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Police make murder arrest after cellphone theft goes wrong

A robbery suspect is killed and another is taken into custody in San Francisco

Police in San Francisco have arrested a 16-year old resident of the city on suspicion of murder and attempted robbery after a cellphone theft apparently went wrong earlier this month.

The suspect, who was not named because he is a juvenile, was one of a group who approached someone using a cellphone in the street at around 11pm on Saturday, December 14, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

One of the suspects demanded the cellphone and another suspect produced a handgun while others were going through the victim's possessions, the police said.

"The victim offered no resistance and was complying with the robbery suspects demands when the armed suspect shot the robbery victim," San Francisco police said in a statement. "The shot glanced off the victims face and struck one of the robbery suspects, killing him."

The other suspects fled the area and when police arrived they found the wounded victim and the dead suspect.

The victim was taken to San Francisco General Hospital and survived his injuries. At the time, police said the robbery victim was a 21-year old and the dead suspect was a 16-year old.

Cellphone theft has become the number one type of serious street crime in San Francisco and other major cities across the U.S. Guns and knives are commonly used to threaten people on the street for their phones, which can often quickly be sold.

The city's District Attorney, George Gascon, and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are leading a push to get cellphone handset makers, operating system vendors and cellular carriers to do more to combat the problem.

They are pushing companies to install a "kill-switch" on phones that will allow the handsets to be permanently disabled should they be stolen. They believe this will remove the incentive to steal the phones because they will become useless once disabled.

Gascon and California State Senator Mark Leno plan to introduce a bill into the state legislature in January that would mandate a kill switch on phones sold in California. The law, if it is enacted, could effectively mean all phones sold in the U.S. would have the technology because it could be inefficient for handset makers to produce models solely for California.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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