PORT SAINT LUCIE, Fla. - Sixteen-year-old Nick Douglas had his iPhone 4 stolen from his bag in the boy's locker room at Treasure Coast High School.
"I dug through it, my phone was gone. I checked through my front compartment and my charger was gone," Douglas said.
Port Saint Lucie Police school resource officers say, two other teens were in the locker room who did not have gym class during the same period. They were captured on surveillance video playing basketball. When questioned, however, they denied taking the cell phones.
Douglas knew his father would not replace the phone that he had received just two days prior. So, he took things into his own hands, launching a personal investigation. He used a willing friend's Facebook account to communicate with a suspect via direct message.
"At first I didn't think he was going to reply, at least not right after," Douglas said.
Those direct messages are now police evidence, because the Facebook account for the suspect did reply.
"I pretended I wanted to buy it from my suspect and he came up with a phone that matched my own, down to a T," Douglas said.
After exchanging messages, Douglas went to meet the suspect and brought along school resource officer Nathanial Penney.
"Once I arrived, the suspect immediately started running over this berm here, and right over there," said Penney.
After he was captured, read his Miranda rights and questioned, nineteen-year-old student Billy Simplice told police he had taken the phone. However, the suspect now claims he was "set up." He says he didn't steal the phone, and that he was asked to sell it by someone who logged on to his Facebook account.
"The police was pressuring me, they went through every single text message in my phone and they didn't put none of that in the police report," Simplice said.
Simplice says he is looking for a lawyer.
Penney says it is extraordinarily rare for a victim to bring evidence in a case in this way. While Port Saint Lucie Police do not encourage people to take justice into their own hands, Penney says it is unlikely the phone would have been recovered without the work of Douglas.
Irwin Douglas, Nick's dad, says his son is a gifted student and clever, but he raised an eyebrow when he learned of his son's plan.
"The fact that he went and did it on his own was gutsy, brilliant and gutsy," Irwin said.
Now that Douglas has recovered his stolen cell phone, he says he has no plans to become a detective when he graduates college.
"I want to play professional basketball, that would be my first goal, but my backup, I want to be an engineer," he said.