When 18-year-old Jeremy Cook arrived at a parking lot in London, Ontario, he had no reason to suspect anything of the seriousness of the nightmare that was about to unfold. In attempting to locate his lost cell phone, the Canadian teenager had used an app to track it and had pinpointed its whereabouts to this seemingly innocuous location.
Eager to be reunited with his handset, Cook headed to the parking lot with his sister in tow.
However, guided by a commonplace piece of mobile technology found on many people’s phones, they were being led into a situation that was about to spiral fatally out of control.
The tragic chain of events – which would ultimately unfold in the early hours of June 14, 2015 – began innocuously enough when teenager Cook mislaid his cell phone in a taxi.
With Cook having recently completed his studies at high school before going to London to take an internship while he honed skills as a carpenter, the loss of an expensive phone must have been a significant concern for the young man.
So in a bid to track down the lost handset, Cook – originally from Brampton, Ontario – turned to one of mobile technology’s most useful security features: a tracking app.
The app – known as Find My iPhone – allows its user to locate their missing handset from another device. It uses GPS to show the location of the lost handset on a map, helping those who have misplaced their phones to track them down.
Yet although the app is designed to help people find their devices when they’ve simply been misplaced, and while it has the facility to remotely lock or erase the handset’s data in the event of theft, some people use its tracking features to attempt to recover their phones if they’ve been stolen.
Canadian police advise that in the event of theft an individual using the app should contact the authorities rather than trying to find a stolen phone themselves, particularly if they have any reason to suspect that things might get violent.
However, when the app revealed to Cook that his phone was at an address in North East London, he set off with his sister to hunt it down.
When they arrived at the pinpointed location, Cook encountered a trio of men in a Mazda Sedan. Some sources suggest that at this point the men confronted Cook, while others claim that he approached the men himself in the hope of reclaiming the phone.
What happened next, however, is clear. When the three men attempted to leave the scene in their car, Cook grabbed on to the side of the vehicle. Shots rang out, and Cook was hit several times and died at the scene.
The crime shocked the local community, with friends of Cook taking to social media to express their disbelief at the events that had taken place.
Meanwhile, various media outlets took the incident as a cue for a debate on the safety issues surrounding tracking apps and theft.
For Cook’s friends and family, though, the ordeal was in some sense just beginning. With the car and the stolen phone being found abandoned near the young man’s body, the hunt was on to catch the thugs capable of committing such a callous crime.
Weeks after the shooting, a man drowned in the Rideau River, Ottawa while attempting to evade capture by local police who had been pursuing him. The man was later revealed to be Muhab Sultanaly Sultan, who had been wanted in connection with Cook’s death.
Then, after a country-wide arrest warrant was put out on him, second suspect Mohammed Ibrahim Sail gave himself up to police. A third suspect, as yet unidentified, is believed to be still at large.
While the authorities work to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice, they are at a loss to explain how or why such violence could have stemmed from something as relatively minor and everyday as a lost phone.
“No one ever would have predicted or even thought that a loss of life would have resulted from the loss of a phone,” said Ken Steeves of the London Police.
While applications such as Find My iPhone can be a useful way of tracking down your mobile device if you’ve misplaced it in your home or at a friend’s house, Cook’s story is a tragic reminder to think twice before using the technology to confront thieves.