Spending 13 years of his career as a criminal investigator, trained in forensics and crime scene investigation as well as 5 years working as an Assistant Chief of Police. Impressively enough, Lombardo has been with MUFON for the entirety of the organization. As an amateur Astronomer, he greatly enjoys watching the skies using a 6 inch reflector telescope.
Journal: How did you come to join MUFON?
Lombardo: As far as I can remember I was always interested in the UFO phenomena. Back in the late 60's there were many flaps occurring that were being talked about in the media. Western New York had its share of sightings back then, out over Lake Erie and along the Dunkirk/Angola shoreline. The reports intrigued me and I wanted to know more. I became a subscriber and member of APRO in the late sixties. As we all know, APRO eventually became the Midwest UFO network and then MUFON. I believe Walt Andrus was the director of MUFON when I first became involved as a field investigator and later became state section director for MUFON in 1987.
Journal: Is there anyone in MUFON that you have never met and would love to just sit down and talk with?
Lombardo: I guess I would love to sit down with our current director Jan Harzan. I know the stress of running an organization as I was an assistant chief of a police department. My Officers took orders but MUFON being an all-volunteer group is different. We have our mission statement and I would love to discuss with him how he maintains “the focus” of all members and investigators, ensuring that MUFON is the go to organization when some unknown is reported in our skies. It’s a huge responsibility to maintain our credibility and so far he has done a great job I believe.
Lombardo: By that question I am assuming that you want to know have I ever had a case wherein the evidence was so overwhelming that my jaw dropped . . . Unfortunately I have not. I have had some amazing witnesses, reputable witnesses, relate to me incidents that I tend to believe because of who they were, the content of their narrative and their reasons for reporting. The recent case in Ovid, NY was one of the better cases in recent memory. The witnesses were beyond doubt and had zero reason to fabricate. Our photo analysis team did an awesome job in helping me with photos involved. I disagree with the findings because I know so much about the witness. The last thing this witness would ever want to be labeled is a teller of tall tales. He and his wife have way too much to lose. I also know that Chinese lanterns do not suddenly shoot skyward and maintain formation at the same time. Chinese lanterns also do not change color as the witness described. Unfortunately many of the cases I have investigated were historical in nature and the evidence was long gone. I would say 95 percent of what I have investigated can be attributed to misunderstanding, misidentification and a preconceived notion as to what the witness observed. Truth be told I am waiting and wanting that “wow” moment. I want to see what others are seeing. I also know I should be careful with what I ask for.
Journal: Any comedy along the way during an investigation?
Lombardo: You cannot spend thirty years in law enforcement and not see some awfully funny things. Along with the tragedy there is definitely the comedy. As far as UFO investigation goes, I can tell you, be prepared to be able to laugh at yourself. I remember early on silly mistakes that were discovered only after I had returned home or had surfaced during the course of an interview. Let’s just say, be sure to always take the lens cover off your camera and always have fresh batteries for your devices, if you get what I am saying.
Journal: In your opinion, what are a few qualities of a good investigator?
Lombardo: Interviews are often the cornerstone of any investigation. Investigators must interview the witnesses. The investigator must ask clear questions and extract as much detail as possible. In addition, the investigator must recognize discrepancies and gaps in any story and ask questions to clarify the information. The investigator must also be a good listener, including reading body language. Investigators must be able to control their emotions. Investigators must be honest, ethical and law abiding. If an investigator is caught lying or using unethical methods of investigation, he loses credibility and harms the reputation of MUFON. In order to piece together the evidence and witness statements obtained during an investigation, the investigator must be a good problem solver. In many cases, witness statements will be contradictory, so the investigator must use critical thinking and problem solving skills to figure out what really happened in a case. Critical thinking skills also allow the investigator to look past the obvious solutions and analyze evidence objectively. Research skills are critical in investigations. The investigator must often look into the background and activities of witnesses. Investigators must have the desire and ability to conduct relevant research.
Journal: Any advice to someone new to the field of UFO investigations.
Lombardo: The first thing a new investigator should do is to ask themselves why they want to do field investigations. Going into an investigation with preconceived ideas as to what occurred is a fatal mistake. Be professional. You represent MUFON and your actions will either bolster or hurt the integrity of the organization. Be thorough, be a good listener and use that critical thinking. We all want the answers, but injecting your personal belief system into an investigation is unacceptable. It’s all about the evidence. Leads, evidence and witnesses. Those three items will give you your conclusions to a case if followed as far as they may take you.
Journal: If you could go back in time and be the lead investigator in any case in UFO history, what would it be?
Lombardo: I had to think about that one for quite a while. There are so many great historical cases, compelling cases with trace evidence to boot. I think I would have loved to have been on the ground floor of the Socorro, New Mexico Landing case. If I could have entered that case with what I know now about law enforcement, and could have spoken directly to Officer Lonnie Zamora, I would have loved that. Law enforcement officers have a way of speaking to each other and I would have known in short order whether he was telling the truth or not. Looking back on that case and having read it over many times, I do believe that Officer Zamora was witness to an extremely strange event. Even Dr J. Allen Hynek and the FBI agreed that his account of the event and the trace evidence was difficult to explain at best.
Journal: Could you say that over the years throughout your research that your theories on UFOs has changed?
Lombardo: Early on in my involvement with UFO investigation I remember feeling that perhaps I would be alive to witness the answer as to what UFO's are. Over the years I have come to think that perhaps that will not be the case. The phenomena has existed for so long in modern history, from the mundane to the fantastic in nature, yet we still do not have the answer as to what the phenomena represents. It is apparent to me that whatever it is, it or they are in no hurry to reveal themselves or itself to us in any short order.
Journal: What do you feel is the most understudied corner of Ufology?
Lombardo: Well, let me say this. While I was still working I had access to the full unedited archives of our local newspaper. I started on January 1, 1947 and began reading. I looked specifically for articles dealing with strange objects in the sky. I noticed as I went day by day, week by week in a chronological order, which all the activity seemed to move in a pattern from west (California) to the east. There were tons of articles, some very small, just tiny blurbs in the paper, but they were there. Then of course Roswell happened in July but it didn’t end there. The sightings continued all the way to the east coast in a seemingly organized fashion. I guess what I am saying is that I would like to see more analysis of geographical patterns, to look harder at a possible intentional, methodical surveillance of our world by an unknown.
Journal: You are a retired man of Law Enforcement, nearly thirty years correct? How do you feel your many years as an officer of the law has aided you in your Field Investigations?
Lombardo: It is true that I retired after 31.5 years in law enforcement. Most people have no idea how much training an officer engages in during his or her career. What I learned as a patrol officer, a criminal investigator and a law enforcement executive is indispensable when it comes to field investigations. Learning how to communicate with people, interviewing witnesses, taking meticulous notes, processing crime scenes with the tools of photography, measurement, evidence collection and finally proving your case, all are tools that a good investigator should have. Quite frankly, even with all that training, I am still learning. We all are.
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