Do Detroit Police have a history of arrests based upon mistaken identity?
Paul Egan | / The Detroit News
Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- When Anthony Flemister's cousin was picked up by Detroit Police, he identified himself using Flemister's name and date of birth.
The result has been ongoing trauma for Flemister, 21, who has twice been arrested by suburban police forces, who said there was a warrant in Detroit for his arrest. He also spent nearly a week in jail after he visited a Detroit police station in an effort to correct the mix-up.
Detroit Police made the mistake, a new federal lawsuit alleges, despite the fact they had access to the fingerprints of Flemister's cousin and should have known when they arrested the cousin he was not who he said he was.
Also, Flemister's fingerprints came back as "new," meaning the Detroit man had not been arrested before and could not be the man wanted on the outstanding warrant, the lawsuit alleges.
"It was a nightmare," said Flemister's mother, Patricia, who had to sign her Detroit home over to a bail bondsman to get her son out of jail.
Flemister's case is not unique, records show. At least seven lawsuits alleging mistaken identity have been filed against Detroit Police since 2001, resulting in more than $100,000 in settlements and legal fees. Police repeatedly wrongly held suspects, despite red flags such as fingerprints or descriptions that did not match those of the suspect sought, the lawsuits allege.
Police spokesman James Tate declined comment, citing ongoing litigation. In court filings, police have denied gross negligence and other wrongdoing in the mistaken identity cases.
But Flemister's lawyer, Charles Chomet, already has won settlements in two mistaken identity cases involving Detroit Police.
"The evidence shows that Detroit has a major problem with persons arrested using aliases," Chomet said in a brief prepared for another mistaken identity case involving Detroit Police.
Among the cases:
Randy Kyles was jailed for 11 days in 2005 after another man falsely identified himself as Kyles when arrested by Detroit Police three months earlier. After Kyles was released, police arrested him again due to the same mistake about nine months later. Kyle's suit against Detroit was settled for $62,500.
William Beard was held for 1 1/2 days in 2002 after going to the 10th Precinct to tell police they were seeking the wrong man on an arrest warrant for property destruction. Beard was 22 at the time. The man police were looking for was 35. Beard received an undisclosed monetary settlement.
Shurlene Rice spent 14 days in jail after her sister was arrested on an assault charge and identified herself as Shurlene prior to her release, a 2003 lawsuit alleged. Rice's incarceration continued despite her protestations of innocence and despite Detroit Police receiving a letter from the sister -- who was incarcerated elsewhere -- confessing to the crime, the lawsuit alleged.
Carlos Mayes spent 12 days in custody in 2000 after he was wrongly arrested because someone else had used his name as an alias, according to a 2001 lawsuit filed in federal court. Though the case was ultimately dismissed, depositions in the case show Detroit identification officials did not follow up after finding soon after the arrest that Mayes' fingerprints did not match those of the person sought. Though his case was dismissed from federal court, Mayes received an undisclosed settlement to head off an appeal.
Flemister was stopped in Farmington in June 2005 and told Detroit Police had a felony warrant for him for receiving stolen property, the suit filed in February in U.S. District Court alleges. The warrant was actually for Flemister's cousin, who had used his name when arrested in 2004. Farmington Police released Flemister when Detroit Police declined to send a cruiser to pick him up.
A month later, Flemister was arrested on the same warrant by Clawson Police. Again, officers released Flemister when Detroit Police declined to take custody of him.
Flemister, a salesman who was working for a temp agency at the time, was applying for a full-time job at a business where he believed they would conduct a background check. He said he and his father went to the 9th Precinct on Aug. 19 to try to get the false arrest warrant cleared up. Despite his protests of innocence, police promptly arrested him, the lawsuit says.
Flemister, who lost his temp job and the job he wanted to apply for, was held at the precinct and the Wayne County Jail until Aug. 25.
If my cousin or brother used my name and my date of birth after getting arrested for stealing hubcaps or robbing a delivery truck, I'd be pissed. Someone's silly ass would be getting smeared across the pavement.
Make up a name. Use a dead person's name. Use your worst enemies name. But saddle a family member or a friend with arrest warrants and a criminal record that's next to impossible to erase- that's just plain bad ghetto manners.
Here's to examples of poor etiquette unique to the 'hood.