At Oakland Morgue, Death Is Not Like the Movies


Charles Brewer and Norman McAdams, investigators working the graveyard shift for the coroner’s bureau in Alameda County, Calif., have handled the bodies of about a third of the 148 homicides in Oakland this year. They say the reality of murder has nothing in common with the macho odes to death in rap videos and movies. There is nothing glamorous, they tell the San Francisco Chronicle, about a body riddled with bullets or mangled in a crash.

But to Brewer and McAdams, the hard part is not the corpses. It’s looking unsuspecting family members in the eyes and telling them that a loved one has died. “After a few weeks, you get used to the bodies, but notifications are always difficult,” said Brewer, 50, a coroner’s investigator since 1999. “Here I am, a stranger, coming to your door in the middle of the night to bring you some very bad news. It’s incredibly stressful, and you never know how people are going to handle it.”


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