation was the third call she responded to with investigators — the first two were suicides.
"The first call I was shaking the entire way there," she said. Detective Kevin Harper helped them at the scene of their first case.
"They're great at talking us through everything and what's going on," Quintero, of Ridgefield High School, said of the detectives. At first he wasn't sure how to react at the crime scene; eventually he learned to "just go with it."
On Monday, Becker managed the crime scene log, which tracks when people enter and leave a crime scene and helped detectives spot evidence outside the house. She later helped log the evidence, she said.
Quintero said he helped with a little bit of everything. He learned the different steps of investigating a homicide.
The two were going to search for evidence in a Dumpster in front of one of the homes. Detectives called the task off when they learned that hypodermic needles were in the garbage.
Becker wants to go into forensic psychology and said the internship will help her understand the police aspect of the criminal justice system. She is in the Running Start program and will have her associate's degree upon graduating from high school. She plans to transfer to Humboldt State University, where she will major in criminology and justice studies and minor in psychology.
She became interested in working with the major crime team after Detective Kevin Schmidt talked to her class. She said it sounded interesting to see big crimes and the outcome.
"This program is amazing," she said. "The teachers do everything to help you."
Quintero said he has been interested in being a police officer since he was little. He plans to go to Clark College. He also started eyeing the major crimes internship after Schmidt talked to his class.
"After his presentation I was like 'Wow. That was pretty cool. I want to learn more,'" he said.
Information from: The Columbian, http://www.columbian.com