Imagine walking into a post office and seeing your picture plastered on the wall next to that of Mugsy McGriff. If you’re Chau Van, of Oakland, Calif., you don’t have to imagine.
The Courthouse News Service reported on Monday that Van has filed a lawsuit against the Oakland Police Department for keeping his name on their list of "most wanted criminals" for six months.
According to Gawker:
Van discovered that he was one of Oakland's most notorious in February of last year, when a friend saw him on KTVU, which reported that he was responsible for ‘a shooting’…. He called a lawyer, Stuart Hanlon, who in turn called the cops — who openly admitted that there was no arrest warrant.
Van nevertheless maintained a low profile for a week. Then, like any responsible citizen, he turned himself in. He was held for three days and released without being charged.
But his nightmare wasn’t over. Oakland Police released a statement boasting that they had nabbed one of the most sought-after desperadoes:
One of Oakland's four most wanted suspects has been taken off the streets. Last week, Oakland's Police Chief Howard Jordan named Van Chau as one of the City's four most wanted criminals. Today, the Oakland Police Department reports that Van Chau is off the streets of Oakland and is safely behind bars after turning himself in due to media pressure. Chief Howard Jordan said, 'A week ago I stood with community members and asked the community to stand with me to fight crime and today we have one less criminal on our streets. Today a victim is one step closer to justice.'
The statement included a mug shot of Van and claimed he "was identified as the person responsible for assaulting his victim with a deadly weapon, leaving the victim hospitalized with serious head injuries, on December 9, 2011, at 12:23 a.m."
The lawsuit names the Oakland Police Department, the City of Oakland, and two media relations officers. Van is seeking monetary damages for defamation, false arrest and imprisonment, civil rights violations, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Says Van’s attorney, John L. Burris:
This is pretty outrageous. We don't know how this mistake was made. We don't know how this happened.
Once your name gets there, it's hard for people not to believe it. It's like defamation. It's hard to get your reputation back.
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