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Question #6: What were the exact circumstances behind the shooting of Francis Boyle?

This week we pose a question about an event from Deeks’ early days as a detective in the LAPD. The answer might tell us exactly how much darkness he inherited from his father.

What We Know

In the final scene of Season 7’s “Internal Affairs,” viewers learned that Marty Deeks killed his former partner to protect a young prostitute and lied about it to the people who care about him most. To say this came as a shock to the fandom is a bit of an understatement.

We know quite a bit about Deeks’ ex-partner Francis Boyle, starting with the backstory of Deeks’ relationship with the man. He worked with Boyle as a rookie detective. On their first day together, Boyle got a suspect to talk by using a pot of scalding hot coffee. When Deeks confronted him, Boyle put his gun in Deeks’ mouth. Deeks reported him, spurring him onto a new career path in undercover work and supplying us with the reason for his lack of popularity among many LAPD detectives Deeks has since encountered as NCIS Liaison.

Boyle liked to get high and beat up prostitutes. He was found in a Hollywood motel shot with his own gun. In “Active Measures,” Deeks tells Kensi that people assumed that whatever poor girl he was “whaling on” got ahold of his gun and killed him.

One of those prostitutes was 100-pound, 17-year-old Tiffany Williams, whom Deeks had befriended. In fact, Deeks has always shown an inclination to look out for prostitutes, whose positions in society would make them easy prey for violent men and would likely trigger Deeks’ protective nature with reminders of his mom’s victimization. Tiffany tells Callen and Sam that he was “good to me and the other girls” and “very kind.”

Tiffany reveals (or claims?) that Detective John Quinn, the crooked Internal Affairs detective from “The Debt,” had tried to get Tiffany to set Boyle up in a sting operation that went bad, that Boyle “beat the hell out of” her and threatened to kill her, and that she escaped and ran away. Since then, Deeks had been wiring her $400 monthly payments. Deeks explains to Kensi that “She was a good person who got stuck in a bad spot, and I helped her out… Kensi, trust me, she didn’t kill anybody.”

In addition, IA Detective Ellen Whiting tells Deeks they found his DNA in the motel room where Boyle was killed. Deeks responds that it’s because he stayed there when his apartment was fumigated. When Whiting threatens Deeks with being sent to County lock-up, he offers to plead guilty to “self-defense manslaughter.”

We can also infer from Deeks’ comments to Kensi in “Unspoken” that he felt he had killed Boyle “for the right reasons.” Granted, this opaque conversation never mentions Boyle by name, but it appears to be clear foreshadowing about the IA investigation that weighed heavily on Deeks through the early part of the Season 7:

Kensi: I just don’t understand why Sam would protect some guy that may have killed three people. I don’t.
Deeks: I do… Because they were partners, and to be completely honest, I would do the same thing for you.
Kensi: Not if I murdered someone.
Deeks: I mean, if you did it for the right reasons, yeah, yeah, I think I would.

In his conversation with Hetty at the end of “Internal Affairs,” we learn that Deeks killed Boyle and that Hetty has known for some time and has taken heroic measures to protect her favorite detective. He tells her he killed Boyle because, “He was gonna kill Tiffany.”Later on, in “Under Siege” while the team hunts for a kidnapped Kensi, Whiting is shot by one of the many moles. Deeks confesses to her as she lies bleeding on the ground. He tells her, “I killed Boyle. You were right, OK? You were right all along. He was a dirty cop and I shot him with his own gun because he was gonna try to kill that girl… I’m not a bad guy. I just did a very bad thing for a very good reason.”

What We Don’t

In one sentence, we don’t know if Deeks is a murderer. But when have I ever been able to keep things to one sentence? So let me expound on that… We don’t know the exact circumstances of Boyle’s death. It could be anything from 100% self-defense to 100% calculated, cold-blooded murder. The show hasn’t told us.

In “Internal Affairs,” we hear several conversations about what happened, but it’s unclear how much of what is said can be trusted. While it seems most likely that Deeks killed Boyle, it’s not impossible that Tiffany did, and Deeks is just continuing to protect her, even in his conversation with Hetty. Still, he is so drained, so shaken at the end of that episode that it’s hard to believe he didn’t do it.

Assuming Deeks did shoot Boyle, we really have no idea how it happened. When we first interviewed Eric Christian Olsen, he was surprised by the very idea that the act could have been premeditated. He said, “It can’t be in cold blood. It has to be in some form of self-defense. There’s no version of Deeks that just goes in there and hunts this guy.”

