After a drug addict (Dee Freeman) brings in an audio tape she found on which a fatal shooting is heard, Lilly reopens a 1973 murder case involving the death of a 21-year-old rookie cop (Cory Hardrict). The young officer was shot three times in the chest while responding to a call at a drug-infested housing project. Also on the tape are the victim's final words: "Runner! Runner! Runner!"
The episode opens in July 1973. Two patrol cops, Butch and Joe, are discussing their wives. Joe’s wife is pregnant. They get a call about a domestic disturbance, and Joe goes alone so his partner Butch can get home to his family before it gets too late. In the next shot, we see Joe lying dead by a bridge. There were three gunshots heard. The case box is filed under Washington, Joe- July 1973.
In present day, a woman brings a tape recorder from the 70’s to Lilly. She says her name is Denise Funderbunk. On the tape, we hear ”Runner, Runner, Runner!”, followed by three gun shots. The woman claims she found the recorder in a dumpster at the Raymond Jennings projects. Lilly and Vera take the recorder and the tape to an audio expert in the department. She cleans up the audio, and Lilly hears a train and a PA system. She makes out the PA system to say ”Shanning”, and she realizes that it’s the old Shanning Station that was closed in the early 80s. Lilly and Vera head down to the case vault, but can’t find any matching cases.
Jeffries tells them that the case is kept on a shelf upstairs because it was one of their own who was killed. They pull the box down, and find that Officer Joe Washington was killed by three bullets to the heart. He had only been on the force for one year, and was raised in an orphanage in North Carolina. He never responded to the domestic call he was called out on. Joe’s body was found by the railroad tracks at Shanning Station few hours later. According to the file, blood matching Joe’s was found in an abandoned stolen car left on the turnpike two days later. There was a fingerprint on the windshield, but it turned up empty in 1973. Jeffries decides to work with Lilly since he knew Washington and his partner Butch.
Lilly and Jeffries talk to Butch. He tells them that Joe’s wife Diane was hysterical when she came to the scene. She lost the baby a few weeks later. He tells them that he left Joe shortly before midnight. Based on his account and the old train schedules, they place the time of death around 1 a.m. (1 hour after Butch left), but the train station is only five minutes away. Lilly believes that Joe responded to a drug call at Raymond Jennings that night instead of the domestic dispute.
Lilly and Jeffries speak with a former resident of Raymond Jennings. She tells them that she called 911 that night because of some drug activity. She says Joe showed up and got into a fight with the drug dealer. The dealer called the cop ”Joe”, meaning he knew him well. She also says that Joe seemed familiar with the area because he parked up the street where the drug dealer wouldn’t see his car approaching. The drug users called the dealer ”Runner.” Lilly realizes that Joe and Runner knew each other well.
Lilly and the team can’t find anything on Runner. They suspect that Joe might have been involved in drug activity. According to his bank records, there was unaccounted for cash going out every few weeks. Lilly goes to talk to Joe’s widow, Diane. They had only been married 10 months when Joe died. She doesn’t know anything about the unaccounted-for cash. The day Joe died, they were trying to decide on baby names for their daughter — nothing unusual. Jeffries suggests that Butch may have known about the cash. Lilly wants him to take her to
First Thursdays at the tavern (a monthly gathering of good ol’ boy cops) to talk to Butch, but Jeffries tells her that it’s not a good idea because the ”old timers” don’t take well to women on the line. Lilly goes anyway, but she brings Vera. Butch gets upset because Lilly is poking around in Joe’s financial affairs and trying to ruin his good name. He calls her out in front of everyone by saying that she works cold cases because they keep her in the basement where she can dust them off. Lilly and Vera leave with their tails between their legs. Lilly tells Stillman that she thinks the original officer assigned to Joe’s murder might have suspected drug use as well, but he died from a heart attack last year. He had talked to a known drug dealer, DeAnte Rollins, but he wouldn’t talk.
Lilly and Jeffries talk with DeAnte, but he says he doesn’t know Runner. He was at Raymond Jennings the night Joe died and saw the fight. He says Joe ran up into the projects. When he came back down, he was asking everyone where Runner and someone named Sammy had gone. They told him toward the tracks, so he took off after them. DeAnte tells Lilly that Runner and Joe had been tight, they even had the same tattoo on their knuckles, but they had a falling out over Sammy a few years before the murder.
Lilly remembers an autopsy photo in the case box that showed something on Joe’s knuckles. She and Jeffries take the photo to an expert in the department. He works with the picture and finds that his knuckles had the words ”The Runner” on them. Jeffries checks the juvenile records for a matching tattoo, and he finds that Joe had been arrested when he was 17 for selling drugs. He gave a false name, so no one caught it. Lilly finds that the orphanage story is fiction because Joe was raised in Raymond Jennings.
