He apparently just couldn't stop yakking - and that was his big mistake.
In the end, it was Kofi Apea Orleans-Lindsay's cellular phone, police sources say, that helped end the 13-day manhunt for the man accused in the killing of a Maryland state trooper.
The case of Orleans-Lindsay, who was captured early yesterday morning in Brooklyn, N.Y., after law enforcement officials homed in on his cell phone, illustrates the increasingly important role the device is playing in crime-fighting.
As law enforcement's interest in cell phones has grown, it has sparked a debate over privacy and the role of 80-year-old wiretap laws in a wireless age.
Federal and state officials who coordinated yesterday's arrest declined to say how they used Orleans-Lindsay's cell phone to find him, but cell phone industry officials and surveillance experts said a suspect's cell phone can help investigators in two ways.
Law enforcement agents armed with a court order can eavesdrop on all of a customer's phone calls, much as they do on a traditional telephone.
Typically, they do this with the cooperation of the cellular carriers, which can route a suspect's calls directly to "listening posts" set up in investigators' headquarters.
As more criminals use cell phones to conduct business, police overhear everything from tip-offs and confessions to a suspect's location.
Police routinely catch drug dealers and other criminals gabbing on their cell phones about sales figures, stash houses and even shootings.
It was an intercepted cell phone conversation, for example, that led police to Philadelphia and the men who killed Baltimore County police Sgt. Bruce A. Prothero at a Pikesville jewelry store in February.
Over the past two years, wiretaps on cell phones and pagers have outnumbered taps on conventional phones, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
In 1997, courts approved 206 wireless surveillance taps.
Last year, the number of wireless taps grew to 676, compared with 399 on regular phone lines.
Cell phones also offer investigators one other important piece of information for finding suspects on the run: their location.
"Just powering up your phone is all that's necessary," says Steve Uhrig, president of SWS Security, a Harford County manufacturer of surveillance equipment.
The ability to track a cell phone user's whereabouts has to do with the way a cell phone network operates.
When a cell phone is turned on, it broadcasts an identification number to the closest antenna so that the phone company computers know where a customer is if he receives a call.
Law enforcement officials can also take advantage of this process to home in on a suspect. Depending on how quickly his location changes, they can tell whether a suspect is on foot or in a car.
Pinpointing a caller's location depends on everything from the density of cell phone antennas in a particular region to the sophistication of a cellular company's technology. In rural areas, for example, law enforcement officials may be able to narrow down a caller only to within 25 miles, says Travis Larson, a spokesman for the Cellular Telephone Industry Association in Washington.
However, in a major metropolitan area such as Baltimore or New York, cell phone companies can zero in on a specific building - even a floor.
Police agencies argue that the ability to do this is necessary to keep pace with criminals.
"What we've seen is a boom in the use of sophisticated technology by criminals," says FBI spokesman Paul Bresson. "We're struggling."
This capability, however, hasn't sat well with privacy advocates, who argue that police shouldn't be allowed to turn cell phones into tracking devices.
"The government should not be requiring that you carry with you a digital dog tag that could locate you at any time," said James X. Dempsey, senior staff counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington.
Dempsey and other privacy advocates have been pushing for stricter limitations on what information investigators can obtain.
They won a victory in August when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided that the FBI could monitor only the incoming or outgoing telephone numbers, but not the entire contents of the conversation, when it has a limited wiretap order. Privacy advocates such as Dempsey say the question of what legal standard should be applied when police use cell phones to track suspects was left hanging.
Under the rules, investigators must show "probable cause" of criminal activity to obtain permission for a wiretap.
To track where a cell phone user is, police must prove only that the location of the caller would be relevant to an investigation.
Soon law enforcement officials will be able to refine their abilities further. As part of an effort to allow 911 dispatchers to quickly locate callers, the Federal Communications Commission has required that by October all wireless providers have technology that can pinpoint users' locations to 55 yards.
Sun staff writer Peter Hermann contributed to this article.