ECO may have thought Deeks to be only guilty of a cover-up, yet before “Internal Affairs” aired, he alluded to the ambiguous nature of the ending in an interview with E! News, where he compared the story to a podcast called Serial about a suspect who may or may not have actually committed murder (Eric thinks he did). He also described the Deeks of this episode this way: “There’s obviously things that you share with the people that you love, and then there are things that are so dark and so deep that you can’t even share them with yourself. I think that’s what Deeks is dealing with right now.” If Deeks had intervened just as Boyle attempted to harm Tiffany, would he sound so ashamed of his actions? Would a cover-up of self-defense warrant so much sadness from him in that final scene?

And while I’d agree with ECO that Deeks wouldn’t have murdered Boyle in a premeditated way, I think there’s plenty of room for him to have shot Boyle more in anger than self-defense, perhaps walking in and seeing him “whaling on” her, or arriving to see Tiffany hurt in the aftermath. We know he’s triggered by seeing women in danger, and knowing that (blonde) Tiffany had been beat up by an abusive man like Boyle would have taken him right back to his origin story moment of shooting his dad in self-defense. There’s a ton of gray area here between Deeks interceding to save Tiffany’s life in the moment, and in a moment of rage, acting to protect her and all the other girls like her from being hurt in the future. I keep coming back to this:

Kensi: Not if I murdered someone.
Deeks: I mean, if you did it for the right reasons, yeah, yeah, I think I would.

Counselor Deeks knows the difference between “murder” and “self-defense manslaughter,” so the writer’s use of “murder” here feels purposeful to me. I also find the wording of his confession to Whiting particularly intriguing: he was gonna try to kill that girl. Not “he was trying” but he was “going to try.” Sure, this is splitting hairs, but it sounds like it could be the difference between Deeks interceding in an ongoing attack and Deeks preventing Boyle from even getting the chance to go off and try to kill Tiffany. Preventing violence rather than stopping it in progress would seem to make a big difference in the eyes of the law. Now we should never put too much stock in such minutiae, but to me, the fact that this confession came well after the events of “Internal Affairs” somehow makes it feel like the writers had adequate time to figure out the exact circumstances and have Deeks address them accurately in the moment with Whiting.

There’s also the way he tells Whiting he did “a very bad thing” in reference to killing Boyle. When he uses this description, it doesn’t sound like he’s saying he did a very bad thing by covering up the killing. It sounds like the killing itself is what he considers “very bad.” And if it had been in actual defense of Tiffany as she was being attacked, would Deeks really describe it that way?

We don’t want to see Deeks as guilty of cold-blooded murder, but it feels like the door has been left wide open. His hesitation when he tells Hetty why he killed Boyle introduced doubt in my mind, just as did his “Unspoken” comments to Kensi about murdering someone for the “right reasons” and his “Under Siege” confession about preventing violence rather than stopping it. Plus there’s the fact that he was ready to confess to a lesser charge- what was his strategy there? Or was it his guilty conscience talking?

Why It’s Important

Eric may be convinced of Deeks’ relative innocence, but many fans were not after “Internal Affairs” aired. The fandom was in such a kerfuffle that I wrote a piece on the “emotional aftermath” that many of us experienced at learning that Deeks had killed someone. If you weren’t around the fandom when this episode originally aired, take a look at that or the review comments to get a feel for the collective angst this episode produced.

Many long-time Deeks fans assumed he had killed Boyle in a less than self-defense situation, and they questioned their faith and trust in him. Some even abandoned him and the show as a result. It was a Big Deal. It goes straight to the center of who Marty Deeks is, and to what extent his traumatic childhood scarred him. We know it’s impacted him in many ways, but was he capable of first- or second-degree murder as a result? To put it another way, we know Deeks has a dark side, but exactly how dark does that side go? No single question we’ve asked will answer that better than this one.

No matter the answer, it would make for compelling television given that the source of Deeks’ darkness is his own father. And somehow that father is also the source of his goodness insofar as he motivated Deeks to try to be as different from him as he could. Deeks’ drive to protect people, particularly women, particularly women being abused, came straight from that moment when 11-year-old Marty protected his mom from his dad.