Lilly talks to Diane again to see if she knew the truth about Joe. She insists that she didn’t,but she tells Lilly that she suspected that Joe was having an affair. She followed him to Raymond Jennings one day and heard him ask for ”Sammy”. Lilly and Jeffries head to Raymond Jennings. They find a woman named Samuela Robbins. She tells them that Joe took care of her granddaughter Sammy since they were kids. They were like brother and sister. He bought her toys and gifts, which accounts for the cash going out every few weeks. The night that Joe died, he found out that Sammy was moving drugs for Runner, so he decided to take her in order to protect her. Samuela hasn’t seen Sammy in 20 years because of Sammy’s drug problems. She tells them that Runner’s real name is Mason Tucker, and he and Joe ran track together in high school —hence the nickname.
Lilly and Jeffries talk to Mason. He sells Jaguars now and is wealthy. He denies fighting with Joe that night. He says that Joe caused Sammy’s problems, not him. He says that Joe is the one who sent Sammy to the emergency room. Back at police headquarters, Lilly and the team reconstruct the night Joe died. Joe hears the drug call at Raymond Jennings, confronts Runner, talks to Samuela about taking Sammy, goes back down and finds out that Sammy and Runner have left for the tracks, so he heads off after them. Joe winds up dead. Jeffries remembers DeAnte speaking about an earlier incident between Joe and Runner regarding Sammy. They decide to look into the hospital records. Vera comes in and tells them that the fingerprint in the abandoned stolen car matches a Sammy Robbins — she’s in the system for drugs.
Lilly confronts Runner again. She shows up at his track while he is running. She wants to know about the earlier incident that sent Sammy to the hospital. She knows from the records that Sammy overdosed on heroin. Runner and Joe were shooting heroin in high school when Sammy came in the room. She took the needle and injected herself after they told her to leave it alone. The incident caused Joe to straighten up and he and Runner fell out. Lilly wants to know what Runner is still running from, after all these years.
Lilly and Jeffries go to a drug rehab center to talk to Sammy. Sammy turns out to be Denise Funderbunk, the woman who dropped off the tape recorder. She tells them that Joe promised her the night he died that he would take her home with him and his wife. After he ran up into the projects to talk to her grandmother about it, Runner showed up,took her and her tape recorder into a stolen car, and headed for the railroad tracks. He didn’t want Joe to take Sammy. He and Sammy struggled in the car and she dropped the recorder, turning the record button on. They heard the police siren from Joe’s car, and Joe getting out screaming ”Runner, Runner, Runner!” The next thing that Sammy remembers is waking up to Runner saying the Lord’s prayer over and over. He dropped her off at the dumpster at Raymond Jennings.
Lilly finds Runner in a church. She tells him that she knows what it’s like to run from who you are and what you’ve done. She plays the tape. After the three shots, Runner is heard saying the Lord’s prayer. The scene cuts to 1973, and Joe driving up yelling Runner. Runner pulls out the gun and fires three shots into Joe’s heart. He looks shocked at what he just did. The closing scenes have Bill Wither’s ”Lean on Me” playing underneath. Lilly and Jeffries arrest Runner in the church, bring him down the front steps, and put him in the police van. Lilly has drinks with the boys at First Thursdays, and she ”sees” Joe Washington. She talks to Diane.
In a break from the usual format, we hear the dialogue between Lilly and Diane with ”Lean on Me” underneath, but softer. She tells Diane that Joe wasn’t having an affair — he was protecting Sammy. She introduces the two and the screen fades to black.
- Kathryn Morris as Lilly Rush
- John Finn as John Stillman
- Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera
- Thom Barry as Will Jeffries
- Steve Ryan as Butch Rinaldi (2003)
- Dee Freeman as Samantha Robbins (2003)
- Cory C. Hardrict as Joe Washington
- Barbara Eve Harris as Diane Washington (2003)
- Rif Hutton as Mason "Runner" Tucker (2003)
- Marlene Warfield as Samuela Robbins
- William Stanford Davis as DeAnte Rollins (2003)
- Aldis Hodge as Mason "Runner" Tucker (1970, 1973)
- Sheila Jerome as Diane Washington (1973)
- C.J. Jones as Junkie
- Tianna Danielle Kenney as Samantha Robbins (1970, 1973)
- Cheselka Leigh as Jessica
- Ophelia Turner as Gloria Munez (2003)
- Matt Bushell as Butch Rinaldi (1973)
- Ryun Yu as Ray Chan
- C. Stephen Browder as DeAnte Rollins (1973)
- Unknown actress as Gloria Munez (1973)
- This episode is loosely based on the 1981 murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of this crime and sentenced to death row.
- Gladys Knight & The Pips "Midnight Train to Georgia"
- Kool & the Gang "Jungle Boogie"
- Barry White "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More, Baby"
- Al Green "Let's Stay Together"
- Sly & the Family Stone "If You Want Me to Stay"
- Chambers Brothers "Time Has Come Today"
- Stevie Wonder "You Are the Sunshine of My Life"
- Closing Song: Bill Withers "Lean On Me"