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Famous Cases: The Wheeler Commission

Report Number: 8931
Date: Summer, 1968
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.

The 1960s were a turbulent time in America. The country was divided over issues such as the Viet Nam War and civil rights, and even the FVZA was pulled into the vortex. This was never more evident than in 1968, when a tragic mishap in Philadelphia forever changed the FVZA's mode of operation.

Background: The great irony for FVZA Agents working in the 1960s was that, even as vampire numbers were at their lowest levels in Agency history, the job was more dangerous than ever. In a kind of Darwinian survival of the fittest, the remaining vampire packs proved to be resilient, smart and adaptive. To make matters worse, the rise of urban blight gave vampires an ample selection of abandoned buildings within which to hide. As these buildings were often side-by-side with inhabited structures, FVZA actions there carried with them a greater risk of civilian casualties

Incident: On June 23, 1968, a vampire pack infiltrated a street festival in the Italian neighborhood of South Philadelphia and killed three young women. Two nights later, the vampires mingled with a crowd leaving a rock concert at the Spectrum: the dismembered remains of five concertgoers were found in a dumpster the next day. The FVZA Philadelphia office dubbed the vampires the Chameleon Pack because of their knack for using disguises to blend into the crowd. Even by vampire standards, the Chameleon Pack was clever and ruthless. They always tore their victims apart so as to not leave witnesses, and they stayed one step ahead of the FVZA by constantly changing their hideouts. But their habit of hiding in plain sight at large outdoor events gave Philly investigators an idea.

The Barkley Arms was
gutted by fire
Investigation: On the Fourth of July, a team of 25 FVZA investigators set up a stakeout at Penn's Landing, the riverside site of the city's Independence Day celebration. Using heat-sensitive goggles, the team spotted vampires from the Chameleon Pack walking through the crowd shortly after midnight. The team moved in, and the vampires fled in a stolen Cadillac. A car chase led to a black neighborhood in North Philadelphia and an abandoned building where the vampires had apparently stashed an arsenal of weapons. A ferocious gunfight ensued, during which two FVZA agents were killed. When the FVZA team lobbed tear gas into the building, an old couch caught fire and the building was quickly involved. The Chameleon Pack members were methodically picked off as they fled the building. Unfortunately, by the time the vampires were destroyed, the fire had spread to the neighboring Barkley Arms, a housing development for low-income families. The fire gutted the building and 10 people died.

The tragedy led to protests
throughout the city
Post-Mortems: The Barkley Arms tragedy did nothing to improve the reputation of the FVZA in a black community already on edge from the assassination of Martin Luther King. Ever since the days of Reconstruction, when the Ku Klux Klan carried out attacks under the cover of the FVZA in the South, blacks had been deeply mistrustful of the Agency. It was a common, if inaccurate, suspicion among them that the FVZA devoted more resources to vampire and zombie outbreaks in white neighborhoods. The Agency had taken a major step toward improving relations by appointing its first black Director in 1964, but the Barkley Arms fire brought back all the old animosity. Despite repeated FVZA apologies and the promise of a full-scale investigation, the political pressure in an election year was too great for Washington to ignore. In September, 1968, Congress launched a probe into FVZA procedure and protocol.

For five days, the
Wheeler Commission
grilled the FVZA
During the weeklong hearings chaired by Wisconsin Democrat George Wheeler, FVZA leadership found itself on the defensive. FVZA leaders were hammered over their hiring policies, use of force and civilian casualties. The Wheeler Commission eventually came up with a series of burdensome new guidelines that deeply complicated the job of hunting vampires and zombies. The FVZA was told to submit detailed plans to local and state government agencies, plans that had to be rubber-stamped before any assault took place. The Agency was also required to clear a large radius around a vampire hideout in advance of any assault. FVZA leaders chafed at the new regulations, pointing out that fast response and the element of surprise were key to combating vampires. But the complaints fell on deaf ears, and the Wheeler recommendations were made into law in the fall of 1968.

Comments from Dr. Pecos: While I agree that mistakes were made in the assault on the Chameleon Pack, I still believe that the Wheeler Commission overreacted. We always ran into problems any time politicians tried to apply normal rules of law enforcement to exterminating the undead. Killing them is and always has been a messy business.

Was the FVZA a racist institution? Perhaps at one time, but during my years with the Agency, I never saw any evidence of racism. We identified threats, investigated, and carried out assaults without any regard to the skin color of those affected. If anyone was worthy of scorn, it was the media for devoting more attention to vampire outbreaks in upscale white communities.

Despite the awful tragedy at the Barkley Arms, this story has a happy ending thanks to a paragraph in the Wheeler legislation that gave the FVZA the right to use deadly force with impunity if they happened upon an attack in progress. Taking a cue from this wording, the Agency changed its focus to night-time surveillance and extermination. While this was considerably more dangerous than the traditional daytime assaults, it enabled the Agency to make an "end run" around the Wheeler requirements. And though each remaining vampire pack put up a ferocious battle, and the percentage of Agent casualties was higher than ever, the FVZA succeeded in making America vampire-free within the next ten years.

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