Local authorities arrested a fugitive who was tracked with the latest technology that honed on a wireless phone in his pants’ pocket.
The effort to serve an arrest warrant on Timothy B. Pam led to an armed standoff, a thunderous bombardment of a Rossville, Ga., apartment house with teargas canisters and the conversion of a closely built lower middle-class neighborhood into a war zone with helmeted cops wearing body armor and bristling with automatic weapons.
The authority that used the high-tech surveillance gear to locate Mr. Pam is the Georgia State Patrol, TV12 reports. Up to now, only Georgia’s Gwinnett County was known to the ACLU as having made use of a Stingray. The marshals service is one of at least 12 federal agencies that use the devices that sop up tens of thousands of phone calls among innocent non-suspect members of the public.
Cell site simulators are not known to be in use by Tennessee police and sheriff’s departments.
The devices are highly secretive in their use. The FBI and other feds try to keep them under wraps because they involve the illicit searching of telephone conversations without lawful warrant. The name brand Stingray, by Harris Corp., is the common nomenclature for the surveillance devices built by several companies. Stingrays are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and force phones in the area to broadcast information that can be used to identify and locate them, according to numerous reports on AM 1240 Hot News Talk Radio and in the tech media.
“Even when used to track a particular suspect's cell phone,” says the ACLU in reporting on a FOIA filing on Stingrays, “they also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby. Numerous law enforcement agencies across the country possess Stingrays, but it’s often difficult to tell how much and how often they are used.”
Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson says marshals tracked Mr. Pam to a Brown Avenue residence by tracking his wireless phone. The federal marshals are involved in arresting fugitives, and Mr. Pam’s being a Chattanoogan in Georgia put him in interstate, and thus federal, jurisdiction. He was being chased after a traffic stop in Rossville a few weeks ago in which he reportedly tossed a firearm into the car during the stop and scurried away.
“Suspect was driving a stolen vehicle out of Chattanooga and he fled on foot from the officer, was in the possession of a firearm, that's basically what started it,” Rossville’s public safety director Sid Adams told TV3 just after Mr. Pam was captured.
Booming SWAT action in neighborhood
Town, county and federal officers surrounded the building and ordered Pam to give himself up. They fired 20 tear gas into the apartment.
“Normally, that many rounds of gas being into that small of a building, he would have come out,” Sheriff Wilson says. But Mr. Pam, having hidden himself behind a mattress and covers and still being able to breathe, didn’t budge.
Officers crashed down the door and found Mr. Pam “barricaded inside a closet.”
With a mattress and covers over him and apparently, that is how he was able to survive the gas from overtaking him,” said Sheriff Wilson.
Law enforcement hot shots are eager to pull the trigger and offer negotiations that suggest a short temper. “All I kept hearing was gunshots, sounded like gunshots going off but according to the neighbor across the road they were firing tear gas to get him to come out,” a neighbor tells TV12. “They kept saying ‘Come out, we’re not going anywhere.’ It went on for a long period of time then they finally [shielded] up, kicked the door in and brought him out,” the neighbor says.
Another neighbor, Zachary Medlin, declared: “It’s pretty scary especially with a bunch of kids playing around this area.” Police had ordered neighbors to remain indoors during the siege.
Mr. Pam and a 33-year old girlfriend, identified as Tiffany Zapata-Rangel, are in the Walker County Jail and had a bond hearing Thursday. His was set at F$11,000, hers at F$5,000. Miss Zapata faces one count of hindering law enforcement, Sheriff Wilson says, by lying to officers about Mr. Pam’s whereabouts when she left the house.
In a case of charge stacking that will put huge pressure to cop a plea, Mr. Pam faces 21 counts, including obstructing officers, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and theft by bringing stolen property into the state, the Walker County Messenger reports.
— David Tulis hosts Nooganomics.com 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays at AM 1240 Hot News Talk Radio, covering local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond.
Vince Lennon, “Walker Co. SWAT captures Chattanooga fugitive,” May 13, 14, 2015, WRCBTV.com, http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/29055469/police-investigation-shuts-down-rossville-neighborhood
Caitlyn Jones, “Rossville SWAT Stand Off Ends In Arrest of a Wanted Man in Hiding,” May 13, 2015, WDEF TV12,http://www.wdef.com/news/story/Rossville-SWAT-Stand-Off-Ends-In-Arrest-of-a/MX0ffxFgx0mImYdSDCfXdw.cspx
Josh O’Bryant, “Bond set at nearly $11,000 for Rossville man arrest after police standoff,” May 15, 2015, Walker County Messenger / Northwest Georgia News, http://www.northwestgeorgianews.com/catwalkchatt/news/police_fire/bond-set-at-nearly-for-rossville-man-arrest-after-police/article_35ab573c-fb22-11e4-aae1-f33e41b8a526.html
Josh O’Bryant, “Rossville standoff ends with arrest,” May 14, 2015, Walker County Messenger / Northwest Georgia News, http://www.northwestgeorgianews.com/catwalkchatt/news/police_fire/rossville-standoff-ends-with-arrest/article_7f4f5678-f9aa-11e4-ab08-93d1f9939cc1.html
Kim Zetter, “U.S. Marshals Seize Cops’ Spying Records to Keep Them From the ACLU,” June 3, 2014, Wired,http://www.wired.com/2014/06/feds-seize-stingray-documents/
“Stingray Tracking Devices: Who's Got Them?” ACLU map https://www.aclu.org/map/stingray-tracking-devices-whos-got-them#agencies