Police Used Pacemaker Data to Find Cause of Arson

You probably know that data is everywhere. On your phone, when you use your laptop, how you search the internet - it’s all recorded and noted somewhere. But police are starting to use different types of data in all kinds of ways. A good example comes from the state of Ohio where police used a man’s pacemaker data to determine the start of a house fire.

The Fiery Details

58-year old Ross Compton, Jr. fled his house one evening carrying a computer tower and a suitcase. Neighbors saw Compton run out of his house and then noted that the house was on fire. Later, Compton told the police that he saw flames, packed a suitcase, broke a window with his walking cane, and threw the suitcase out of the window. He noted that he ran outside with his computer tower just in time.

Compton noted something else. He told police that he had a pacemaker and a weak heart. This caused some suspicion. Police wondered if a man of his age with a pacemaker could do all that he said he did while also trying to run from a burning house. Police then requested a warrant for pacemaker data and then sent the data to a cardiologist.

The Finer Details

The cardiologist determined that Compton could not have done all he said he did in the wake of a roaring fire. Using data from his pacemaker, the cardiologist then noted that Compton did not appear distressed, as he would have been if he had gone through the ordeal mentioned. Based on this information (and the fact that 911 heard Compton tell someone to ‘get out of the house quickly’ - even though he said he was alone), police arrested Compton for attempted insurance fraud.

What is the moral of this story? First, we always presume that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. Next, is never to try and defraud your insurance company by starting a fire (the police can usually tell!). Lastly, it is to be aware that personal data, of any kind, can incriminate you. This is our interesting story for the week!