Thursday, June 07, 2012

That's a puzzler, and no mistake...

About that incident in Colorado:
Police said they had received what they called a “reliable” tip that the culprit in an armed robbery at a Wells Fargo bank committed earlier was stopped at the red light.

“We didn’t have a description, didn’t know race or gender or anything, so a split-second decision was made to stop all the cars at that intersection, and search for the armed robber,” Aurora police Officer Frank Fania told ABC News.
I was puzzling over this one this morning while taking out the trash, and I think I figured it out: Stop and think for a moment about how the cops could have known with a certainty that the money from the bank, and hence the bank robber, was at that very intersection, but had no physical description of the robber whatsoever. (Hint: Rhymes with "Kojak Pransmitter".)

I don't know what I would have done in their boss's shoes at the time. Maybe the same thing and then sent in my resignation letter?

With the luxury of hindsight, maybe I would have followed them and risked a high speed pursuit? I don't know. That's a pretty Kobayashi Maru scenario right there; you know the armed and dangerous felon is in this group  of random people, but you don't know which one he (or she) is.

Assuming arguendo that that's how it was going down, what would you have done?

(Expanded from a comment at Atomic Fungus.)


mikee said...

20 cars and one armed felon on the run? I would not have created a potential shooting situation with 19 cars' worth of innocent people held in a group around the criminal.

I think if the Lojack transmitter was working, they could have followed discretely until the perpetrator's car was identified, and arrested only the criminal.

I'd be rather unhappy if I was cuffed in a crowd at the curb when Mr. Crackhead decided to go out shooting 25 feet away.

Anonymous said...

High speed chase? Why would that be necessary? You've got a transmitter on the car! Just follow him remotely, and pounce when the time is right.

Woodman said...

IANAL, but if you had a crowd of people standing somewhere and a gun was fired from within the crowd couldn't the police hold the entire crowd until they checked everyone for evidence?

My first instinct is to shout "4th Amendment" and throw a brick through the establishment window. But after that knee stops jerking I have to wonder.

If you can smell pot in a car, can you search the people in the car for pot? If you see a trail of that ink they use to mark money leading up to a grocery store, can you check everyone in there for ink stains?

I think it's ok, but it just hits some primal resistance buttons.

Nathan said...

Pretty darn hard to justify. I can't see how probable cause extends to every single person driving on the road that day.

I would've done the checkpoint thing and had a quick interview with all of the cars occupants, Border Patrol style (though that is controversial enough with some folks.)

I would bet that the officers could articulate PC developed from the interviews without handcuffing every single person.

As a side note, of course the robber was in the last car checked. After they found him, why would they check any more?

Anonymous said...

Of course! When you find a searched-for item, it's ALWAYS in the last place you look!! JohninMd(help!)

Anonymous said...

I'm with mikee. Throwing up a roadblock at a busy intersection is a poor tactic to find an armed and dangerous felon. I guess the guy who shoots down a couple of handcuffed and unarmed citizens was your guy. Too bad for the guys who got shot.

But at least all the officers got to go home at the end of their shift.


Robert Fowler said...

There is a person or two in this world that will tell you that I can be a pretty big asshole. I would have demanded to know what their PC was and I would not be cuffed. If they had LoJac info, they should know the make and model of the car. There was no reason to handcuff 19 people withing throwing range of a possible crazy with a gun.

What would they have done if said possible crazy had started shooting and killed or wounded some of the handcuffed sheep? I bet there will be some lawsuits over this.

Tam said...

Robert Fowler,

The transmitter would have been in a dummy bundle of bills from the bank, like a dye bomb.

John said...

Think about this:

"...they found evidence that he was who they were looking for...When they searched the car, they found two loaded firearms.”


That's the evidence they have? No mention of the recovery of a lowjack, or even any bags of cash -- or even a few twenties. Just the existence of two loaded firearms.

In Colorado, unless the suspect happens to be a prohibited person, it's not illegal to have any number of loaded firearms in your vehicle -- even concealed on your person, with or without a concealed carry permit.

Seriously, though, why no mention of the recovery of anything stolen?

