South Palm Beach police kept a man in jail for six days in a case of mistaken identity. What has people disturbed however, is after positively identifying the person they had in custody, they continued to hold him.
Hugo Menjivar was attempting to help out a friend who couldn’t drive home when he was arrested back on October 30, 2014. A friend of Menjivar’s called him up asking for a ride home because he had been drinking. Menjivar obliged and hopped in his car to go help out his friend.
When Menjivar arrived he found that South Palm Beach police had already detained his friend on an unrelated incident. When asked what he was doing there, Menjivar explained to police that he was there to give his friend a ride. Police demanded Menjivar’s license and he handed it over.
According to the Miami New Times:
The cops radioed into their headquarters — which shares a dispatcher with the town of Lantana on the mainland — and, to Menjivar’s shock, they returned a few minutes later and slapped handcuffs on him. They told the incredulous Menjivar, who had no criminal record and had never even been to the West Coast, that he was wanted in California and would be held in jail pending an extradition hearing.
Menjivar says he still figured it would be easy enough to sort out the confusion. When he got to Palm Beach County Jail, he handed over his wallet, which included his social security card, his bank cards, and multiple other forms of ID.
To Menjivar’s surprise the confusion was not sorted out as easy as he expected. Despite all the identification proving his innocence, police allowed him to rot in a cell for six days while never bringing him before a judge to rule on out-of-state warrants for extradition.
Furthermore, Menjivar’s mug shot was plastered all over social media and missed work because of the ineptitude of Palm Beach police.
After a week in custody, Menjivar was abruptly released without so much as an apology and handed a bus pass to find his way home.
It wasn’t until after his release did Menjivar find out what happened. The man from California with the warrant went by the name Francisco Menjivar (not Hugo Menjivar) but his real name was Petronilo Armijo. Armijo’s birthday was a full year ahead of Menjivar’s and obviously had a different social security number. The icing on the cake was that Armijo had a run-in with police before and a booking photo was in the system. Armijo and Menjivar do not look alike. Despite all the conflicting information, police still held onto Menjivar.
“You have all this information right in front of you, and it takes you six days to realize your mistake? Really?” says Rogell Levers, Menjivar’s attorney. “You have his license, you have his social security card and everything, and yet this still happens?”
“They never even brought him out for a first appearance, which is very strange,” Levers says.
Menjivar is suing the towns of South Palm Beach and Lantana, as well as the two officers who arrested him, alleging they breached their duties by failing to properly check the warrant from California and Menjivar’s IDs.
“They all screwed up in this case,” Levers says. “The booking sheets make it very clear that they had his IDs the entire time, and they just messed this one up.”
The police chiefs of both departments had nothing to offer as a reason for the heinous blunder by their officers.