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Dad Arrested Over 'Battleship' Dispute Thanks to Cellphone GPS

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on November 11, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Utah man was arrested for pointing a loaded rifle at his own daughter after a game of "Battleship" apparently didn't go his way.

Utah County Sheriff's deputies arrested 68-year-old John Valenzuela after receiving a 911 call from the man's 17-year-old daughter, Salt Lake City's KSL-TV reports. Though the daughter managed to dial 911, she was reportedly not able to speak with dispatchers.

How were authorities able to find her?

Cellphone 'Pings' Led to Location

The teenage girl was unable to tell dispatchers her location, but officers were able to locate her by pinging her cellphone to get her location using GPS technology. Cellphones are constantly connecting to cell towers, even when not being used to make calls. Law enforcement can use these towers to ping individual cellphones, using the information to discover the location of the device.

Although law enforcement must generally obtain a warrant to use cellphone tracking technology to track a criminal suspect, authorities frequently use the technology in situations such as this, when a person is in need of rescue or may be missing.

Authorities also noted that the girl's phone was not activated with a wireless service provider at the time she made the emergency call. FCC rules provide that wireless carriers must transmit 911 calls from cell phones to Public Safety Answering Points even when the caller is not subscribed to a provider's service.

Aggravated Assault Alleged

Valenzuela was charged with aggravated assault, which under Utah law includes an assault committed with a dangerous weapon, in this case a gun. Aggravated assault is a third-degree felony under Utah law, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Valenzuela was also charged with criminal mischief, intoxication and unlawful detention. He is being held on $10,000 bail.

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