Stingray snooping puts local cops, feds on man’s tail

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Invasive surveillance brought a combat-oriented arrest in a quiet Rossville, Ga., neighborhood. (Photo WRCB TV3)

Invasive surveillance brings a combat-oriented arrest in a quiet Rossville, Ga., neighborhood. (Photo WRCB TV3)

Overwhelming force, deputies and officers stand at the foot of a staircase before storming a house in which they have gassed a fugitive with 20 tear gas shells. (Photo WRCB TV 3)

With overwhelming force, deputies and officers stand at the foot of a staircase before storming a house in which they have gassed a fugitive with 20 tear gas shells. (Photo WRCB TV3)

By David Tulis

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.

It’s not clear from news reports on what pretext the federal marshals service got involved with Mr. Pam, whose alleged violations appear to be in state jurisdiction. But that agency has tasked itself with arresting fugitives.

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 nonsuspect members of the public.

Cell site simulators are not known to be in use by Tennessee police and sheriff’s departments.

Invasive surveillance

The devices are highly secretive in their use. The FBI and other feds try to keep 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.

Timothy B. Pam, given away by his cellphone

Timothy B. Pam, given away by his cellphone

Tiffany Zapata-Rangel, caught by loyal lie

Tiffany Zapata-Rangel, caught by loyal lie

“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 —

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This report is from Chattanooga’s CBS affiliate, WDEF TV-12.

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