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Exclusive ATL Homicide interview: Detectives Vince Velazquez and David Quinn on cracking Atlanta’s toughest cases

TV One’s new series ATL Homicide takes veteran homicide detectives David Quinn and Vince Velazquez of Atlanta PD, retired detectives with impressive careers, and gives them a chance to recreate some of the most compelling true crime stories from their time working in the Georgia state capitol.

Chemistry, charisma, and humor along with a dogged sixth sense have caught the attention of TV One producers who created this new series which also shows how their work was no cushy 9-to-5 gig, and that they were on 24/7 when embroiled in an investigation where lives were on the line.

These two men, now retired from active law enforcement, were partners in their homicide division for 15 years. They will revisit their old cases and guide the reenacted scenes right out of their true crime files in “Hotlanta.” Both men have clocked 30 years each working in law enforcement.

Hollywood handsome and fit, Quinn and Velazquez are straight out of central casting for sexy crime-fighting police partners, yet these two men have each carved enviable careers solving grisly murders in their beloved city of Atlanta while endearing themselves to the people they protected and served while on duty.

Vince Velazquez, David Quinn
Dets. Vince Velazquez and David Quinn count Atlanta as their stomping grounds, solving murders

TV One’s True Crime Mondays ATL Homicide is where we now convene with Quinn and Velazquez as they each recount their personal experiences solving these cases, along with astonishing dramatic recreations that put us in squarely the middle of the investigation.

Cold cases, who-done-its mysteries to high-profile murders kept their collective ears to the ground and will reveal their methodology of how they embedded themselves in neighborhoods that are less than enthusiastic about police presence.

In talking with them last week, we learned that the expression “snitches get stitches” is absolutely not always true and that these people caught in communities with more crime than the average do want these lawbreakers caught.

Through mutual respect, humor and listening, the residents of neighborhoods forgotten have opened up to Quinn and Velazquez creating a level of trust and a pipeline of needed information for the two men to get to the truth and solve a crime.

Viewers can expect each case to grab their interest right out of the gate, as backstories and happenstances unfold in real time. The editors and producers have done a great job in blending real and recreated moments and defined a new way to tell the true crime stories that need to be told.

Quinn and Velazquez will be seen investigating the discovered skull of an 11-year-old from an Atlanta gang family, found in a field. They’ll tackle the case of a husband who reported his wife missing, then was found dead in the woods. Odd clues set their investigation in motion, revealing a strained and open marriage with a long list of suspects and motives. The death of a U.S. Air Force veteran found beaten and stabbed to death in his apartment has the two men unraveling his complex past. Like most murder cases they worked on, this was anything but random.

There was the case of a strangled cheerleader, and that of a woman found nude and clinging to life who died before she could identify her attacker, and a man killed moving into a new apartment who are part of the deep true crime dives Quinn and Velazquez take us on.

We spoke to Quinn and Velazquez and asked them about the show:

Monsters and Critics: I always felt that there was a level of ESP or being a bit of a “bruja” (witch), that a good detective must have a female brain. Looking at the details a little closer, you process information a little differently. Is this true or false?

Vincent Velasquez: It’s true. And I can say that I know I possess that. David [Quinn] possesses that, and many other detectives do, and I think it comes with experience.

On ATL Homicide, you’re going to see some safety tips throughout the season. And one of the things we filmed were “trusting your instincts, that’s your gut talking to you,” and it’s so true.

But during an investigation, you can be going down the road [and then] David and I felt this without saying one word to each other. We look at each other and we are like, almost like, “Hey man, you feeling what I’m feeling?” [he will say] “I don’t know what you are feeling,” and I’m like, [after a suspect interview] “I ain’t feeling this sh** right now.”

Without saying a word… because even though the facts are lining up, there’s something about that situation [that] doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t match. It’s just either too easy or something bad’s gotta to happen. We can’t be this lucky. I think that instinct is something that we always pay attention to. Don’t ignore it… doesn’t mean it’s always right, but just because the facts are glaring at you. We never ignored our instincts and I think we had that [instinct] I possessed that where I can look at a scene and I’m like, “this paper tag on the car, what does that mean?” And I’m analyzing this and I’m throwing this off my partner, and he’s knocking on a door and we come together and I’ll say this paper tag means something and I don’t know what it means. So we move onto the next thing.

So three weeks later something pops up with a paper tag on a car and there you go. That was my instinct, telling me “make note of that tag.”  I don’t know why at the moment that I’m looking at it, what it means, but that happens so many times.

M&C: David, you’ve been from high school on, you’ve been in Atlanta, you been a law enforcement professional. Atlanta has grown up around you. It went from a small, big town to a big, big town. Can you talk about that?

David Quinn: Absolutely. I got here in 1978 from Wilmington, Delaware.  That huge influx of people from up north that were coming south.  When I got here in ’78, it was biscuits and gravy…so today it’s Fois Gras and Sushi.