Something tells me there's something more going on here.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"As a side note, of course the robber was in the last car checked. After they found him, why would they check any more?"

True, but in this case it was that they stopped 20 cars all at once and started checking them one by one, and it turns out that he was in the 20th car they checked.

As for what I would do? a) keep tracking whatever transmitter led you to the intersection in the first place until he's in a spot where a confrontation won't put 20+ innocents at risk, and b) put a helicopter up for visual tracking, which when combined with the GPS/lojack/whatever will also help isolate which of the 20 vehicles he's actually in so that the cops approaching for the actual takedown will know where the bad guy will be popping up from if he decides to go out in a hail of bullets.

If he's in the car and driving in a way that lets him blend in with regular traffic, then he's not an immediate threat to public safety and confrontation can be safely delayed to a less risky location.

akornzombie said...

Stupid. If he was bugged, stay back, follow him until it's safe to nick him.

Handcuffing a bunch of people at a stoplight where an armed robber could be- if he had started shooting, dear God in heaven.

Tam said...


This was written by a reporter. They think guns are bad. I'm sure that there was more evidence than that that the po-po had found their guy.

The reason I am calling it a transmitter is this:

If it was an eyewitness that had called in the tip on the robber or the getaway car, they would have at least had a description of the robber's clothing (even if they didn't know the race, sex, age, or whatever) and/or a description of the getaway vehicle.

I'm game for another explanation of how the cops had a "reliable" tip-off that the robber was at that very intersection but not what they looked like or what they were driving.

I can see why the police spokesman would not have wanted to advertise the existence of bugged loot.

Anonymous said...

I would have used the TSA technique.

I would use a series of algorithims to identify those people who had the lowest probablity of being the robber. I would remove those people from the group, grope them and force them through a nudie scanner.

I would then send them on their way while telling them it was for their own good. By that time the robber would have left and any chance of me dealing with an armed felon would be quit small.

Mission acomplished!.


Tam said...


"True, but in this case it was that they stopped 20 cars all at once and started checking them one by one, and it turns out that he was in the 20th car they checked."

That right there makes me wonder if they actually did have a description of the robber and this was some elaborate, ham-handed, stupid way of trying to get the people in the surrounding cars out of the way in case of some re-enactment of the climactic scene in Heat. I'd need to see how they choreographed the whole thing.

If that is the case, it was definitely dumb and they definitely do deserve whatever lawsuits are surely headed their way for this.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"That's the evidence they have? No mention of the recovery of a lowjack, or even any bags of cash -- or even a few twenties. Just the existence of two loaded firearms."

Another story I saw mentioned they also found a mask that was used in the robbery.

Of course, his possession of the guns and mask, and even the money if it was there and they're just not saying, will (or should, anyway) probably not be admissible at trial because of the total lack of probable cause.

Eugene Volokh noted the lack of PC in his post on the incident.

"The mere fact that someone is present at the place where a criminal may be present can’t provide such probable cause. As the Court held in Ybarra v. Illinois (1979), rejecting the argument that a search warrant that authorized the search of a tavern, based on probable cause that evidence of crime would be found in the tavern, also authorized the search of tavern patrons,"

The police have hamstrung the prosecution in this case, and there's a good chance this guy might walk.

Farm.Dad said...

Just to further " muddy the waters " here is an update from the Aurora paper

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Here's the story with the bit about the mask.

Goober said...

This one is easy. They have Lojack in the car. The crooks aren't going to get away. Instead of stopping the whole lot of innocent civilians in a crowded bottleneck with armed, dangerous bad guys that could decide to get all shooty and start popping innocents when they see you working your way throug the crowd, how about letting them drive a bit further down the road until they are a bit more secluded and take them down there? Doesn't lojack have the ability to kill the car? So no risk of high speed pursuit there... assuming I'm right.

But even if I'm not, I can't see how waiting would be more dangerous than what the cops did. A high speed pursuit is far more preferrable than a shooting gallery.

That being said, I'm not really going to second guess the guy, because the fact is, he was faced with a difficult choice, and he made a decision qucikly and decisively. Whether it was the wrong decision or not is totally up for discussion, but it feels awfully monday-moring-quarterbackey to elbow in and say that I'D HAVE DONE SOMETHING DIFFERENT when you have time and calmness to think the thing over.

