If you think wearing a GPS ankle monitor means a person is being tracked and watched around the clock, think again.
Tonight we're finally getting answers surrounding the GPS monitoring of Ross Muehlberger. Newschannel 6 obtained the information from the ankle monitor that traced his every move the day he opened fire at Hastings and Toby's. We spoke with city and county agencies that didn't seem to know who was responsible for monitoring the GPS device. But an attorney involved with Muehlberger's bond reduction cases told us an outside, private company is who takes in the data, and there are only certain things the company is required to report to law enforcement.
As we learned from speaking with Recovery Healthcare Corporation -- the company who owns the technology Muehlberger was wearing -- alerts are only sent out to officials if the person violates rules set by the court.
One of the stipulations for Muehlberger's April 15th bond reduction was that he wear an ankle monitoring device for 90 days. An employee from Dallas-based Recovery Healthcare fitted Muehlberger with the device at his attorney's office on April 19th -- just one day before the shooting rampage. From that point, Chief Operating Officer Vickers Cunningham says alerts would only be sent to authorities if Muehlberger went to places the court said he shouldn't.
"The rule-based system is designed to generate an immediate alert to supervising agencies and whoever in criminal justice has been deemed to be contacted," he said.
In Muehlberger's case, he had to meet a curfew, he couldn't leave the county, and was banned from being within 400 yards of the home of another man with whom he had had a previous altercation. Because he never violated any of those rules, no alert was ever sent out -- not even when he spent an hour at a gun range.
"If they are on active GPS and they have not violated a rule that was provided to us by court order, then the answer is, we're not going to know about it," Cunningham said.
Recovery Healthcare monitors about 300 offenders state wide. Cunningham says it's not practical to have someone watching a GPS map 24 hours a day.
"There's not a person that is going to be just randomly pulling up data and looking at people that are being compliant or not violating rules," he said
That means nobody likely knew Muehlberger was at the shooting range -- which wasn't an off-limits area for him -- until after the fact. Cunningham says only a few agencies have the manpower to keep an eye on everyone all the time.
"The larger agencies will have deputies and probation officers where they have a case load and they're able to go in and see what they're doing at any time," he said.
Cunningham also explained that when a rule is violated, the company can send out alerts to up to 99 different people -- law enforcement officers, attorneys, and even the offenders past victims -- to let them know the offender is somewhere he shouldn't be. In this case, the company could not tell us which law enforcement agency in our area would have been alerted if muehlberger had violated a bond condition.
The leg strap has a sensor on it, so if the person were to cut it, the company would also get an alert almost immediately and send that information to the appropriate people.