Florida Man Chews Off Fingertips

A Florida man traveling through Ohio made the news this week in a bizarre incident wherein he tried to conceal his identity. The man, now identified as Kirk Kelly, 24, of Tampa, Florida chewed off the skin of all his fingertips while detained in the back of a police car in order to prevent identification through the law enforcement fingerprinting system.

WSB TV reports that Kelly was pulled over at 3:00 a.m. in Tallmadge, Ohio on February 21. On questioning, he initially gave the officers false identification documents. After the Florida man finally admitted that he was from Tampa, the officers then contacted the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office which in turn provided photos of Kelly to the detaining officers. Kelly has a wide span of distinctive tattoos inked all over his body, so officers were then easily able to verify his identity through the photos.

Kelly and three other people were detained, according to NBC Miami, due to a license plate violation and because police officers thought that they smelled drugs in the vehicle. They were then placed into a police cruiser without handcuffs. That is when the Florida man made the effort to chew the skin off of his fingertips. He actually also provided police with a variety of false names during questioning, including that of his younger brother.

It turns out that Kelly is actually a fugitive from Florida. He is wanted there on firearms and drug charges, and several warrants have been issued in that area for his arrest on charges that include racketeering, illegally selling handguns, and drug trafficking. He has been wanted in Florida for roughly four months.

Talmadge Police Chief Ronald Williams stated to the press that handguns that have been verified as being sold by Kelly have been linked to 15 murders in Florida.

The Florida man has been arrested and is facing a variety of charges, including evidence tampering and obstructing official business, both felonies. He also faces misdemeanor charges of falsification and resisting arrest. He is being charged through the Stow Municipal Court and is scheduled to make his first appearance on March 1. He is currently being held at Summit County Jail in Akron, Ohio. Plans are also being made to extradite him to Florida.

Cleveland.com writes that the Florida man's decision to bite the skin off of his fingers was prompted by the fact that he heard police officers discussing whether or not to use a handheld fingerprint scanner to make a positive identification on him. It ended up though that, because the photos from Hillsborough County accurately identified the fugitive, Kelly's efforts were in vain.

Handheld fingerprint scanners have become a popular source of technology to identify suspects in the field as they have become cheaper and more accessible over the years, according to Police One. Most are about the same size and shape as a handheld metal detector. The devices have a postage stamp-size platen on which the suspect places their fingertip. The device then translates the fingerprint image into a string of numbers easily recognizable by the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), a database accessed by law enforcement agencies.

The data is then searched in local databases and is then expanded into national ones if a match is not initially made. Any information obtained through the match, i.e., name, date of birth, physical description, and sometimes a mug shot, if lucky, is returned to the device and matched with the suspect's identifying information. Because the match is made with only partial fingerprint data, it can sometimes be possible for the information returned to match multiple individuals. However, comparing the data presented with the presenting information of the detained individual can usually ascertain whether a mismatch has occurred or not. Definitive identifications can only be met by the standard of being done by a human examiner who takes prints of all 10 fingers.

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