A 20-year-old Black man from Ashland, Ore., was wrongfully arrested after officers responded to a call about physical harassment at a store in the town.
“The complainant described the suspect as an African American male wearing a dark colored hooded sweatshirt,” reads the statement from APD Chief Tighe O’Meara. “A few minutes later, police officers stopped a person matching that general description a short distance away from the incident, arrested him, and took him to Jackson County Jail.”
Interesting. There were no other discerning features such as complexion or hairstyle given to the officers other than a Black man wearing a hoodie.
The arrest happened around 8 p.m. Monday and the unidentified man was not released from custody until 8 a.m. the next morning.
A follow-up investigation into the incident concluded and it was proven that the man arrested was not involved. Later that day, O’Meara spoke with the man and his father at their home, and acknowledged and apologized for the department’s wrongful arrest.
The store in question where the harassment was said to to have taken place had surveillance video of the incident. It was seen quickly that the man taken into custody didn’t look like the suspect captured on store surveillance video.
That didn’t stop officers from arresting the young man who was walking near the location at the time.
The arresting officer, Officer Brett Bibby, a backup officer and a shift supervisor were involved in the detainment to varying degrees.
“We’re taking it very seriously,” O’Meara said of the false arrest.
“I think there was a failure to conduct some basic follow-up police work. A conclusion was derived much too quickly. He should never have seen the inside of a police car.”
The department has decided to perform a secondary investigation into why the wrong man was arrested in the first place.
The population of Ashland City, Ore., is 91.5 percent white and 1.7 percent Black. A 2017 report from the National Registry of Exonerations found that across the country, Black men are disproportionately victims of police misconduct and wrongful convictions.
This isn’t the first time that a police department wrongfully arrested someone in Oregon. A white man, Adam Horstman, was wrongfully arrested in another city in Oregon after getting a prescription filled at a local pharmacy, which had been robbed several weeks prior. Unlike the young man in this case, he had been identified by the store manager as the man who’d robbed the store previously. He was awarded $550,000 for his wrongful arrest.
An apology is fair but it does not absolve the Ashland Police Department of their accountability in arresting someone because the officers didn’t do their due diligence. The department saw to it that all charges would be dropped and there would be no record of the arrest. However, a monetary compensation would be in order for this young man’s pain and suffering.
Reader Question: Given the circumstances behind this young man’s arrest, do you think he should be compensated financially