Armed Texan said...

Sorry for the tangent, but this quote set me off:
"Officers did find the suspect in one of the cars, and he will likely face bank robbery charges in federal court"

But I was told that local police could not arrest people (illegal aliens) for federal crimes!

Well maybe they have a state statute on bank robbery as well. Oh wait, we're told that states can't pass laws that overlap federal laws because of federal prerogatives/supremacy clause/racism! Since all banks (even state chartered banks) are governed by some federal agency, all state statutes regarding banks should be struck down a la AZ SB1070.

So what the police did here was even more illegaller. Not only did they violate 4th amendment rights, they violated the federal government's rights (carried in the supremacy clause and Justice Ginsberg's super secret book of making stuff up).

Ygolonac said...

This sounds like an *excellent* way to discover violent offenders the hard way.

"Hi, we're looking fo.."

(gangbanger) BLAM BLAM BLAM

(escaped prisoner in another car) "OH $#!+ THEY'RE GONNA GET ME!" BLAM BLAM BLAM

(tweaker, car 7) "LIZARD MEN!" BLAM BLAM BLAM

(idiot running from an outstanding child-support/domestic violence warrant, car 14) (no good line to use here, sorry) BLAM BLAM BLAM

And so forth.

(Not that probable that *all* would be caught up in the same net, nor that the imemdiate reaction would be gunfire - stumbling across someone "exciting" would probably cause "escape" first, but once Twitchy McCrackhead runs down a cop, I'd expect a relocation to Magdump City.)

(At the very least, if things go all pear-shaped before finding the robbers, *their* escape is easier.)

Goober said...

Oh, yeah, one more thing - the folks that were improperly detained should and can sue the ass off of that police station. I'm not saying that what these cops did is right, or even legal. in fact, I'd like to see them face a review board that determines whether they can even keep their jobs.

I'm of the opinion that this was handled poorly, given the information that I have available to me, but my fear is that I don't have all the information that the cop had, which is why I said what I said above.

Robert Fowler said...

Tam said...
Robert Fowler,

The transmitter would have been in a dummy bundle of bills from the bank, like a dye bomb.

Duh, excuse me while I go get some more coffee. Time to wake up.

Kristopher said...

The problem here is that by detaining everyone without an RAS, they tainted their evidence.

The criminal WILL walk, and their department will get sued by everyone else.

I would have handled it the same way you sift for a gold nugget in a pile ofdirt with a metal detector.

Divert half the cars. Determine which half has the transmitter. Let the other half go unsearched.

Then repeat until you have one car left.

montieth said...

The fear about a high speed chase being dangerous to general society is NOT mitigated by trapping 40 people, women and children AROUND an armed robbery suspect in a mass of cars.

If they have the intel to know where he's going to be in a given intersection, then they have the intel to know where he's going to be where there aren't going to be as many people and they can effect a felony stop with more due care, caution and consideration for the safety AND rights of the general population around the suspect.

I don't buy the call that they did the right thing at all in this case. Not one bit.

Fred said...

A couple more of these kinds of incidents and the bank robber won't be the only "armed and dangerous" person in the group roadblock the cops will have to deal with.

Why anyone would let the gestapo remove them from a vehicle and handcuff them is beyond me.

Then again, Aurora is just an eastern suburb of Denver, and Denver has been solid blue for quite a while. Cops in blue zones think they're authorized to do this stuff, and the people who live in blue zones are eager to accept it.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"Why anyone would let the gestapo remove them from a vehicle and handcuff them is beyond me."

In my case, it would be their large advantage in initiative, numbers, and firepower.

I might object, but not in a fashion that would end up with me kissing asphalt, or having my insides introduced to the outside.

Robin said...

Aurora's PD has the benefit of the far more corrupt and incompetent Denver PD to their western border to conceal their own incompetence and corruption.

Panamared said...

It's my guess that there is no institutional memory of the FBI fiasco in Miami, so avoiding a high-speed chase was there intention. Hopefully the coming lawsuits will provide insensitive for all police departments to provide remedial training in constitutional law.

