‘Find My iPhone’ at Center of City Councilman’s Crime Tale

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Don Samuels, member of the Minneapolis City Council representing Ward 5, recently told a tale involving ne'er-do-wells publicly urinating on a building, a stolen iPhone, and the chagrined thief who gave it back at the urging of the cops who retrieved it. Apple's "Find My iPhone" feature played a central role in the story, and we thought our readers might enjoy the tale.

Dude, Don't Pee on the Building

You Know, Because You Need a Law to Tell You This

Mr. Samuels is 63 years old, and he's the chairman of the Public Safety Commission. According to his accounting of the story—in the form of a letter he wrote that was published by The Minneapolis StarTribune called "Not In My City"-he was driving when he saw two young men, one of whom was urinating against the side of the building.

The short version of the story is that he confronted the young men from his car, telling them that public urination is illegal and that they shouldn't do it. This resulted in an alpha-male standoff where the two young men hurled profanity at Mr. Samuels, threatening to kick his ass. For his part, Mr. Samuels pushed back at the two young men, whom he later admitted scared him, but the situation was seemingly defused when the two men ran off, laughing.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Samuels, the second young man was stealing his iPhone off of his car seat, giving them the out needed to run off without having carried through with their threats. (Note that this is a much-abridged version of the story. For the full treatment, read the StarTribune post.)

From there, Mr. Samuels activates Find My iPhone, which locates the phone. He calls the cops who go to the address identified and retrieve the device. He then chose to not file charges (he believed the cops preferred this course of action) under the condition that he got an apology from the young man who took the device.

At this point in the story, Mr. Samuels first reveals himself to be an African-American—though most of his local readers would already have known this due to his many years of service on the Minneapolis City Council.

Don Samuels
Don Samuels

In his story, Mr. Samuels painted the image of him lecturing the young man, who was also just revealed as being black, and questioning him as to why it required the presence of white cops with guns for the culprit to treat the elderly man with respect.

From his letter,

"Now," I said, "consider this. Here I am, a 63-year-old black male of this largely black community. I see two young black men breaking the law and pull over to caution them, and I am cussed out, threatened, intimidated and chumped. I did not call 911, I didn't have a gun, and I was simply interacting with you as an older man to younger men. Now, two hours later, here we are with you saying "yes, sir" to everything I say. But the reason I am earning your respect is not my age or the respect I gave you but the respect you have for two white cops with guns. What has become of our community?"

The story ended with Mr. Samuels challenging the young man to use local resources to find housing, education, or a job.

Mr. Samuels is a politician, and we want to make it clear that this story is based strictly on his own telling. You're free to take it as you will, but part of what we find interesting is the discussion the story has evoked in Minneapolis, with some people praising Mr. Samuels for bravely doing the right thing and standing up for his community, while others criticized his actions as being nothing more than a foolish risk.

Still others have taken the opportunity to suggest that Mr. Samuels only got the police's help because of who he is, but this was countered by other StarTribune readers who reported getting help from the police because of Find My iPhone. There are even some comments arguing that peeing against buildings is AOK.

Indeed, a read through the StarTribune comments finds a fairly divided reaction, with all of the first several pages of comments coming from locals.

This is a story of thuggery, values, public order, politics, crime, and the decision of one man to stand up for what he thought was right. At the center of the story is Apple's Find My iPhone.

Image made with help from Shutterstock.

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Roger Mercer

I am proud that the politician showed enough courage to stand up for what was right.


You built an awful lot of caveats into that story, Bryan.  It might have been more interesting if you had just left it at, “According to his accounting of the story…”  We’re all grown-ups here, and can read between lines.

Bryan Chaffin

We’re all grown-ups here? Have you met the Interwebs, iJack? :D

In any event, I think there’s just the one stated caveat, and I believe it was warranted when relaying a self-told tale of uncorroborated heroism. I personally believe most of the details of his story, and I love the idea of anyone standing up for what’s right. I really love that.

But a balanced job of presenting the story for the sake of talking about the role of Find My iPhone required the emphasis I gave the story, IMO.

Hopefully you can forgive my caution. smile


I don’t think that Mr. Samuels got the police to act because of who he is. I lost my iPhone few months ago, tracked it to a residence, walked into a police station, had a cop accompany me to that house, and the thief answered the doorbell with my phone in his hand.

I live in a very small Midwestern city - where I’ve moved recently, am a brown immigrant, and hold no public office. I didn’t press charges either; I was just happy to get my phone back, and the officer didn’t insist I do, either.

Viva la ‘Find my iPhone’ feature!


Truthfully Bryan, I’m not sure I care if the story is true, half-true or not at all true.  A good story is a good story.

Bryan Chaffin

Aye, Barry, Find My iPhone has been used by many folks to get the police to help them get their device. Thanks for sharing your story!

iJack: We are in total agreement that a good story is a good story!

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