A cab driver who traded drugs for the .357 Magnum handgun used in 1999 to kill a Bridgeport mother and her 8-year-son who witnessed a murder in that city, was arrested early Monday in Fairfield when an officer spotted him talking on his cell phone while driving.

In the Yellow Cab driven by Albrent Daniels, police said a loaded .9mm handgun was found. The gun's serial number was eradicated, according to police, who said they also found a spent shell casing.

Daniels, 39, of Seeley Street in Bridgeport, was spotted around 1 a.m. Monday at the intersection of Chambers Street and Johnson Drive, police said, talking on his cellphone as he drove. He was convicted of providing the gun used to kill Karen Clarke, 41, and her young son, Leroy "B.J." Brown, Jr., 8, before they could testify against drug lord Russell Peeler at his trial for an earlier murder.

When Officer Michael Paris approached Daniels' cab and asked him what he was doing, Daniels allegedly responded, "I'm on the phone." Told it was illegal to drive and talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device, Daniels drove off and headed north on Interstate 95, according to the report.

Paris followed and pulled Daniels over again on the highway, about a mile away. A search of the car led to the discovery of the loaded .9 mm handgun under the driver's seat, with 11 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber, police said.

Inside the car, the search also uncovered a spent shell casing, marijuana and a grinder, police said. A second bag of marijuana was found during the patdown of Daniels, police said.

Police said there were "numerous discrepancies" in Daniels' account of how he acquired the firearm.

He was charged with having weapons in a motor vehicle, carrying a pistol without a permit, altering a serial number on a firearm, criminal possession of a firearm, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and operating a motor vehicle without a hands-free device.

Superior Court Judge Earl Richards in Bridgeport set Daniels' bond at $50,000 Monday, and ordered that he be placed on a suicide watch.

"Obviously, this is of great concern to us," Police Chief Gary MacNamara said. He said a check of state statutes shows that anyone convicted of certain crimes -- including those involving weapons -- is not allowed to drive a taxi cab, and employers must conduct background checks. However, MacNamara said, if the driver is not a full-time employee of the cab company, but instead is considered an independent contractor, a background check by the employer is not required.

The owner of Yellow Cab in Bridgeport was not in the office on Monday.

MacNamara said Monday that police have contacted the state Department of Transportation and are trying to determine if Daniels is a full-time employee of Yellow Cab.

The chief also said they want to see loophole in the background check law closed.

"We don't know his status," the police chief said. "All we know is a convicted felon was driving a cab with a loaded gun."

Bridgeport police are investigating whether the spent shell casing is linked to any crimes in that city, MacNamara said.

In court papers regarding the Peeler case, Daniels is described as one of Peeler's "associates in the drug trade," who Peeler contacted to get a revolver to use in the murder of Clarke and Brown. Brown was in the car of Peeler's drug rival, Rudolph Snead Jr., in September 1997 when Russell Peeler pulled alongside the car and fired at Snead, who was wounded. In 1998, Peeler gunned down Snead in the back of a Boston Avenue barbershop.

Daniels traded drugs to get the .357 Magnum used in those killings, according to court records. The gun was used by Peeler's brother, Adrian, to kill Clarke and her son.

Russell Peeler is on death row for the murders of Brown and his mother.

The traffic stop, and Daniels' subsequent arrest, shows that with such stops "not one of them is routine," said Sgt. Suzanne Lussier, a Fairfield police spokeswoman.

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