Tam said...


"The problem here is that by detaining everyone without an RAS, they tainted their evidence.

The criminal WILL walk, and their department will get sued by everyone else.

Volokh sure seemed to think so, and he's the lawyer.

I will note that he didn't seem to consider the idea of a GPS tracker, but when I was reading through his comments, a couple of his readers seem to have had the same hunch I did and were wondering whether a tracking device with an accuracy of 50-100 feet would qualify for RAS.

Another interesting tidbit in the linked article that referenced the guy wearing the beekeeper hood was that the cope only really tossed the car with the robber in it, and all the other ones got only the most cursory of look-sees.

In other words, it looked like the coppers' plan was "Get the person out of the car. Get consent. Look in the car and see if you see a bee-keeper's hood. If you do, there's our guy."

But, yeah, what a balls-up. The sky over Aurora is going to turn legal-pad yellow for sure.

DirtCrashr said...

In The Future the transmitter will have a detonator attached! Don't worry, if you haven't done anything wrong nothing will happen to you!...

Matt G said...

That's a hard one.

I've actually chased after a GPS-enabled vehicle, and I will tell you that the time lag sucks, what with the OnStar or whoever dispatcher telling your dispatcher something, who then tells you over the radio where they went. Originally the model for LoJack and some other transponders was to put an antenna farm atop the shift command vehicles and have them vector themselves, but I think that most are using the OnStar model, now, which makes sense. (The shift supervisor isn't going to have much experience at tracking cars with that rarely-used gadget, but a central dispatcher will.)

So when they say "He's stopped at X Ave and Y St," that's a valuable piece of data. It compresses the time lag.

Now, you're the first arriving officer on the scene. You know all this. A person has just put a gun in another citizen's fast and threatened that citizen with death if they did not stand and deliver. That's the kind of situation worth going the extra mile to make an arrest over. A reasonable person would believe that you are within a stone's toss of the actor. Quick, now! The light's about to change! What do you do? You can't follow all of them away from the intersection. I can see four courses of action for each vehicle arriving at the intersection. At a four-way intersection, the permutations add up. Once they get moving again, you're going to have to wait a few seconds to find out where to go.

If you put your car in front of the intersection at the light, you can stop it all down, and think for a second, and get backup while you deal with an armed suspect.

There's NEVER a good place to do a take-down, and while possible gunplay is scary, I believe that I'm more afraid of possible gunplay and a high-speed chase, which this solution obviates.

The strategy wasn't a bad one.
Now, the tactics of pointing a gun right at the head of young teens exiting the car was a crappy one, and deserves extra attention and documented counseling.

This is one reason why it's so important to get a cop to the scene soonest, to get a quick-and-dirty description of the suspect out as quick as possible. The dispatcher should be doing this, too. If you're at the scene of a robbery, your accurate description of the actor, passed rapidly to the police, can help prevent these things, if they'll use the tool you just gave them.

Tam said...


"In The Future the transmitter will have a detonator attached!"

When I open the First National Bank of Wookietopia, that's how I'm going to do it. :p

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"Volokh sure seemed to think so, and he's the lawyer."

To be fair, I will note that one of the attorneys I work with thinks the prosecution can get around exclusion pretty easily. I think that if it was a GPS transmitter then arguing "inevitable discovery" or something like that might work.

Which doesn't help them in dealing with however many of the 40+ people they wrongly arrested decide to sue, but they might still get the crook off the streets.

Anonymous said...

IANAL, but if you had a crowd of people standing somewhere and a gun was fired from within the crowd couldn't the police hold the entire crowd until they checked everyone for evidence?

I'm not a lawyer either, but if this really is the precedent, it sure seems like a small logical step to expand it to "we know the criminal is in this city somewhere, so we should..." At what point does the 4th amendment no longer have any bearing whatsoever?

Me, I wouldn't have consented to the search, but I'm sure that would have made for a very interesting day for myself.


Tam said...


Worst. Apple product. Ever.


Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Dangit Tam, now I have to clean my monitor! :P

Anonymous said...

