Imagine taking an annual road trip for your birthday and while out of state you get pulled over by police. Naturally, you try not to startle the creature in their habitat. But what if, instead of pulling you over for some innocuous traffic violation, you’re being singled out for hitting another police officer back home? Only thing is, you didn’t do it. But you are out of state with an open arrest warrant over your head. Can you plead with the officer your case? Will the police admit to the mistake or will they be hell bent on proving your fictitious guilt? What do you do?
Florida resident, Kevin Gray, recently went through this ordeal as he drove through Georgia. He and his younger brother were headed to Atlanta earlier this month when they were pulled over. Gray was arrested after being identified as the man who hit a Palmetto police officer in January.
Gray contested he was not that man. His protests weren’t enough to sway the TIfton County officer’s decision to take him in. Unfortunately for Gray, the information on the warrant matched the information on his driver’s license. He was told law enforcement in Manatee County wanted him arrested and held.
And that is what the officer did. Gray was held 10 days in jail before being extradited back to Manatee County, Fl.
Following the first weekend in lockup, Gray went before a judge to plead his case. He told the judge his arrest was a mistake and he was falsely identified as the person who hit the officer. He pleaded with the judge that he needed to get back home to his 18-month-old daughter. The judge told him the only way that would be possible is by extradition. Gray ultimately agreed to be extradited back to face the false charges. He said during his time in jail, he was forced to join the Bloods, a violent gang, for protection.
After being transported back to Manatee County, Gray went before another judge, and again, pleaded his innocence. That judge had a photograph that was used to point the finger at Gray. That photo was a grainy, black-and-white copy of the photograph from surveillance video used to identify Gray. The quality of the photo was too poor to corroborate Gray’s claim of innocence.
But somehow it was enough to say he was the guilty party? Cop logic at its finest.
Based off the photo, probable cause was found for Gray’s arrest on the bogus charges. He was officially charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest without violence. He was released from the jail and placed on the Supervised Release Program.
Conditional freedom in hand, Gray went to the Palmetto Police Department (PPD), the ones who accused Gray of being the suspect. Again he contested the allegations against him. Officers there showed him a color photo of the surveillance footage officers used to point him out.
“You’re right, that’s not you,” Gray said an officer told him.
In a rare act of humility, the police admit the error and apologized to Gray. They promised that everything would be taken care of. Gray later received a call from the District Attorney’s Office echoing the officers’ reassurance that the matter would be resolved. Gray didn’t have to do anything on his end. Gray was told the charges would be dropped and expunged. The State Attorney’s Office wrote a letter on Gray’s behalf saying he was “unintentionally misidentified as the perpetrator of a crime which, the evidence has since demonstrated he did not commit.”
“All they could do is tell me, ‘Sorry,’ and they don’t know how it happened,” Gray said.
The police admit the wrong doing and all the charges were dropped.
Palmetto Chief of Police Scott Tyler was unable to determine where the mistake occurred. He conceded that police admit the error in fingering Gray as the suspect and a breakdown in the investigative process.
“We are extremely sorry that this guy got picked up and spent 10 days in jail,” Tyler said. “At the same time, I think the detective was reasonable and the investigation was reasonable.”
The Bradenton Herald reports that no officers were disciplined in the mix up. Tyler is implementing two procedural changes.
The first will require officers to be more detailed in their reports, including documenting how they identified a suspect. The second change will require officers to document any attempts to find a suspect before sending a capias request to the State Attorney’s Office.