Technology Used by Newport News Sheriff’s Office to Make Bomb Threat Arrest

The Newport News Sheriff’s Office is sending a strong message that it takes bomb threats seriously.

On March 5, 2013, an arrest warrant was served on 21-year old Devon Tyrell Slaughter after an investigation by the Sheriff’s Office traced the phone call to a payphone outside a convenience store located in the 4700 block of Marshall Avenue.  Surveillance video from inside and outside the store was used to identify the subject.

The Sheriff’s Office determined that Slaughter was trying to delay his sentencing hearing on a malicious wounding conviction, scheduled the morning of the bomb threat.  He was coming off the street for that hearing and knew he was to be remanded into the custody of the jail.

Captain David Hughes wanted to strengthen his criminal case to ensure a conviction, so he did not stop with the public telephone.  The suspect also made additional calls from a pre-paid cell phone mistakenly thinking those calls could not be traced.  “The new E-911 system can pick up the GPS location of even pre-paid phones,” explained Hughes.

Technology used by the Enhanced 911, or E-911, tries to automatically associate a location with the origin of the cell phone.  There are two general approaches to locate a mobile device geographically.  One is to use some sort of radiolocation from the cellular network; the other is to use a Global Positional System (GPS) receiver built into the phone itself.  Radiolocation is done through triangulation between radio towers.  A GPS system needs orbital information of the satellites to calculate the current position of the cellular device.  An assisted GPS server downloads the orbital information and stores it in a database.

In the event of an emergency, the caller’s number is used to derive a location that can be used to dispatch police, fire and EMT’s.  There are other benefits to E-911 besides a quicker emergency response time.  Geographic map coordinates can assist with collecting criminal evidence.

“We were able to see the proximity of Mr. Slaughter’s residence to the convenience store where he made the first call before making subsequent calls from a cell phone, ” said Hughes.  The suspect was charged with one count of threats to bomb for each call he made the morning of February 20, 2013.   The suspect was in the Newport News City Jail on the malicious wounding conviction when deputies made the arrest on the new charges.  He is now charged with four (4) counts of threats to bomb, a Class 5 felony that carries up to ten years in prison and up to a $2,500 fine.

Sheriff Gabe Morgan said, “My position is to send a strong message to anyone who attempts to impede the justice system, whether through witness intimidation or by disrupting court proceedings.  We will use all available resources to bring them to justice.  The public should have a high level of confidence in the justice system’s ability to not only arrest, but also to ensure they have their day in court without disruption of those proceedings.”

This is the second bomb threat arrest made by the Newport News Sheriff’s Office (NNSO).  In November of 2010, the NNSO arrested a man in connection with the October 20, 2010 bomb threat.  That arrest led to a conviction.

These investigations headed-up by the NNSO are all part of the agency’s increase in law enforcement activity.  This is a force multiplier for the residents of the City of Newport News.  The local police department is the primary law enforcement agency for the city.  Sheriff’s office personnel are supplementing those efforts without any additional tax dollars from citizens.  “The work we are doing to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth,” said Sheriff Morgan “is being conducted during the hours of our regular duties.  Stepping-up our law enforcement activity has not required additional personnel or funding.  We are providing an added value to the citizens of this city.  They deserve safe neighborhoods to live and work in.  We have taken an oath of office to exercise our power of authority to help ensure their safety,” emphasized Sheriff Morgan.

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