Jeremy Cook died on Sunday in London from multiple gunshot wounds from suspects who were in possession of his lost phone, which he was able to track with an app.
The 18-year-old used a special app similar to Apple’s Find My iPhone to find his misplaced smartphone – though it’s not clear what kind of device he owned or which app he used to retrieve it.
“It’s certainly extreme,” London Police Const. Ken Steeves told The Canadian Press. “No one ever would have predicted or even thought that a loss of life would have resulted from a loss of a phone.”
After leaving his phone in a taxi, Cook traced it to an address on Highbury Avenue and then he went to find it with a relative. When he arrived at the address, he was confronted by three young men in a car. It’s not entirely clear what happened next, but police say that the vehicle began to drive away when Cook tried to get his phone back, at which point he grabbed on the driver’s side door. Shots where then fired at him, and he ultimately died.
The car and phone have been recovered later, but Cook’s attackers are still missing, with police looking for three men with ages between 18 and 21.
This appears to be the first case of serious violence resulting from tracking a lost smartphone online. Mobile operating systems including iOS and Android have built-in tools that help users lock down and find devices that are either forgotten or stolen. These security kill switches have reduced the number of smartphone thefts, as owners are able to quickly attempt finding them.
“The app itself is a great tool to have. Nobody could ever predict that what occurred was going to occur in that case,” Steeves added. “But if you suspect there’s any potential for violence at all, we certainly encourage people to contact police. We’d be more than happy to come out and investigate with the hopes of retrieving the phone.”
“It wasn’t the app that took away Jeremy’s life, it was the individuals, which would be rare, who happened to be armed with a gun,” he said.