Black Vet Seeks Legal Action After Being Charged For Crime Committed By Man With The Same Name
Police misreported the man's birthday and the wrong man was later charged in connection to a felony domestic violence case.
March 26, 2021 at 7:12 pm
A Black man wrongfully charged by San Antonio police in connection to a domestic violence incident is seeking legal retribution for the botched 2019 investigation.
According to local news station KSAT, Michael Wright, 34, was charged months after the San Antonio Police Department investigated a domestic dispute between a woman and her boyfriend, a 38-year-old man also named Michael Wright.
On March 16, 2019, officers were dispatched to a neighborhood where they found a woman in her car with a friend. The woman told police that her boyfriend had slammed her by her throat in a jealous rage.
Body camera footage from that day showed officers entering the couple's home and waking the suspect and detaining him.
As KSAT reported, while the suspect was in custody, a responding officer incorrectly entered the suspect's information into the system. The officer pulled up the birthdate for the wrong person despite the suspect confirming his correct date of birth multiple times aloud while being detained. He was eventually released from police custody without being charged.
The birthdate for the wrong Wright was subsequently entered into the system and was included in the police department's charge and disposition report for the case.
During the summer of 2019, a few months after the incident, the younger Wright received a call from his mom that the fugitive apprehension team was searching for him. He was told that he needed to turn himself in for a "domestic abuse charge, a felony."
The 34-year-old, a military veteran, arrived at the county courthouse hoping to rectify the mixup.
“I still had to be shackled up and walked down the prison basement, from wrist to ankle. In front of my kids, my brother, sister and my dad,” Wright said. “I served my country, did it for eight years. And for something like this to happen to me. It’s just incredible. It hurt a lot. Just, just seeing my son’s face, my kids crying.”
The military veteran's lawyer reviewed case documents, including the original bodycam footage of the initial arrest of the suspect on March 16. The footage showed officers arresting a man with long hair who was 100 pounds heavier than the 34-year-old.
In October 2019, prosecutors dismissed the domestic violence charge, citing in court documents that the “wrong Michael Wright was arrested.”
Civil rights attorney Nathaniel Mack, who represents the now-absolved 34-year-old Wright, said he is in negotiations with the city’s office of risk management about the possibility of an out-of-court settlement. He also suggested that a federal lawsuit is being considered by Wright’s legal team because negotiations have not developed.
“So in my opinion the blame lies mutually with the district attorney’s office as well as the city," Mack told KSAT. "There should be policies in place for these kinds of things to get caught early on. And for whatever reason, they were not. Whether it was blatant discrimination or inexcusable incompetence, I don’t know, but we’re going to get down to the bottom of it and hold those people accountable and hopefully, changes will be made.”
City Attorney Andy Segovia shared earlier this month that the risk management office is in talks with Wright’s team, but refused to elaborate further on the case.
“I would definitely say the system is broken. It needs to reform. It needs retraining,” the wrongfully charged man said.
Both the police chief and Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales declined to go into further details, per KSAT.
After exhausting all leads, police officials said that there have not been additional arrests. However, neither Detective Reynaldo Montes nor Sgt. James Cline appears to have received any punishment for their blunder in the case. An evaluation of the city’s civil service records found that neither officer has been suspended since March 2019, when the domestic violence incident took place.
Ultimately, the suspect was brought to justice. Court records indicate that the older Wright was indicted this past summer. He was booked in October, but is now out on bond and awaiting trial.
This isn’t the only time the SAPD has been involved in a case of mistaken identity. In August 2020, police arrested a Black jogger named Mathias Ometu who they believed matched a domestic violence assailant’s description, according to KSAT.
Ometu was initially charged with two felony counts of assaulting a peace officer and spent two days in the county jail until his case was thrown out.