Posted November 28, 2013

West Virginia State WR spends three nights in custody over mistaken identity

NCAAF
To complicate matters, Jawon Johnson has the same birthday as Jawan Johnson. (Ian Duncan/Youtube)

To complicate matters, Jawon Johnson has the same birthday as Jawan Johnson. (Ian Duncan/Youtube)

A wide receiver at West Virginia State University spent three nights in custody over his holiday break earlier this week because of a mistaken identity, according to a report from Ian Duncan of The Baltimore Sun.

Jawon Johnson, an 18-year-old freshman at WVSU, was pulled over in Maryland by a local police officer last Saturday night. After realizing his name, the officer thought he had found a man — Jawan Johnson – who has a warrant out for his arrest to testify in a Washington burglary case.

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Because of the “quirks of the interstate extradition process and the slow crawl of weekend paperwork,” according to the report, Jawon, the Baltimore resident who was simply on the road to visit a friend during his holiday break, had to spend the next three nights in a cell at the Harford County Detention Center.

“They arrested me and took me back to the station and showed me a picture of who the guy actually was. It wasn’t me, but they said they still had to hold me until the marshals came and got me.”

Since the warrant was issued in Washington, the student-athlete had to wait for U.S. marshals to take him to federal court in Baltimore. Jawon’s family friend, David Lutz, a deputy U.S. marshal, picked him and drove him to Baltimore, but because of standard operating procedures for transporting a prisoner, innocent or guilty, Lutz had to keep his friend in handcuffs while he transported him.

“He’s an upstanding young citizen. Even if we trust the person or believe their story, you have to treat everybody the same.”

A spokesman from the local Havre de Grace police department said that they honestly thought they had the right person at first, in part because the two men coincidentally share the same birthday.

“When you have similar photos, name and date of birth … the stars looked aligned. We honestly thought everything was on the up and up.”

The man police are seeking remained at large as of Tuesday night. Footage of Jawon, the student-athlete, being released into his family on Tuesday can be seen here:

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22 comments
hoptowntiger94
hoptowntiger94

What about fingerprints? Shouldn't that have solved the issue. I hope this kid gets a huge settlement. I distrust our police and our legal system more and more each day.

Robert96
Robert96

Our police officers are doing the best job they can. Sometimes, though rarely, there is a mistake. Things happen that cause inconvenience to suspects.........would you rather they be so shackled by ambulance chasing lawyers that they over look probable criminals for fear of making a mistake?  Look what happened to Zimmerman.............he spent months in arrest or house arrest and tens of thousands of dollars and was innocent! This boy should just say thanks to the police for trying, for making life safer for the citizens and good luck in the future on finding bad guys.

vmb
vmb

I'm assuming Alolfis has never been locked up. I'm also assuming if this was you or your child, you would have a drastically different view on the matter. How do you know he didn't already have a "good perspective on how important getting a college education is"? Additionally, no one is missing the part that he was "released" to a family friend. This family friend was likely doing a favor for the boy's parents, as he likely would have been in jail even longer if the man didn't personally pick him up and take him to Washington to get the mess cleared up. And what free trip are you talking about? He was already home in Baltimore. He wasn't trying to get home anymore at that point, as he was already there. You really need to think about what you say before making it public. If the man and his family do sue, they have a good case and should win. Thinks called wrongful inprisonment, and, at least to me, is a huge problem.

JoshMcKay
JoshMcKay

Meh. I'm sure it'll be made right after the lawsuit for wrongful arrest comes through. And it will. God bless America and no where else.

MrArlington
MrArlington

This is the kind of BS that makes a lot of people consider cops to dumb knuckle draggers.

eddie767
eddie767

@hoptowntiger94 They didn't fingerprint him. The way the police are talking they didn't need to b/c the names and pix said he's the man. By the way he didn't look like wanted persons picture.

Richard B
Richard B

@Robert96 Um, Zimmerman has nothing to do with this. By that rationale, OJ Simpson was also wronged.

DLCovert224
DLCovert224

@Robert96 The people replying in the negative to you are the same ones who would be complaining when I'm giving them a ticket telling me I should be out chasing real criminals. The kid in the story had a really great attitude. There's not a lot the officer can do when your name and birthdate comes up as someone that has a warrant. The only thing that baffles me is why wasn't fingerprints taken after the young man was arrested and sent off to Washington to confirm? However, I wasn't there so I can't criticize the officers.  

Azeron
Azeron

@Robert96 Yes.  Innocent until proven guilty not guilty until proven innocent.  This is not a police state despite the Patriot Act.

Centennial
Centennial

@Robert96  

".. and besides, they all look alike" -  was the only thing you left out. 

Adolfis
Adolfis

@vmb Apparently you have not seen the photo of the warrant issued. 

One letter off in the names, each shared the same birthday and the resemblance between the two is very similar.

This was a Federal Warrant that was issued not State or City. Totally different guidelines in how they are handled.

Yes I have been in the clink and if this was my child in the same situation I would be upset. But given all of the information in this case I would have the intelligence to see how this would happen. Would I be happy? NO! But it is very understandable.

It was not wrongful imprisonment. If the family were to pursue this any further I am sure it would be made clear to them that no judge in the world would allow this lawsuit to get very far.


How many arrest warrants have been issued where there was a typo? One letter here or there? In this case it was an "o" and an "a". Every law enforcement department knows this and in cases like this one they err on the side of not letting a possible criminal walk away. Especially when it comes to Federal Warrants. Especially given their close proximity to DC.


So come at me with what you will. This is a non issue. Sure it sucked for the kid. But he was well looked after and I bet his treatment was a lot better than it could have been. I bet you he even had his own cell away from other people in custody.

BryanCustard
BryanCustard

@MrArlington While I can't really blame the cop for the initial booking (birthday= same and name being similar), he should have been in and out in a relatively short period of time, as in the same day the booking occurred. They could have easily ascertained it was not the same person, and there is no logical reason that he needed to appear in front of the court. The three days bit turns an unfortunate,yet rather small incident, into a major issue of citizen's rights.

Adolfis
Adolfis

@MrArlington Ahhhhh you are so smart. Same birthday, one letter off in the name, he must have looked a lot like the picture the police had to be kept in custody. As messed up as you think this story is, the justice system worked and he was set free in plenty of time to visit family and friends. Plus you are missing the huge part of the story.... He was released to a " Jawon’s family friend, David Lutz, a deputy U.S. marshal" and do you really think he kept him in handcuffs? NO. He did have to spend a few nights in jail. Probably got a good perspective about how important getting a college education is while he is playing football. And I am sure he is thankful for getting a free trip to go see his family instead of visiting a "friend".


Happy Turkey Day everybody! You too MrArlington ;-)

Adolfis
Adolfis

@BryanCustard @MrArlington I would agree with you if it was a State or City warrant that was issued. But this was a Federal warrant that was issued. Totally different ballpark.

jack22
jack22

@BryanCustard @Adolfis @MrArlington such 'high-tech' resources must be kept for important occasions, such as the campaign of one barrack obama for potus. no point 'wasting' them on 'trivial' things like this or making sure that obama care works for anyone other than their fellow government employees.