Either way, a “Deeks, M” that addressed this question could likely find a way to pull in flashbacks to his childhood, to that defining moment in time. Teasers for “Internal Affairs” mentioned that we would see flashbacks there, so they may have already filmed either the childhood scenes or scenes showing what actually happened with Boyle. Either or both (so long as they were well shot) could add tremendously to our understanding of this character.

So whether the showrunners merely confirm that it was self-defense and explore the origins of Deeks’ drive to protect, or go in the opposite direction and show that he was capable of worse, we’ll be fascinated, and likely moved, to learn more about him. Deeks has always been the most human, the most fallible, the most vulnerable, of all the show’s characters. And that’s why he’s also the most endearing, the most interesting, and the most lovable. Even if he’s a murderer.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

About Karen (287 Articles)
wikiDeeks Writer & Assistant Editor. I never wrote for fun before... until my ECO-obsession. Now I love to analyze any and all aspects of the best character on television.

19 Comments on Question #6: What were the exact circumstances behind the shooting of Francis Boyle?

  1. Wow, that was excellent Karen, all points covered. All the hundreds, or is it thousands, of people killed in NCISLA over the years and we can’t get past the killing of Boyle. Deeks didn’t kill an unarmed man if Boyle really was shot with his own gun. If it really was self defence there was no need to cover it up. A lot to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ryan Collins // July 6, 2020 at 9:42 AM // Reply

    I’ve always believed that it was self defense and the reason why he covered it up was because he felt that LAPD wouldn’t believe him. Remember he reported Boyle to IA before and nothing was done because of Boyle’s connections in the department. Deeks covered it up out of fear.

    I remember people left the Deeks fandom because he didn’t own it right away and even told Kensi over the phone that LAPD might plant evidence when he was in lock up. I got 2 points for them.

    1. DOES THE 5TH AMENDMENT MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU?! I mean it would be completely insane to incriminate yourself while in police custody. Deeks goal is to not go to prison so of course he’s going to reflect and misdirect the investigation.

    2. Deeks accusation that LAPD could plant evidence might not necessarily be a lie. I mean we no Stedman and Boyle were pretty corrupt.

    As for hurting Kensi, I felt she had a right to feel angry and I think she was at first but then realized that he wasn’t lying maliciously he did as means of survival and he didn’t want her to pay for his sins. That’s why I think she forgave Deeks so easily in “Cancel Christmas”

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Hmmm. I believe he killed Boyle just because he was protecting Tiffany. and I doubt Boyle was unarmed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The one new question that came to me while reading this is: Did he shoot to KILL Boyle? Was the intent to kill him at that moment or maybe just to injure him enough to make him no longer a threat? The fact that he shot Boyle with Boyle’s gun also complicates the circumstances as well, as you’d assume if it were pure self defense in that situation, there’d be some physical evidence of that somewhere (though maybe that’s what IA finally found that tied Deeks to it).

    My other big question is what DID bring the case back to IA’s attention after so many years? Was it tied to the CIA/Mole arc trying to take down the team? (I feel like they had plans for angles on each member of the team) If so, how did they know about it and how does that add to the story?

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Catherine Betham // July 6, 2020 at 12:17 PM // Reply

    Oh Lawdy do I remember that “kerfuffle”- ugly doesn’t even begin to describe it. I stand by my thoughts from back then that it was such a gray area. And if I remember, a lot had to do with age of the fan as to what side you fell on. Many of the older fans had the wisdom of years/life experience to see the whole (gray) picture. The other side was dealing with the image of “perfect” Deeks being shattered.

    I think this question is the one that has the most impact and if only one question is answered I think this is the one I want.

    Good job by Karen!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Elaine Conway // July 6, 2020 at 1:13 PM // Reply

