Like most everything in law enforcement, predicting where police will find a fugitive is not an exact science.
Take Cliffton Savid Montague, who is charged with murder. Montague managed to elude capture nearly a week after police identified him as the suspect in the Oct. 11 shooting death of 24-year-old Latternace Deshaun Newsome.
Police arrested Montague, 27, about 2,500 feet from the Killeen Police Department’s North Precinct on Second Street. While police scoured the streets searching for the accused killer, he resided in a hotel room eight blocks away from their old headquarters.
“Generally, we follow any leads that we have internally through process investigations and we follow that info,” said KPD Sgt. Candice Reyes, head of the major crimes unit in the Criminal Investigation Division. “Once we’ve eliminated all those leads, then we flood the media, Twitter, Facebook, all our social media outlets.”
In finding Montague, enlisting the public worked. KPD received a tip that led them to the Lone Star Inn & Suites where Montague had been staying. He was apprehended without incident and remains in Bell County Jail.
“Some of it is luck, some of it is reaching out to people,” said KPD Cmdr. Margaret Young.
On the other hand, accused murderer David Michael Vega was located about 1,690 miles from Killeen in Turlock, Calif., after an extended manhunt.
As with Montague, officers exhausted their leads locally and put Vega’s name and multiple pictures out on blast. His photo was plastered in local news outlets.
About two months went by before an astute officer in California found Vega, 28, who is charged with murder and aggravated assault in connection with the Aug. 17 stabbing death of Danielle Acosta-Guerrero, 30.
While patrolling, the officer spotted a suspicious vehicle in a hotel parking lot. The license plate was registered to a stolen car, but it was not the same make or model.
The officer checked the car’s vehicle identification number, which showed the car belonged to Vega. The officer called in a SWAT team, which arrested Vega. He remains in California awaiting extradition to Bell County.
Variety of tools
The disparity in these two anecdotal cases — police apprehended both men earlier this month — reflects the wide ranging tools available to law enforcement seeking criminals.
One of the first and most used tools available to law enforcement are state and national databases.
Police across the U.S. routinely run names and plate numbers through the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database. Texas has its own database as well, the Texas Crime Information Center.
“Anyone that comes across (a suspect’s) name will see that he is wanted,” Young said.
The national database has several rules for making new entries centered around the level of offense.
Information will include a description, the charges, the suspect’s home of record, vehicle information, Social Security number, driver’s license number and date of birth, according to the FBI’s website. All are bits of information police can use to track a fugitive.
Databases contain entries for missing persons as well as for stolen items, such as guns, cars and boats.
Reyes said tracking a suspect is like getting to know them. “It’s who are you. What is your story?”