Hardly a day goes by without HPD officers finding themselves in the middle of the bloody aftermath of a crime, a suicide or an undiscovered body. The cleanup is not a part of their duties – only the investigation that will hopefully close these cases.
Somebody else – a civilian – must perform the cleanup task, which in this day of acute awareness of the harmful effects of biohazardous waste requires an expert to answer the call to perform this dirty duty.
A Local Cleanup Business
At an increasing rate, officers are finding that retired Air Force Maj. Wes Sagendorph is there 24/7 to answer the calls for these daunting tasks, whether in the middle of the day or the dead of night.
Sagendorph operates T.A.C.T. Houston, an acronym for Trauma And Casualty Team. He takes his team in his protective gear to locations all over this part of South Texas.
In an interview with the Badge & Gun he was pleased to emphasize “I’m a local business,” meaning there is no national affiliation that effectively slows down the process because someone in Kalamazoo has to engage a local contractor.
It’s a dirty business. It’s called biohazard remediation.
“We clean up scenes from homicides, assaults, suicides, hoarding – waste material piled up inside and outside a house,” Sagendorph explained. “We just clean up in order to pass city ordinances.
”We’re into animal waste cleanup, sewer backups, virus decontamination for COVID-19 and others. We also do mold remediation. We cover a wide range.”
You might have to hold your nose to read details as Sagendorph described how he handles his most difficult cleanup assignments.
“The worst one so far was a suicide by shotgun,” Sagendorph recalled. “The individual did it in a bedroom. It just basically went everywhere – the walls, floors, ceiling, bed, other furniture in the room.
“We were trying to keep the cleanup confined to that room. We had to start at the doorway and clear an area to enable us to walk down one side of the room.
“We moved the furniture outside and cleaned what furniture we could. We couldn’t save the bed, the easy chair and the dresser. The individual had handmade this dresser. It had a natural finish. It (the bloody mass) had actually sank into the wood.
“I showed the lady (surviving relative) how it had gotten into the wood.”
“Honestly,” the heavily-geared technician told the surviving sister of the dead man, “there’s not much we can do. You should get rid of this piece.”
Then there were other factors affecting other parts of the house. Sagendorph sprayed the rug under the bed and used a ladder to get up high enough to spray the ceiling and work his way down the wall.
T.A.C.T. uses two chemicals for the biohazard remuneration. Euphemistically, he calls them “Chemical A” and “Chemical B. A dissolves the blood remains, B destroys the biohazards.
There are dangers involved.
All Must be Gone
“If an individual happened to have any kind of disease that stuff would get released in the air. Anyone breathing it would become sick. Long-term, if you don’t get everything out, there is a chance it would start building on itself. You would experience that decomposition smell.
(Officers well know that smell).
Attention to detail becomes extremely important.
“If you sprayed and cleaned everything but missed the back of the door or the trim at the bottom of the wall, the smell will come back. If (the blood) hits the wall and goes down into the baseboard, you have to pop the baseboard off and spray. If not, there is no way you would have gotten it all remediated. You want it where there’s no smell or any chance of anything coming back.”
Sagendorph will tell you that sometimes his most challenging cleanups don’t involve shootings, suicides or decomposed bodies.
Take the sick lady with the dogs as an example.
The 77-year-old woman was put in the hospital with a serious sepsis infection. Her nearest relative was a brother from Michigan. When he went to his sister’s house, he discovered her two dogs weren’t housebroken and had left weeks’ worth of you-know-what on the hardwood floors. “Thank God they were hardwood floors that didn’t have rugs,” Sagendorph would say with a sigh of relief.
The dog waste had been smeared on the floors throughout the home. The smearing likely caused by the woman’s walker.
“Insurance covered this,” Sagendorph explained, “It was considered airborn and infectious. Feces carry all kinds of infectious diseases.” Indeed, household insurance covers most work like this.
“We treated the floors throughout the house. We wiped that up and treated the floors again.
We used a floor buffer machine to make sure we got everything clean, including the grout.”
Then he and his team sprayed and deodorized before implementing a device called the ozone machine.
With no human beings present – they would pass out or die without oxygen – the machine takes the harmful air out and leaves fresh air free of odor.
A Family Business
When he finished, you could never tell squatting dogs had ever been present.
“You never know what you’re going to get,” Sagendorph explained while describing the people he talks to on a phone available 24 hours a day and always answered by the chieftain who runs the business.
“People are calling for help. They’ve lost a spouse, a child, a grandmother, or whoever. I try to put myself into their shoes and have empathy and understanding.
Sagendorph spent 22 years in the Air Force, retiring as a major. He spent most of that duty in law enforcement, that is, as a security officer charged with protecting highl-valued equipment such as nuclear weapons and aircraft.
He considers T.A.C.T. a family business and laughed when he said, “Two of my field technicians are my twin son and daughter, Mason and Morgan.”