Accused of a shooting, he evaded police for days – even though he’s on GPS supervision

Bruce is on the lam after allegedly shooting a woman in front of her 11-year-old son in New Orleans earlier this month – and the GPS tracking hasn’t helped find him. — Image by fabrikasimf on Freepik

After police arrested Jonas Bruce for menacing his mother and stepfather with a rifle at their Baker home, a judge let him walk free last fall on a US$6,000 (RM25,446) bond and a mandate that he submit to GPS tracking by a private company.

Now Bruce is on the lam after allegedly shooting a woman in front of her 11-year-old son in New Orleans earlier this month – and the GPS tracking hasn’t helped find him. He has evaded US Marshals and New Orleans police for nine days, court records show, in part because the company tasked with tracking him did so using an app on Bruce’s smartphone which he apparently circumvented simply by turning his phone off.

The case is the latest to expose holes in a patchwork system of GPS monitoring companies operating without oversight across Louisiana and beyond. In many jurisdictions, the private firms contract directly with criminal defendants who are awaiting trial, often charging them hundreds of dollars a month for ankle monitors or similar devices.

Judges order such arrangements, but all too often, the oversight stops there, experts and officials say.

Daniel Banguel, owner of a Baton Rouge firm that was monitoring Bruce called DTS Monitoring, said Bruce stopped logging his location on the app on Jan 16. Court records show the company reported to 19th Judicial District Court Judge Tiffany Foxworth-Roberts that day that Bruce had violated terms of his bond.

The alleged shooting in New Orleans occurred six days earlier.

Bruce would have easily been able to skirt the monitoring company by turning off his phone, Banguel said. Banguel was not aware of the new allegations against Bruce until a US Marshal called him on Tuesday to request information about his whereabouts.

“I guess what happened is he had multiple charges in different jurisdictions,” Banguel said in an interview. “Sometimes I’m not sure the jurisdictions know (someone) has charges in other areas unless they research it.”

A New Orleans Police Department spokesman said Bruce remained at large Jan 19 afternoon.

The shooting he is accused of carrying out inside an apartment in New Orleans’ Little Woods neighbourhood adds to a growing list of cases that have brought scrutiny upon Louisiana’s pretrial monitoring industry in recent months.

In the fall of 2021, a St Francisville man stalked his estranged wife for weeks, ultimately killing her, all while wearing an ankle monitor. The device registered his every move, but staff at a company that was watching the man failed to alert law enforcement to the violations until it was too late. A grand jury indicted two employees on negligent homicide charges several months later.

Earlier this month, a Texas lawyer under separate protective orders in Baton Rouge and New Orleans menaced his ex-partner’s house for days before setting it on fire Saturday, arrest records allege – an incident clocked at every step by a GPS monitor strapped to his ankle.

Police did not respond to alerts of the violations from the New Orleans-based company monitoring his location in the days before the fire, the company has alleged.

All three recent cases came on the heels of a record-breaking wave of domestic violence in Louisiana. In that landscape, GPS monitoring technology – most commonly packaged in ankle monitors or phone apps – has grown as a network of firms made big promises amid a push for cash bail reform.

Beyond the oversight worries, the tech has faced criticism over sometimes poor functionality and what some describe as its overly burdensome effect on people accused of minor violations.

Bruce has a long criminal record in East Baton Rouge, court records show, including multiple domestic abuse charges, assault allegations and parole violations. But it’s unclear if he’s been released under electronic monitoring in the past.

An arrest report shows his most recent charges in Baton Rouge stem from a December, 2021 incident where he’s accused of arriving at his mother and stepfather’s home in Baker with a rifle and accusing his mother of hiring someone to kill him. A witness told police they believed Bruce was on drugs and that the argument ensued from a dispute over who should have custody of Bruce’s young daughter.

Bruce is accused of running from police when they arrived on the scene, the document says. Foxworth-Roberts, the judge in East Baton Rouge, ruled on Oct 25 that he should be released on a US$6,000 (RM25,446) bond under monitoring by DTS, court records indicate.

The alleged shooting in New Orleans occurred less than three months later. On Jan 10, a woman arrived at New Orleans East hospital with gunshot wounds to her face and the left side of her torso, an NOPD account of the incident says. The victim told detectives she had been shot in front of her 11-year-old son during an argument with Bruce, who became angry after she woke him from a nap on a couch at the apartment on Hayne Boulevard.

Bruce had been recently been evicted from his apartment and was living with his aunt in New Orleans, wrote Moore, the Baton Rouge district attorney, in his request to revoke Bruce’s bond. Whether the aunt was also Bruce’s alleged victim is unclear.

“I ought to finish you,” Bruce allegedly told the woman, according to the police report. “Because you are going to call them people on me and I ain’t going back to jail.”

The victim “begged” Bruce to drive her to a hospital after being shot, the affidavit says, but he called her an Uber instead.

As authorities searched for Bruce in recent days, Banguel, the monitoring company owner, provided law enforcement five addresses in New Orleans where the app had previously logged Bruce’s location. A New Orleans police detective found that four of the five locations were “bogus”, Moore wrote in his request to revoke Bruce’s bond.

In his letter to the court on Jan 16, Banguel wrote that Bruce “is not in compliance with the DTS Monitoring Program. Mr Bruce is currently being monitored by phone and he has not checked into the phone app in the last 48 hours, nor has he had any contact with DTS Monitoring. ... We have tried calling his cellphone and references for the last two days and we have been unsuccessful in establishing contact with Mr Bruce.”

Banguel said the decision to track Bruce through the cellphone app stemmed from his release on a relatively low bond. Had he been indicted on more serious charges, he might have been placed under a stricter form of supervision like an ankle monitor, Banguel said. – The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La./Tribune News Service

Article type: free
User access status:
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Next In Tech News

Exclusive-EU regulators to clear Google's maths app deal, sources say
US FTC seeking information on cloud providers market power
Companies would have to offer repairs for worn-out products for up to 10 years under proposed EU rules
Stablecoin issuer Circle says exec's Twitter giveaway offer was scam, account was hacked
Amazon raises hourly pay for UK workers by 50 pence; union mulls more strikes
UK says Broadcom's $61 billion VMware deal could hurt server competition
German green group sues Meta alleging failure to curb threats
Amazon has rolled out contactless tech to 200 locations including Panera cafes
Australia's Latitude at all-time low on more evidence of large-scale data theft
Russia's Ozon appeals Nasdaq delisting plan