restricted access 9 “A miracle from God”
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131 c hapter n in e “A miracle from God” “You gotta have some passion or you wouldn’t be worth a shit over here.” —Jeff Shaw, Dallas County District Attorney Investigator I As he lay in a hospital bed in stable condition in the intensive care unit at the Dedman Medical Center in Farmer’s Branch, Texas, John McNeill admitted that he “wouldn’t have given ten cents for [his] life even when the ambulance people finally came in. [He] was in incredible pain.” During the ambulance ride he tried to relax, believing that it might help him avoid bleeding to death. The attendants kept talking to him in an attempt to keep him conscious, but John wished they would just shut up and let him try to relax on his own. At the hospital he was able to talk to the physician. He told him that he had an uncle who was a doctor. “Would you like to wait for him?” asked the surgeon. “No. I don’t think I have that much time,” answered John. So the Dedman staff immediately prepped him for emergency surgery. The diagonal path of the bullet, from lower back to upper chest, meant that he faced major exploratory surgery to determine exactly what the missile had done. The doctors would also have to repair the damage and stop any bleeding to assure his survival. 132 • CHAPTER NINE “When they put me on the operating table that night, they said, ‘Is that the bullet?’ I looked down and saw the bump under my skin and said ‘Yeah.’ I hadn’t noticed it until then.” The fully jacketed 9-mm round had ended up in John’s chest between the skin and the sternum. The hard, smooth missile had “neatly” sliced a path through his torso. Had he been shot with a hollow point, like most of the others, he would have died instantly .1 John McNeill was an extraordinarily lucky man. II On Friday, June 29, 1984, residents of the Dallas Metroplex woke up to stories about the Ianni’s murders dominating the news. Newsreel footage showed Bill Parker escorting Belachheb through the hallways of the Dallas Police Department, in hand cuffs, on his way to be booked for murder. At Ianni’s, the doors were locked and blinds covering the tinted windows were shut to prevent onlookers from watching workers clean up and replace the blood soaked carpet , the shattered smoked mirror, and the bullet-scarred woodwork and wallpaper. As though signaling an end to a bad horror movie, a thunderstorm moved into Dallas, adding humidity to an already considerably hot day. Police questioned sixteen witnesses between 2:30 A.M. and daylight . Some of them were still in formal wear. Paul Lachnitt and Robert Counts showed them lineups; seven people positively identified Belachheb as the man who did the shooting.2 Dallas Police Chief Billy Prince called it the worst mass murder in the city’s history. It was an occasion to remember other tragedies : outside of Dallas, in neighboring Grand Prairie, in August of 1982, John S. Parrish got angry over how much back pay he felt he was due when he opened fire on his supervisors. He killed six and wounded another four. In Dallas, in December of 1980, Thomas Ray Walker killed his wife and four children before he forced police officers to kill him outside of a supermarket in an act crimi- “A MIRACLE FROM GOD” • 133 nologists call “suicide by cop.” Twenty-five years before that, in December 1955, Buford V. Calhoun of northeast Dallas killed his wife and three children. Then he phoned a relative to talk about what he had done before he killed himself.3 Like most business people in Dallas, Jim, Nick’s partner and the businessman who had once hired Belachheb as a chauffeur, and had even been thinking about financing Belachheb’s restaurant proposal, arrived to an office buzzing with talk of what had happened at Ianni’s early that morning. Between 8:30 and 9:00 A.M., Jim took a call from Belachheb. “Jim, have you heard I’m in trouble,” Belachheb asked. “No, I really haven’t,” replied Jim. “Well, I need an attorney.” “Well, what’s the matter?” “I killed these people at Ianni’s,” Belachheb said. “Well, I’ll see what I can do.” During the conversation, Belachheb asked Jim to sign a bond for his release. Following a request from Jim, the comptroller of...


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