He's a true crime show star, but once he was one of NC's top detectives
Detective Garry McFadden has investigated more than 800 homicides in his nearly 35 years working for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
A figure well known in Charlotte for his high clearance rate (one of the highest in the country), his talent for building relationships within the community and his impeccable sense of style, McFadden is famous these days for another reason: he’s a TV star.
McFadden, 57, is in the middle of his second season as the star of “I Am Homicide” on the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel. For the series, McFadden recalls some of the biggest or most interesting cases of his career, which are depicted through reenactments and supplemented by present-day interviews with family members of victims.
The name of the program is taken from McFadden’s nickname – he was called “Homicide” in the Charlotte neighborhoods where he worked. The true crime network discovered him through YouTube videos of news interviews from when McFadden retired from CMPD in 2011. (It was a short retirement – he went back to work for the department about a month later.)
“Who is this loud-mouthed guy?” McFadden imagines them saying. McFadden had been approached before about being on TV, and had declined. But the partnership ID proposed between McFadden and BlackFin production company was the perfect fit.
Another perfect fit? The handsome young man portraying crime-solving McFadden in his youth, Akintola Jiboyewa. McFadden says they auditioned several actors before hitting on the right one.
“The first time we saw each other, we started laughing,” McFadden says. “He walks around the corner and looks at me and he started laughing. I don’t know why we laughed to this day. He said, ‘I got to play you?’ I said, ‘You got to be me.’ Then we went to get something to eat. . . . I said, ‘He’s the guy.’ ”
McFadden’s reach expands beyond Mecklenburg County. He has his own consulting company and consults on cases across the country, including Raleigh and Durham, for police departments, attorneys and other groups.
He says he often talks to Raleigh Police Major Craig Haines about cases, and also Durham’s Asst. Chief of Investigative Services Ed Sarvis.
After the John Hayes murder case was featured on “I Am Homicide,” David Rudolf, who represented Durham’s Michael Peterson in his 2003 murder trial, hired him to consult on a different case.
He consulted on police brutality cases in Waterloo, Iowa. “The police chief and mayor visited me,” McFadden says. “I talked to them about some stuff to do and they are doing better.”
“I told them how they should set up and walk and everything. When things started getting out of hand and getting to a different level,” McFadden says, referring to protestors wanting to be arrested, “I did not want to be part of it. I was there on the first day. I tried to give them advice, but advice is not always taken. It became a different agenda and I didn’t feel comfortable with that.”
McFadden says every city has the same type of crime and firmly believes every city can benefit from community policing – getting police officers to learn about and connect with the people in the neighborhoods they patrol.
“The conflict is really the officer in the car and the kid on the corner,” he says. That is where the real change starts, he insists. “Taking boxes of signatures to Raleigh – can you name three things that did? You can’t.”
McFadden currently works out of the office of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief, assigned to families during officer-involved shootings. “I give the families an understanding and clarity and knowledge of what’s going on in an investigation.”
He sits for hours with families while they ask questions that he gets the answers to. Just as with his community policing philosophy, it’s about building a relationship.
“What is an officer-involved shooting? It’s a complex homicide investigation,” McFadden says. “Who is better to explain things to a family?”
Raleigh vs. Charlotte
Even though McFadden has a great relationship with police officers in Raleigh, he admits there is a friendly rivalry there. Or at least mostly friendly?
“Friendly? It’s not friendly, it’s very much tense,” he says with a laugh. “We are the Great State of Mecklenburg. When we go to conferences, we don’t even sign the roster until after.
“It’s very salty, very salty.”
Watch ‘I Am Homicide’
“I Am Homicide” airs at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on Investigation Discovery (ID). You can find ID locally on channels 76 and 138 on Time Warner Cable/Spectrum; channel 260 on AT&T UVerse; channel 339 on Google Fiber; channel 192 on Dish; and channel 285 on DirecTV.
You can also watch episodes from all seasons at idgo.com.
A way with words
You get your first taste of McFadden’s personality in the show’s intro, when he says in voiceover: “Charlotte is a banking city. You’re gonna have your million dollar murders, and you’re gonna have your five dollar murders. I’ve got to work all of them. Do I push the envelope? I tear the envelope.”
McFadden says he comes up with a memorable line for each show, but he doesn’t know what it’s going to be until it pops out of his mouth. He has no script for the show, he just talks and lets the pros edit.
In one episode, McFadden said, “I’m in a trailer park trying to get information about that murder, but I feel like a pimp selling playboys at a church revival.”
In another episode, “I love this case like a fat kid loves cake.”