Cell phone pings proved crucial in helping Washington state police track a suspect in a child abduction case that spurred an Amber Alert.
Dustin Reed, 35, was arrested Tuesday in the kidnapping of his 4-year-old son about half an hour after police started tracking his cell phone. He was taken into custody without incident, the boy was returned to his mother and Chehalis police are wrapping up the case for prosecutors.
All in all, it was an efficient investigation that ended well and quickly thanks in large part to cell phone pings.
"It was very critical in this case," said Randy Kaut, Chehalis deputy police chief. "Who knows how long it would have lasted if we hadn't had the location of the phone."
The Chehalis Police Department sprung into action at 9:12 a.m. Tuesday, when the call came in about the abduction. Within two minutes, officers were at the Human Response Network, a domestic violence crisis center, where the kidnapping took place.
What they learned was this: About 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, the boy's mother, Sheena Reed, 26, had called police about Dustin Reed, her estranged husband, coming to her home in Napavine. Later that morning when she went to the center with her son to seek help in obtaining a restraining order, Reed was waiting in a car.
He got out, snatched the boy from his mother's arms, banged the boy's head on the car and tossed him inside, Kaut said.
A friend of the mother stood behind the car trying to block it, but Reed backed up, hit him and took off, Kaut said.
Although Sheena Reed did not yet have a restraining order against her husband, witnesses' description of his actions alarmed police.
"We were concerned about how he was treating the child," Kraut said. "The child was crying."
At 9:28 a.m., Chehalis police informed Washington State Patrol, which put out an alert for the car, a black 1995 Infiniti G20 with Washington license plates. Kaut said Reed, an active-duty soldier in the Army who went on scheduled leave from Fort Knox, Ky., on Monday, borrowed the car from a brother.
Detectives talked to officials at Fort Knox and Fort Lewis and worked on getting permission from Reed's carrier, Sprint, to track his cell phone.
"Not just anybody can get that information," said Stephanie Vinge-Walsh, spokeswoman for Sprint. "Law enforcement has a protocol they can follow."
Kaut said police departments have to show someone is in danger.
At 10:37 a.m., Chehalis police faxed an initial request for an Amber Alert, then faxed a second one at 10:53 a.m.
At 11:25 a.m. an alert was issued, with broadcasts on radio and television stations and on media websites, blogs and highway reader boards.
At 1:55 p.m., Sprint agreed to turn over Reed's cell phone coordinates.
At 2:04 p.m., the first ping came in, placing Reed inside a Fred Meyer on Washington 410 in Bonney Lake.
Chehalis police alerted the Bonney Lake Police Department. Several pings later, police tracked Reed to the parking lot and then to Washington 410, ending with his arrest near the Fred Meyer.
At 2:35 p.m., he was taken into custody.
Police were pleased and so was Sheena Reed's mother, Tracy Cain, who was with her daughter at the crisis center.
"I was very, very frightened," Cain said. "I knew that time was of the essence. It was a happy ending. We were very fortunate because you never know in a situation like that."
Dustin Reed, who was booked into Lewis County Jail, faces assault charges, and his estranged wife now has a restraining order against him, Cain said.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service