    I guess the question I always had was how did Deeks get Boyle’s gun? Was there a struggle to get it away from Boyle and it went off, or did Deeks manage to get the gun, but Boyle continued attacking Tiffany possibly choking her so Deeks shot him. I believe the way he worded it to Hetty was he killed Boyle because he was going to kill Tiffany. That’s why I was surprised at his wording of his confession to Whiting. No matter how it happened I think Deeks would see it as in either case he had killed someone. He’s always hard on himself. He also would know that LAPD would never side with him. It would be interesting to see what the writers (Including ECO) would come up with if they decided to attack this issue.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I LOVE this question. I also love to see a little of Deeks’ dark side. ( “Payback” when he came into interrogation and hit Sabatino. Or in “Deep Trouble”pt. 2. when he was questioning the guy in the hospital and squeezed the guys arm until he told him what he wanted to know). I love his protective nature for the ones he loves.
    I also wonder where IA got this “new evidence”. DNA found after 8 years? Come on! This would be a great time to show that his dad faked his death and planted this evidence.
    As for killing or murdering someone for the “right reason”. Yes, it is still “a bad thing” right reason or not.
    One more thought. Deeks was confessing to a lesser charge because he wanted to protect Kensi and NCIS from all of this. He himself told that to Kensi when he told her everything. That all being said, I do love this story being a part of “Deeks, M”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. So I’ve thought about it some more and read other people comments. My current thinking is that there isn’t a great deal to suggest Deeks deliberately killed Boyle, and I wouldn’t want to believe it anyway. My feeling is that he found himself in a situation, spiralling out of control and had to do something, not unlike his father’s shooting. I do tend to go with Tiffany’s story, that she was set up and let down by John Quinn. Equally I think she may not have been totally straight with Sam and Callen. That she contacted Deeks for help, he fought with Boyle and killed him. Tiffany could have suggested Quinn killed Boyle to protect Deeks, or something along those lines. Oversimplifying, maybe.

    Thank you Ryan for helping me understand why Deeks would cover it up. Of course he wouldn’t have stood a chance against IA with John Quinn assisted by Stedman. He wasn’t well-liked by LAPD so the odds would have been stacked against him.

    Like Martina and Lyssa I can’t help wondering why it took so long to arrest Deeks. LAPD were investigating him in Season 6 weren’t they? What evidence were they going to find so long after the event. If they had any real evidence why did Whiting have to threaten Deeks with ‘County’ to get him to confess? I don’t think Whiting even knew about Tiffany until Hetty told her, I think it was ‘Under Siege’. I might be wrong there.

    I didn’t see ‘Internal Affairs’ until two years after it first aired and I was totally unaware of the kerfuffle, but I can understand the depth of feeling. Perhaps Deeks situation can be compared to Gibbs in NCIS. We saw the flashback were he was in his sniper gear and shot the man who killed his family, in cold blood. Understandable, but wrong and he got away with it. In the original crossover we learnt that Macy, Hetty’s predecessor, helped cover it up. Assuming NCIS has it’s own fandom, was there the same meltdown? The difference here was telling the story, showing us what happened. While with Deeks they tell us so little, and for why?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. wow Karen, I clearly remember collective shock this fandom was when Internal affairs aired originally. I was completely lost after it and couldn’t believe that they made Deeks an actual killer. However I calmed myself and after 5 minutes (give or take) I decided that Deeks we know would never killed anybody in the cold blood and I wrote then that he didn’t confess it to LAPD knowing that IA hadn’t done a thing to protect others from Boyle. Deeks was rookie detective and imagine his chances against all kind of Quinns, Boyles or Steadmanns in the police.
    Boyle was shitty criminal and bully who just happened to be a detective. If he wasn’t a detective and Deeks killed him to protect an innocent girl nobody would question anything.
    Those were my thoughts then and they hasn’t changed.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I find it an interesting parallel — and one they should explore in an episode — that Deeks’ first partner was rather a lot like Brandel. Older, abusive, abused alcohol/drugs. That would have been a HUGE impact on rookie Deeks.

    The manner of death of Boyle doesn’t bother me, i.e. if Deeks really killed him. More on that in a minute. What bothered me was paying Tiffany $400 a month. That’s a lot of money over time. When was it going to end? There’s a lot of some kind of emotion behind those payments. I never thought it was hush money … but on the other hand to help a girl out, you give her some cash, not $400/month for … forever? That was weird to me. They wanted to show Deeks’ generosity, I get it, but that’s rather overboard. She had a job when we saw her.

    My opinion is that either Deeks shot Boyles in self defense/defense of an innocent (Tiffany) in the heat of the moment or he said he shot Boyle to help Tiffany who really did the shooting because maybe his mom took the blame for him with Brandel and he kinda had an emotional confusion about it, i.e., Boyle was standing in for his dad who he wanted to kill to protect his mom but wait it’s really Tiffany, etc. He had been a public defender and knew that Tiffany had very little chance at a second chance in life like he got to have and there was no way Quinn was going to help her so they covered it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elaine Conway // July 7, 2020 at 5:49 PM // Reply

      I agree that $400 a month for all those years did seem ridiculous. That always bothered me.


