Suspect streams police negotiations online

 

Washington

He calls himself an "urban combat correspondent":

He hops from one Baltimore crime scene to another in a beat-up taxi, using a blog and social media to discuss crime and police misconduct that he says the mainstream media ignore.

Lately, he had complained that the police were out to get him and had threatened on Twitter to kill any who tried. Over the weekend, they did come for him, serving an arrest warrant on an alleged probation violation connected to an old gun conviction. As promised, Frank James MacArthur did not go quietly.

As heavily armed tactical officers massed outside his North Baltimore home Saturday night, MacArthur streamed his hours-long telephone conversation with police negotiator Lt. Jason Yerg live over the Internet.

It's unclear how many people listened in, but the five-hour standoff nevertheless marked an apparently unprecedented development in the interaction of social media, digital technology and law enforcement, which is still adjusting to a world in which its actions are constantly photographed, videotaped and debated online.

By broadcasting the negotiation, MacArthur made public a sensitive conversation between police and a suspect, turning Yerg into an unwilling guest on a live talk show before peacefully surrendering in time for Saturday's 11 p.m. news broadcasts.

MacArthur was ordered held without bail on the alleged probation violation. Authorities said Monday that they were contemplating further charges related to the standoff and a sawed-off shotgun they said was in his house. Meanwhile, authorities have just begun to sort through the implications of usually secret talks streaming live — and whether that posed a danger to the police or made it more difficult to negotiate a surrender.

Police say Yerg didn't alter his tactics even as his every utterance could be heard across the Internet, although they also concede that the negotiations were prolonged as commanders tried to avoid using force.

"This will go right into the training scenario," said Elbert Shirey, a retired Baltimore deputy police commissioner and former commander of the tactical unit. "They will discuss this in classrooms and go through everything to try and determine how everybody reacted."

Situations in which suspects take to digital media during fast-moving situations are not unprecedented. This fall in Pittsburgh, a man who took a hostage in an office building posted about his ordeal on Facebook until police cut off his access, fearing it was interfering with their negotiations. But such measures are becoming increasingly difficult.

"Every individual around the country is now an instant broadcast station," said Robert Louden, a retired commander of the New York police's tactical division and a criminal justice professor at Georgian Court University in New Jersey.

Former Baltimore police commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said that what MacArthur did can distract police and the suspect and invites outsiders to intervene in the discussions.

"It takes away from creating a real connection and having a real dialogue with the person," Bealefeld said. "And all sorts of well-meaning people could interject themselves. It's fascinating to the people at home who have this sense of voyeurism, but it's also a significant hurdle for law enforcement."

With his tall frame and flowing dreadlocks, MacArthur stood out at police news conferences around Baltimore. He frequently sped to crime scenes, then taunted reporters who weren't there on Twitter.

He has said he has police sources, and while postings on his Baltimore Spectator blog have often been incorrect, he also has included details that indicate someone in the know was feeding him scoops. He knew in advance, for example, the date and time of the police department's secret plans to raid Occupy Baltimore.

A few years ago, when MacArthur had a radio talk show on WOLB (1010 AM), he invited Bealefeld to appear. But MacArthur also exhibited a deep suspicion of police, who he said were after him. Police were similarly wary of his tactics, concerned that he was more activist than journalist.

MacArthur was given probation before judgment on a 2009 gun possession charge, but state prison officials said he failed to show up to meetings with his probation agent, who charged him in June with violating the terms of his release. Officials say MacArthur then failed to show up for a court hearing, and a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

MacArthur told Yerg during the negotiations that he had heard a rumor about the warrant and saw it in a public online database. But he also said he checked with his police sources and said he grew nervous when they could not find it. He said he intended to turn himself in, calling the warrant "a tripwire" meant to silence him.

Before his negotiations with Yerg, he had threatened police on Twitter. "Try to tread on me," one post read. "See what happens. See who's right and who's wrong. See who knows how to fight."

"Anyone trying to capture me, ur gonna have to kill me, before I kill you," he wrote in another.

As police neared his home, MacArthur tweeted: "Poor guy I take out might have a family."

Baltimore police said those threats led them to send the tactical team to his home. MacArthur said that was evidence of police unnecessarily targeting him, telling Yerg during their conversation that "as a taxpayer, I'm offended" at the resources sent to apprehend him.

MacArthur told Yerg that he didn't want to surrender because he couldn't trust the police.

"We live in a dangerous town, where your department can't even solve half the murders that take place," he told the lieutenant. "People like me wouldn't take on a marshal mind-set if you guys did more to make us feel safer. . . . We feel we're out here on on our own, lieutenant."

Yerg responded: "We're here because we genuinely want to help the citizens of Baltimore. We want to solve every crime that occurs. . . . That being said, we're here today . . . "

"To take me down," MacArthur interrupted.

Yerg said, "We want you to come out. "

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payable Assistant - Central Lond

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payab...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

.Net/ C# Developer/ Analyst Programmer - West London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .NET/ C# .Pr...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on