Police arrested man on Most Wanted list—who wasn’t actually wanted

Mike Krumboltz

Police lineup (iStockphoto)
Police lineup (iStockphoto)

Chau Van was kept on the Oakland, Calif., Police Department's Most Wanted list for months, despite the fact that he wasn't actually wanted for any crime, a lawsuit contends.

According to the Oakland Tribune, 37-year-old Van was named one of Oakland's four most-wanted criminals allegedly for "nearly beating a man to death with a baseball bat in December 2011."

Gawker explains that Van, an accountant, wasn't aware that he was wanted for any crime until a friend told him he had seen Van's name and picture on local news station KTVU in February 2012. Justifiably alarmed, Van went into hiding for a week. He then turned himself in to the police.

According to the Tribune, the police "arrested him and sent him to Santa Rita Jail where he was released three days later" after prosecutors threw out the charge.

While Van was in jail, however, the Oakland Police Department released a statement saying, "One of Oakland's four most wanted suspects has been taken off the streets." It added that Van "is safely behind bars after turning himself in due to media pressure."

Even more bizarrely, after being released, he was kept on the Most Wanted list for six months. Van's attorney, DeWitt Lacy, told the Tribune that "they didn't correct the error and they didn't apologize for it." Lacy described his client as "an upstanding member of the community" who "has always lived a respectable life."

Van is suing for defamation, false arrest and imprisonment, violations of his civil rights and emotional distress. The lawsuit also contends that Van "lives in a state of embarrassment, depression and shame."

In an interview with Courthouse News, John L. Burris, one of Van's attorneys, said, "This is pretty outrageous. We don't know how this mistake was made. We don't know how this happened."