    • That $400 is a good point, it bugged me at the time but I had forgotten about it. What makes it even weirder, it was his alias Monte Richards sending the money.


    • @peakae I love the observation that Boyle would have reminded Deeks of his father. I wonder exactly how closely the Boyle shooting might have paralleled his shooting his dad.


  11. I love this question and your response, Karen! I suspected this one would (still) get a lot of fan reaction. Sadly, I think it’s the least likley of all the questions for TPTB to address any further (I’d be happy to be wrong, though). I think they’ve already done all they intend to do about Deeks’ killing of Boyle and are more than happy with their clear-as-mud resolution. From a story-telling standpoint, I can’t really blame them, either.

    I personally believe that Tiffany was NOT there when Deeks shot Boyle. I really don’t think Deeks would have asked or allowed Tiffany to lie for him. Additionally, that would have been two witnesses (yes, one was a teenaged prostitute but one was also a fellow detective) for IA to have to discredit, and even if Deeks was paranoid about LAPD trying to cover Boyle and Steadman’s prior illegal acts by pinning a murder on him, I think counselor Deeks would have realized his claim of defense-of-another would have rung true in this case.

    I tend toward the headcanon that Deeks arrived after Tiffany left and confronted Boyle about his actions. Maybe Boyle was passed out at first and that’s how Deeks got his gun. I don’t think Deeks shot him in cold blood, but I do see it as an impulsive/unplanned act. Knowing what we do about Boyle (and I loved Peakae’s comparison of Boyle and Brandel), it wouldn’t surprise me if he began berating Deeks, verbally threatening Tiffany, and bragging about how he would get away with making her pay (and if he was drunk or high, maybe he slipped and also bragged about all of his other illicit behaviors). In that moment I think Deeks would have lost control for a second, shooting and killing Boyle. I could even see Boyle goading Deeks into the act as a means of suicide by cop if he (rightfully) thought Deeks wouldn’t let this go and Boyle worried the gig would soon be up (i.e that Deeks would keep investigating and eventually find out about his illegal activities with Steadman) and he would be facing a long time in prison.

    I agree with others who wondered why Deeks kept paying Tiffany (I did the math once and it was a large sum of money), but I do not believe it for any reason other than he was trying to help her out.

    Also, the timing of whatever “evidence” that might have come to light to start this investigation after all these years is also curious. I think a lot of credence should go to Lyssa’s theory that it was an attempt by the CIA/mole to bring down each member of the team (Mosely did say she found enough skeletons in the OSP closet that would lead to prison time if brough to light). It probably just got lost/dropped in the all-reaching monster that became that storyline/arc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Psyched it’s great to see someone else who can envision a darker version of the shooting. And I agree about the low likelihood of this getting answered, and (for a change) I am OK with the ambiguity.


  12. Thanks for all the great comments everyone. I’m glad to see that this question is alive and well!


  13. New to this forum. There certainly are a lot of unanswered questions. About the $400 to Tiffany, I thought a part or all of it might be CI pay, though it seems like a lot of money. I base that on recalling Deeks tends to help “weak” women, i.e. the gal working at the gym in Seal Hunter admitting he had given her $50 to help her and did not arrest her. . I like to think that it was self defense as Boyle was extremely abusive. Glad I stumbled on this site. Great articles and great commentary. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Many cops carry two guns (their main weapon and a backup), and a corrupt cop like Boyle could have even more (the two standard weapons and a “drop piece” for planting as the need arose). It’s quite possible he had Tiffany beaten down and was preparing his own little crime scene with the drop piece (placed of course in her hand) and him with his backup weapon (maybe with the claim she’d managed to get her weapon out and forced him to drop his service pistol) to finish her off (of course he’d claim he pulled his backup and managed to shoot her before she could shoot him). Deeks comes in, gets Boyle’s weapon off the floor, and shoots him first.
    The “really bad thing” comment could be directed at him shooting another cop in general. Even if the guy was dirty, he was still on the job. And if I remember right LAPD hadn’t zeroed in on Boyle at that time.
    The $400 a month might have been partial rent so Tiffany could get her life together without having to worry about that on top of everything else. And it’s possible she was using the money to help other girls in the same situation (we don’t know, but that might have been part of the arrangement).


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