OAKLAND, Calif.—According to new government affidavits filed earlier this week, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) used its stingray without a warrant in 2013 for several hours overnight as a way to locate a man accused of being involved in shooting a local police officer. When that effort was unsuccessful, the OPD called in the FBI, which was somehow able to locate the suspect in under an hour, and he surrendered to OPD officers.
That suspect, Purvis Ellis, is the lead defendant in the case of United States v. Ellis et al. The case involves four men who are charged with the January 21, 2013 attempted murder of local police officer Eric Karsseboom in the parking area in front of a Seminary Avenue apartment complex in East Oakland. The men are also charged with running an alleged local gang, centered around Seminary Avenue (known as “SemCity”).
While these new filings fill out the timeline a bit more, they also raise new questions in Ellis, which has provided a rare insight into how this surveillance device, also known as a cell-site simulator, is used in practice to find suspects, and the seeming lengths the government is willing to go to keep it quiet. The tool has come under increasing scrutiny by lawmakers and activists in recent years. Since this case began, the Department of Justice, which oversees the FBI, and the State of California now require a warrant when a stingray is used in most circumstances.
According to the government, Ellis, who is …