Cell Phone Tracking Leads Police to Suspect, Shootout

February 24, 2012

Cell phone tracking was a key element in a late night Farmington, Missouri shootout straight out of a TV crime drama.

The shootout ended in the wounding on Deputy and the death of the suspect who was pronounced dead on the scene.

The entire ordeal started at 12:07 AM when bail bonding agents contacted the police. The suspect, who was unnamed, was barricaded inside an apartment building and was armed with a firearm.

As a result of the call, three policemen were dispatched to the scene. Upon arriving they saw the suspect fleeing with the bail bondsmen in pursuit. The suspect fired a single shot at this time, but did no injure anyone.

The suspect was lost in the pursuit. It was at this time that one of the officers on the scene reached out to AT&T to get what Farmington Police Chief Rick Baker described as a “ping” of the suspects cell phone.

From the reports we found it was unclear what information police had to supply in order to track down the suspect. Did the police just give them a phone number and ask them to find it? Did they have to reveal the suspects name and ask for a position from AT&T that way? Was a judge asked to issue a court order for AT&T to divulge the information? Or was the information given willingly?

By 1:30 AM the police had heard back from AT&T that the phone was very close to a USA Drug store about a mile north of where the suspect was last seen fleeing from police. According to the Chief Baker, the position information provided by the cell phone carrier was a “pretty good coordinate.”

Police took this information and converged on the suspect in force. Upon finding the suspect police ordered him to drop his weapon. It was at this time that the suspect raised his weapon at a police officer. Gun fire erupted as police and suspect engaged in a short shootout that ended with the death of the suspect.

Here is the video of the police chief discussing the events:

What is most interesting about this case is how similar it sounds in structure to stories we see all the time in our crime dramas. They look something like third:

  • Police discover a suspect
  • Police track the suspect’s cell phone
  • Police find and confront suspect

Crime dramas universally represent cell phone tracking as extremely easy for police to do. This real life example goes to show the oversimplification of these artistic representations, but does demonstrate that police have the power to quickly track down a suspects cell phone.

Source: KSDK

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