Dumb Criminals of the Week: The Three Guys Who Accidentally Butt-Dialed 911 Mid-Crime

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
May 24 2013 12:58 PM

Dumb Criminals of the Week: The Three Guys Who Accidentally Butt-Dialed 911 Mid-Crime

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

Crime is Slate’s crime blog. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @slatecrime.

Names: Scott Simon, Nathan Teklemariam, Carson Rinehart


Crimes: First-degree murder (Simon); burglary (Teklemariam and Rinehart).

Fatal mistakes: Calling the worst possible number at the worst possible time.

The circumstances: This was a very big week for police-related butt-dialing, with two separate stories demonstrating why criminals should always, always carry their phones in one of those nerdy cases that you clip onto your belt. In the first story, which will likely be dramatized as the newest entry in the Harold and Kumar franchise, Nathan Teklemariam and Carson Rinehart were driving around Fresno when one of them must have shifted his weight, accidentally dialing 911. The alert dispatcher soon realized that the call was an accidental one, and, moreover, that the guys on the other end might be up to no good. For the next 35 minutes, the dispatcher stayed on the line, listening and gathering information as Teklemariam and Rinehart did the following: discovered a car they thought they could burglarize; discussed how to break into the car; allegedly broke into the car; “exclaimed in delight” over finding narcotics in the car; became confused as to how and why a police car was following them as they drove away; and reacted in disbelief when the arresting officer revealed that they had been on the line with 911 the entire time. “This fool really called 911? Damn,” one of the men said. Damn, indeed.

The second case is less comical but just as stupid. In the beginning of May, a Florida man named Scott Simon got in a fight with another man in a Waffle House parking lot. Soon thereafter, Simon allegedly told the man that he was going to follow him home and kill him; we know this because Simon had accidentally butt-dialed 911 beforehand, and authorities were listening in as he made the threat. Sure enough, a 33-year-old man named Nicholas Walker was shot and killed minutes later. The cops don’t think Simon actually pulled the trigger, but they do think he coordinated the murder. They arrested him earlier this week, and Simon was shocked to learn that his butt had snitched him out. “He had no idea he called 911,” a sheriff’s office spokeswoman told the Miami Herald. “He basically told on himself.”

How they could have been a lot smarter: It’s called a keypad lock, and it exists to prevent pocket-dialing. Pretty much every phone has one. Use it! Now, I’m told that some phones allow you to call 911 even if your keypad is locked. If your phone is like this, there’s another simple solution: Turn your phone off before you go out burglarizing. Really, who are you going to call, anyway?

How they could have been a little smarter: You never know who’s eavesdropping in this day and age, so it’s generally a good idea to use code words if you’re going to be discussing crimes in public. Instead of saying you’re going to follow someone home and kill them, say you’re going to follow them home and kiss them.

How they could have been a little dumber: They could have also butt-dialed 411, thus racking up tens of dollars in unnecessary charges.

How they could have been a lot dumber: Accidentally sit on car’s GPS unit, butt-dial coordinates for police headquarters.

Ultimate Dumbness Ranking (UDR): I suppose these guys could’ve been dumber if they had deliberately called 911 in some weird, Riddler-style, catch-me-if-you-can-coppers gamesmanship move. And that wouldn’t have been dumb so much as straight-up crazy. I’ll give them a 9 out of 10.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.


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