So I’ve seen all these changes. There were, it was crazy. So law enforcement… I watched it change also, and the way people, the thing that happened in the media, [and] how different things just changed Americans as far as the relationship with police.

But boots on the ground police that never left the neighborhoods that mattered? The neighborhoods that mattered being the ones where people do all this suffering and dying.

I mean, those neighborhoods that really matter, they didn’t have the same trouble [police violence] as other cops.

Me and Vin never had that kind of trouble, because we always understood…even though things would change.  And around that big g-word, gentrification took over every city. It didn’t affect our relationship with the community.

They looked at us as other than just the police. It was something different, you know?  I was here the night that the Rodney King thing broke loose, in the Atlanta University center with them barbecuing police cars two at a time, up until the things [police brutality cases] we have going on today.

So I’ve seen college kids reacting to what was going on out there. And I remember going back on the street that night when Rodney King happened back in my neighborhood, and they were burning things down and I was like, “I’m staying down there with y’all. We’re going to burn these things together. That’s what’s up.”  And people remember that.

And I just feel like nothing really changes in terms of the true law enforcement, while you have all these changes, it’s still the same. You have to. It’s a people sport.

You [wearing a police badge] badging, you’ll never see that on me and Vinnie.  No one ever saw our guns and they knew our suits. They knew our K&G off-the-rack suits coming in there. But we were coming here to get the truth and to bring some healing… because people in these neighborhoods, they want to tell the truth.

I hate when I hear law enforcement shows where no, no snitching, snitches, they want, their neighborhood is safe as the neighborhoods in other places. And they tell us. They always had. So with all the changes, it really stayed the same.

M&C: Dovetailing off of what you just said, and with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez winning, when upending this guy up in the Bronx …

Vincent Velasquez: It was awesome. I was watching it. I was, I had my hand in my mouth like she had her hand over her mouth. Crazy. Beautiful, beautiful.

M&C: Do you guys get these kids who are pretty pissed off? They see these terrible stories of injustice and police brutality and, and, and, and bad cops exist. We all know about it. How do you get these kids in the ‘hood and that are economically disadvantaged, geeked up about doing what you do for a living?

Vincent Velasquez: Let me say this, with kids in the neighborhood and one thing Quinn and I’ve always done, we make it a point to like, make sure that they understand what we’re doing because nobody ever does that.

Nobody ever walks up to the kids… they got nothing to do with the door we are knocking on. They know we got a suit on. They know we are cops, but nobody ever talks to them. Right?  So it’s not, we’re not trying to make them cops. We’re not trying to inspire them to be cops, we’re trying to inspire them to have communication skills. We always did that no matter where we were. Especially in those neighborhoods where people are afraid of cops.

And when we quickly found out was these kids warmed up to us so quickly, they were just glad that somebody in a suit was speaking to him, you know, so that interaction an adult in a business suit speaking to some kid with no shirt on and the fire hydrant running at 80 degrees outside in the middle of July… and we take the time to go walk to them and just get say “what’s going on?”

They appreciate that. So the next time we would show up in that neighborhood, they would run up.  So our goal was not, if we were community ambassadors, it was more like we’re just two men doing the job in the suit and we want to make sure that these kids know how to communicate with anybody, and they appreciated that. So, we would never try to impart wisdom. We were never trying to say, “hey guys…” you know, these kids, we go home to our neighborhoods and we leave our doors open, we’ve got air conditioning and HBO and a refrigerator full of food. That’s what happens when we go home.

These kids are in a neighborhood and they may eat two meals a day, and skip one. Because they have to. Right. there’s no way can tell this kid like, “hey, you know, you should be like me one day,’  you know? Communication, know how to talk to people, don’t be afraid of us. You know what I mean? And that’s kind of what remembers that how we adapted it.

David Quinn: They remember it. When me and Vin walked through the Fulton County jail, which really is the den of iniquity in terms of it is just too many people [crammed] in there. When we walked through there doing [our police] business, people are screaming from the cells, “Hey, Quinn, call my baby mama. Tell her I need some money on my book.”

I mean, that’s a true story, no lie…that place is crazy. Because I got to go see people about real business… because they know we are in the best interest of getting [to] the truth.  And what’s interesting is sometimes our suspects have brothers that get killed. They need justice too. It’s all about communication.

Vince Velasquez: Hey listen. Let me just add to that. So he, he mentioned the jail, you’re doing it right when we’re in the jail, right? And prisoners … people that are serving 90 days to a year…they know what’s on the street and they were like, “Yo, Velazquez, Quinn what’s up man? How are you doing?”

And we have a conversation and the guard is looking at us like, why the hell are you talking to him like that? Because we can.  Because they deserve it. They’re human beings… if that explains anything. That’s what made us successful.

ATL Homicide premieres Monday, July 9 at 10 p.m. ET/9C on TV One

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
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