Police use stolen iPhone to track alleged thieves, arrest 3

Published: Tuesday, March 12 2013 4:54 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A trio who police say broke into a home Tuesday didn't get very far. Investigators were able to quickly track them down using the iPhone they had allegedly just stolen.

The group was rounded up within 30 minutes of the alleged robbery because of an app that was on the stolen iPhone that allowed detectives to track the device.

Police say the incident is a good example of why people should learn about what safety features are available for the devices they own — and serves a reminder for investigators to keep on top of changing technology.

The incident began about 2:40 a.m. Tuesday at 1526 E. Westminster Ave. (1880 South). A 46-year-old woman and 21-year-old man were asleep when the suspects forced their way inside. At least one of the home's occupants suffered minor injuries, although Salt Lake Police Lt. Craig Gleason wasn't sure what happened. At least one of the robbers was armed with a handgun.

After the suspects left, responding officers were able to trace them almost immediately because of the iPhone app.

"The information we got from the iPhone was so good," Gleason said. "We had such good information on where they might be."

Investigators tracked the group to a trailer park at 1350 S. Major St. (50 East) a little after 3 a.m. When officers arrived, several people fled into other trailers, Gleason said. Five people were rounded up for questioning. In addition, items allegedly stolen from the house were recovered.

"We did recover more weapons than were reported in the initial home invasion," said Salt Lake Police Sgt. Shawn Josephson.

Justin Craft, 23, Desmond Redkettle, 24, and Jayvoughn Firethunder, 21, were arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of aggravated robbery.

The case shows why it's important to learn about such apps and other safety features, Josephson said.

"It's important for people to be aware of the capabilities of the property they have, whether it's serial numbers, putting their own numbers on there to identify their property, or if there are tracking devices, utilize those to the best of their ability," he said. "Really, those things do help. They hopefully reduce the number of people who are going to steal the property. But if it is stolen, it also helps us recover the property."

Josephson said police, too, can benefit by staying aware of changing technology and realizing how such tools can help solve crimes.

Shane Steel, an Apple technician at Expercom, 80 E. 10600 South, said all iPhone and iPad users should download the free app "Find my iPhone," to their devices. Not only is it a safety net for lost and stolen iPhones, iPads and other devices, it can also be a deterrent for stealing such devices if criminals realize they can quickly be traced.

Steel said he learned that firsthand when he found a damaged iPhone near the side of a road and later came face-to-face with the owner.

"I took it home, threw it on the couch, went to bed," he said. Then about 2 a.m., someone knocked on his door and said: "Hey, my phone's in your house."

Steel said by putting such an app on an Apple device, the owner can also wipe the data from their phone if it's ever lost or stolen.

"You can just wipe it out completely so that there's no more personal information on the device. That's a cool thing, because I'd rather they not have access to my information if I don't get the phone back," he said.

Although Steel deals exclusively with Apple products, he said there are similar safety features on most all smartphones and devices.

Salt Lake police say they aren't sure if the victims in Tuesday's home invasion were picked randomly or if there was some connection to the suspects.

Utah state court records show Redkettle was charged with misdemeanor shoplifting last month, convicted of misdemeanor drug possession in December, convicted of misdemeanor drug possession in March of 2012, felony drug distribution and possession of a firearm by a restricted person in 2009 and criminal mischief in 2008.

Firethunder was charged with misdemeanor assault on Feb. 27, and two amended misdemeanor charges of attempted assault by a prisoner in December. According to court records, Firethunder was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend and then headbutted the arresting officer and threatened to shoot him.

Craft was convicted in January of felony shoplifting. In 2012, he was charged with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon by a restricted person, but the case was eventually dismissed. In 2008, Craft was convicted of rioting in one case and an amended felony charge of attempted theft on another, and sentenced to up to five years at the Utah State Prison.

E-mail: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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