Two things come to mind for me: the police do not have a procedure in place in the event a quick-witted banker successfully bugs a bag of bills, and, two, if this stands, there is nothing stopping a "cordon and search" in the event the law has a reliable tip that a bank has been robbed.


Woodman said...


"Worst. Apple product. Ever."

Paying retail for a new iPhone amounts to the same thing doesn't it?

Thor said...

I think Matt G. nailed most of the items that I would have.

The bottom line here is that someone in the command structure made a gutsy call that worked out. Was it tactically executed as well as it could have been? We can debate that all day and find ways to improve it.

Given the choice between a localized stop with a suspect that has shown himself to be violent (yet) or a long drawn out chase that has the potential to turn high speed crossing multiple jurisdictions I think they made the right call.

Remember that Aurora is just a suburb of Denver, if you let this drag out you will have multiple jurisdictions involved and risk loosing the track in a hand off between agencies.

Ed Foster said...

Gerry, my cousin is a retired New York City Captain of Detectives, and claims he always held to the school of thought that says "If they're likely to shoot back, turn on the siren at least a mile away so they'll have time to go somewhere else".

Since I usually have one to several firearms in my car, and often the parts for up to several dozen more, I imagine a criminal stop might prove interesting for me.

The entire thing seems a tad draconian. I picture Theodora during the Nika riots telling wussy Justinian to get them all into the Hippodrome and let Justinian sort it out.

I come from a four generation Irish cop family, and really feel for the guy out in that black and white, but the good old boy mentality of some of the paramilitary units in the group leaves me wanting a bit more command and control on the part of whomever it is that lets slip the dogs.

The Waco shootout was entirely unneeded, as Koresh left the compound every morning for a long run, far away from any support. Ruby Ridge was a classic example of Cletus and Gomer wanting to try out their new toys, while assuming their badges would protect them from any backlash. At least in Horiuchi's case, that sadly proved true.

The black pants and bloused boots boys cool it for a while whenever someone overreaches, but the temprament remains, along with the training for functioning under extreme circumstances.

In fairness to them, that temprament and training is totally necessary when the gravy hits the fan. But unless and until it does, the Shock and Awe mentality should be kept on the training field and far away from the kind of subtle and quietly ballsy work a good beat cop does 40 or 50 hours each week.

Joe said...

After the revolution, the rope factories will be running around the clock to keep up with demand.

Woodman said...

That's why so many revolutions fail.

Will said...

One result of this stupidity is now the possibility of a transmitter in a bundle of cash will become public knowledge. Way to go, Barney Fife!

Until they have hand held receivers for these, they might want to just put it back on the shelf, because the cost of this is going to FAR exceed the money taken by the robber. 'Course, it's not about the money...

Will said...

I listened to the CHP chase a stolen Hummer (H2, I think) with a transmitter installed, near ten years ago. Very entertaining! Chase lasted near a half-hour, IIRC. Started in the boondocks, lights off, then to 101, up the peninsula to Belmont(?), into an underground garage for a hotel, and they lost him. Speeds over 100mph at times. This was at 6am, winter, during commute drive time.

I figure he had the lights off while he was doing reversals, and blowing past units at 80mph, because of the triple marker lights required on the hummers. Talked with one of the principle chasers later that day, and he was still pumped about it. First high speed chase for him.

Was the public at risk during all this? Oh, HELL YES! Should they have been doing it? HELL NO!

The lag time for position, direction, and speed info getting to the units was very obvious. Whack-a-mole in the dark. Not very effective.

Tam said...


"After the revolution, the rope factories will be running around the clock to keep up with demand."

Yeah, when I don't have a clue what to do for a solution, I usually shake my fist and make vague comments about "after the revolution", too. I know where you're coming from.

Sadly, the rope after revolutions is usually used on the revolutionaries. From the Committee of Public Safety to Kabul, that has ever been the case.

Gerry N. said...

Too many PoPos are becoming occupying forces instead of Peace Officers. I think it's time to take away all the tacticool paramilitary toys and special uniforms then retrain 'em to be actual Policemen, not blue suited soldiers. Too many people are being killed along with their pets, and all within "Departmental Standards". I still have never had it explained why a civilian Police Department needs full auto weaponry and armored personell carriers.

