Oakland police kept man on Most Wanted list for nothing

A man with no arrest warrant out for him was mistakenly on the list for sixth months

By Natasha Lennard

Published March 11, 2013 9:43PM (EDT)

  (Shutterstock/Michael D Brown)
(Shutterstock/Michael D Brown)

Chau Van was surprised to hear that he was one of Oakland's "most wanted" criminals last year -- after all, there wasn't even a warrant out for his arrest. According to Courthouse News, "Oakland Police [kept Van] on its Most Wanted list for six months though he was not wanted for anything, the man claims in court."

Van has now sued the police department for publicly branding him "a violent felon." Via Courthouse News:

The first he heard of the fiasco, Van says, was when a friend called him on Feb. 7, 2012, and told him that KTVU-TV was broadcasting his name and picture, describing him as "one of Oakland's Most Wanted criminals."

He went home and checked the Internet and saw that sure enough, "his name and face were on the news and that it was being reported that he was responsible for a shooting," Van says in the complaint.

The news left him "shocked and afraid" and "scared that the police would break into his house and possibly harm him based on this mistake," Van says in the complaint.

When Van turned himself in to the police in an attempt to resolve the mistake, he was held in a jail cell for 72 hours and the OPD released a statement, which began: "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." This despite no arrest record ever being put out for Van.

The OPD has not commented on its mistake but Van's lawsuit seeks costs and punitive damages for defamation, false arrest and imprisonment, civil rights violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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