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Busted by butt-dial: 'This phone really called 911? Damn!'

May 22, 2013 at 12:50 PM ET

Fresno Police mugshots of Nathan Teklemariam and Carson Rinehart
Fresno Police Department
Fresno Police mugshots of Nathan Teklemariam and Carson Rinehart

Worried about the increasing ease with which law enforcement can access cellphones? How can you protect yourself? Step 1 would be: Don't call the cops when you're embarking on a petty crime spree. It's a lesson two men learned the hard way, thanks to a humble pocket dial to 911.

The Fresno Police Department provided TODAY with a recording of a 911 call, made at approximately 11:30 p.m. PT on May 9. In surprisingly decent quality, the audio documents just over a half-an-hour in the lives of Nathan Teklemariam and Carson Rinehart, two 20-year-olds who ended up being intercepted and charged with burglary, conspiracy and possession of stolen property.

"This stuff just doesn't happen — where a crime is captured from beginning to end," Sergeant Jaime Rios told TODAY. "The 911 call was still open at the time of the arrests, and the officer took the phone and ended the call himself."

From the sounds of things, the two California men were just sitting around chit-chatting when one of their phones dialed 911. The 911 dispatcher's attempts to communicate with the callers went unnoticed, likely because the phone was buried in one of their pockets. When one of the men declared, fairly quickly, that they "need weed," the dispatcher decided to keep listening. The pair then decided to break into a car.

The dispatcher was able to hear the men plot how to break into the vehicle, the moment the glass shattered, and even the strange way in which Teklemariam and Rinehart divided up the prescription pills they discovered. (One of the men had trouble counting out the pills, and can be heard cursing before restarting his count.)

The dispatcher was able to feed information from the call to a police officer — and with that, it didn't take long to find Teklemariam and Rinehart. "He's following the s*** out of me, bro," one of the men said, once he realized that the officer was trailing behind their car. A few moments later, they got pulled over.

Though the men tried to play it innocent — "What'd I do officer?" is heard — the situation resolved itself quickly. The officer searched the vehicle, found the stolen items, and quickly busted the two men, one of whom couldn't wrap his mind around what happened. "The phone really called 911?" he asked. "This phone really called 911? Damn."

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