Sieg Heil, Herr Gauleiter. Zese peasants vill be in line bevore ze ent of ze day. You haff mein vort on zat.

Perhaps it's time for some of us "Peasants" to learn some guerilla tactics.

og said...

They just needed a guy with a bad haircut and a silenced shotgun.

perlhaqr said...

Man, reading that Volokh link really points out how things have changed between then and now, at least in terms of the theory of Terry and the practice as I've experienced it.

We are unable to take even the first step required by this argument. The initial frisk of Ybarra was simply not supported by a reasonable belief that he was armed and presently dangerous, a belief which this Court has invariably held must form the predicate to a patdown of a person for weapons.

I... I really thought Terry had pretty much said "the cops get a free grope". I've been patted down for "weapons" every single time I've dealt with the police and it wasn't "my car just got hit by a drunk driver". Hell, I've gotten the patdown on some simple traffic stops before.

BenC said...

Thor I disagree the gutsy call would have been to let him go rather than violate the constitutional rights of other citizens. He made the easy CYA call.

Anonymous said...

Check the screen cap posted here:

Shields and pointing shotguns at kids?

Devynsdad said...

Nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Anonymous said...

You kinda gotta stop them before they go through the bags of money and find your transmitter. If they pitch it out the window (presuming gloved hands so no fingerprints) then your transmitter is no longer good.

Of course if they are hunting through the bags for the transmitter and find the dye exploder, setting it off, then the car windshield may be color coded to help you find the robbers.

kenlowder said...

This would get really interesting here in Texas. It's perfectly legal to have a gun in your car. Twenty cars stopped to be searched likely would yeaid several guns. Now what? Arrest them all and let the judge sort it out? I don't think so! Then let so shooting start! Cops can't hit anything to begin with. Now add armed, trapped citizens and it will get ugly real fast! All because stupid and lazy cops tried to just arrest them all. And folks wonder why cops are not trusted.

Tam said...


"This would get really interesting here in Texas. It's perfectly legal to have a gun in your car."

It's perfectly legal in Colorado, too.

Obviously the guns were not what led to the arrest, no matter what the journalism grad who wrote the story thought.

I'm sure he was every bit as accurate as his cousin who was reporting on the Zimmerman incident, or at least that's what the Gell-Mann effect tells me...

toadold said...


WGBJR aka Grunt said...

I've got 22 years behind a badge and this was a major constitutional cluster from the get go.It's obvious they had a bundle of cash Lo Jacked from the picture of the FBI guy in the raid jacket holding the little black box over the Oakley wearing buzz cut Judge Dredd wanna be's behind the shield.They had no description just a vector on the signal and they decided stopping everyone and creating a bunch of possible colateral damage was the best bet. I maybe just a good ole boy with a badge from Alabama but they screwed the pooch. Had I been in one of those cars I would have co operated, then dialed 1-800 shyster,shyster,& shyster for the lawsuit.I also for the first time in my career feel that those officers deserve the full tilt boogie treatment from the justice department to include a tour of one of our lovely federal prison camps as an object lesson as a warning to future little Storm Troopers in training.

Tam said...

Hadn't seen the video with the shields and the long guns and the whole nine yards...


Yeah, I agree with the commenter at Volokh's: If you're heavy in Aurora municipal bonds, sell!

Ruth said...

The photo on LRC, do we know where it came from? I can totally believe it came from this incident, but there's no reference as to where it came from and I'd like to see all of it.

Ruth said...

Never mind, found it:

that news channel has several video's on the stop, including all sorts of bits and pieces of footage....

TomcatTCH said...

Ruth, we live in the future, it's the age of the internet.

Here's a video of the screen cap in question.

Here's how I got there.

I binged "CBS channel 4", CBS Miami, Denver, and Minnesota are the top hits.

The logo in the lower right corner matches CBS channel 4 in Denver, which I checked out due to it's proximity to Aurora CO.

Here's an early story on the stop.

The imagery matches up just fine, and the angle works as well. The talking head mentions "heavy weapons" and "hiding behind those metal shields".

That lead me to the first link. Tada.

TomcatTCH said...

you internet faster than me!

Boat Guy said...

"...those officers deserve the full tilt boogie treatment from the justice department..."
Holder's "Justice Department"???
Yeah like that would happen..
Except for that unfortunately dated thought; comments are spot-on!

kenlowder said...

Well if there were some protected minority, black or gay, holder might be interested. That would then let the Feds to 'monitor' the activities of this police department.

DirtCrashr said...

The whole thing reminds me faintly of a time long ago in Spain when the Gaurdia Civil showed-up and cordoned-off the designated hash-smoking corner of a Piazza, and ran everybody through a check-point.
Of course nobody aws found with a gun (or it was smuggled-out post-haste), but Barcelona Commies and Andalusian Separatists had been chucking Molotov cocktails off the roofs a day before and the cops were kinda up-tight. The U.S. Passport only helped identify a fool with no political aspirations or compass...

Ruth said...

Tomcat, I was still drinking my first cup of coffee when I asked, at which point my brain realized I could probly find it quicker myself...thanks though!

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

@ Matt G: You make some good points, and your experience is helpful, but let me counter with two points that are (in my mind) rather important:

1) He was making a serious effort to escape by stealth, not speed. If he holds to that pattern - which he probably will do as long as he thinks it's working - he is not an immediate threat to anyone. With the tracking device, he can be followed and found without following closely enough to spook him, and catching him can wait for a less publicly dangerous situation.

b) Cornering him the way they did, and in the setting they did it in, created a potential shooting gallery of innocent bystanders, and it's only pure dumb luck that the robber wasn't someone willing to kill everybody in sight in an effort to get a way.

This doesn't even consider the possibility that they've totally blown the court case by creating a situation where the only evidence linking him to the robbery gets excluded from the trial, or the civil suits that the ~40 people whose Rights were violated can bring against the city.

Matt G said...

I'm betting that the federal bank robbery case isn't blown.

How do you know that he would have moved to a less-heavily populated area?

Why do we believe that he would go to a location with fewer potential victims?

Part of the problem with comm lags is that you don't know how big the lag is. Typically, the guy who sees the vehicle's location doesn't see the patrol units' locations. That makes it easy to accidentally overtake the guy, tipping him to the fact that he's being followed. What happens when he parks the car in an apartment complex, gets out, leaves the bag with the dough and goes to the complex next door? (Which I would do, were I him.)

Look, I HATE that innocent people were detained. With a burning hot passion I hate that. Worse, I hate that cops pointed guns at people who were not (and often clearly were not) even worth suspicion. That's a different issue.

But I promise you that a good portion of those who are vocally critical of how they did it here would have been just as critical of the "do-nothing police who let a dangerous armed robber go, when they had the tools to catch him!!!"

Tam said...

Matt G,

"But I promise you that a good portion of those who are vocally critical of how they did it here would have been just as critical of the "do-nothing police who let a dangerous armed robber go, when they had the tools to catch him!!!""

This. This is the thing that bugs me.

If I'd been in a cop car, I'd have done something very similar.

If I'd been in one of the detained cars. I'd have sued.

If I'd been from the bank and my bugged cash had vanishes, I"d have tried to burn the po-po.

There're just a lot of ways to lose, here...

Ian Argent said...

First thing I idly wondered about: what's the battery state on the transmitter? There are many ways to subtly screw up power cells, not all of which will be obvious to a spot inspection.
Which in no way obviates Tam@2130

staghounds said...

And it's entirely possible that the transmitter was a quick thinking teller's iPhone, turned on to "find me" mode.

I do not believe this evidence will be excluded, the RAS is pretty good.

Tough call. Glad no one was any worse hurt than being cuffed and having to sit on the curb.

If I were the city attorney I'd offer the detainees $1500 each for their hour of frightened inconvenience. The ones that sue will get less from a jury I'd make sure had plenty of minimum wage black folks aboard.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

@ staghounds: Eugene Volokh noted a good argument that their RAS was not sufficient for warrantless searches, which I quoted earlier:

"The mere fact that someone is present at the place where a criminal may be present can’t provide such probable cause. As the Court held in Ybarra v. Illinois (1979), rejecting the argument that a search warrant that authorized the search of a tavern, based on probable cause that evidence of crime would be found in the tavern, also authorized the search of tavern patrons,"

This seems very similar, in that there was certainly probable cause that evidence of a crime would be found in the intersection, but there was no RAS that any specific person was in possession of that evidence. To quote from Volokh's cited case, Ybarra v. Illinois (1979):

"Where the standard is probable cause, a search or seizure of a person must be supported by probable cause particularized with respect to that person. This requirement cannot be undercut or avoided by simply pointing to the fact that coincidentally there exists probable cause to search or seizure another or to search the premises where the person may happen to be…."
(emphasis mine)

From a preservation-of-liberty perspective, I strongly believe that this kind of "stop and search everyone" approach should not be allowed. RAS specific to the person should be required for a warrantless search, and I personally would be very strongly tempted to exclude this evidence.

Ian Argent said...

This is going to turn on the "reasonable" part of RAS. Was it "reasonable" to detain and search a 95% innocent group?

This case is at the uncomfortable intersection of elegant theory ("the right of the people to be secure in their...effects...") and the messy reality of "there's a violent armed criminal in this radius."

I think that it's for the best that only the specific persons were picked up. Anyone else who might have gotten caught with contraband in their vehicles would have had a much stronger case against the "reasonableness" of the search.

Tam said...


Volokh, (who admitted that he's no 4A specialist) wrote that initial post in the supposition that the search was based on a tip, not on a tracking device of some sort.

Also note that staghounds knows what he's talking about when it comes to RAS. ;)

Anonymous said...

Lojack can disable the car remotely. So can OnStar, etc. If they were using that, it'd been a lot easier to just wait for a longer expanse of road and then kill the ignition. Cops in pursuit just look for the stall. It's been done before (LA chases are less fun with stolen LoJack cars).

My head went to cell phone tracking. It requires fast access to the records, but getting the id of the phone means you can snag it's records and do real-time monitoring of the phone. Of course, it's in a car or a pocket and only good to an intersection. Calling it and hoping to hear it nearby fails because perp hears the phone ring and then turns it off, knowing how he is being tagged.

How do they get the id? Good question, but the first answers I have are fairly Orwellian: bank is tracking EIN (or equivalent) of all customers entering the bank. In event of robbery give police EINs, backtrack account names and run fast records search for demographic data. That could take almost two minutes. Toss customers in good standing; or isolate those with priors. Maybe another three minutes, and this assumes several people in the bank at the time of the robbery.

I have worked for firms that capture EINs of all phones transiting their lobby. They have a sign that basically says, "If you don't like, keep your phone out of our private offices."

It's not unusual in Silicon Valley's deep research centers. Looks like it's hitting the banks, too.

Tam said...

Anon 3:50,

"Lojack can disable the car remotely. So can OnStar, etc..."

Please read the previous comments.

Ian Argent said...

You forgot the part of cell-phone tracking where the cops have to serve a subpoena on the cell phone company, and satisfy their legal departments that the cops have the right to pull customer proprietary network info and other sensitive and confidential info. Real life isn't a police procedural, and sniffing cell phone hardware info gets you zip legally useful info in anything like real time. Plus, I don't think it's is even technically possible - for a variety of reasons that info isn't transmitted in the clear by the mobile.
(I'm not randomly speculating, I have some specialized domain information here - but all of it can be confirmed by open sources.)

Ian Argent said...

Not saying a cell phone couldn't have been used as the locator, just that the location data was not obtained from the phone company, and certainly not by the bank sniffing equipment ID's from the lobby. Theory above was that teller could have pitched their personal device into bag with location enabled. At which point you don't need anyone's permission but the teller's. Or there was a purpose-built device tossed in.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

My bet is that it was a purpose-built device. Why wouldn't the banks move into the 21st century in this area with the amounts of money that are at stake?

Ian Argent said...

Purpose-built devices require care and feeding; calculating keeping charged, testing batteries, and a service plan. It's not the initial cost, it's the upkeep.

Nonetheless, I've sen sillier cellular location device use cases.