FOX 4 reviews Punta Gorda police policies in wrongful arrest case

CREATED Jan. 20, 2014

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Punta Gorda, Fla. - Four In Your Corner with continuing coverage of the Charlotte County woman who says she was wrongly arrested by the Punta Gorda Police in front of her young son three weeks ago. FOX 4 Investigator Dave Culbreth first brought you this story, and is continuing to push for answers. He's now uncovered another new development!

I did a public records request to see what policies and procedures the Punta Gorda Police have when it comes to verifying the identity of a warrant from another county. Come to find out there's nothing requiring a cop to simply check the mug shot of person wanted.

"They said this is you and you're under arrest," said Brandy Lowe. She lives in Charlotte County and was arrested December 27th on
this shoplifting warrant out of Lake County. But this is the actual Brandy Lowe who is the subject of that warrant. In a side by side comparison, one can clearly see they do not look alike. The Charlotte County Brandy Lowe was taken to jail even after she said they had the wrong person.

We did a public records request asking for the police departments policies and procedures. What we got says, "all warrant arrests will be documented on a probable cause affidavit." It says, "a database check revealed that the date of birth for the defendant was in 1982 and the subject was born in 1988. The social security number, address and description matched the defendant".

But is that true? The warrant says the subject is 5' 7". The Lowe in Charlotte County is 5' 4" tall. The warrant also says the subject has a tattoo on her right ankle. Charlotte County's Lowe does not. "When you compare the information on the warrant with the person standing in front of you and they don't match, that should make a reasonable person, a reasonable officer, stop for a second and say maybe we should validate this, maybe we should look into this a little bit further," says Liz Kagan, who is now Brandy Lowe's attorney.

Looking into it's own policies a little bit further it says, "the issuing agency will be contacted to verify active status." But nothing about verifying photos which, the Punta Gorda Police could have done with an internet search of the Lake County Jail's website. "I would hate to think that the very tools that we all find that help us do our jobs better and make our life easier, the internet, Google searches, I would hate to think that those wouldn't be used in a situation like that just to verify an identity if at all possible,"  added Kagan.

That's what Charlotte County's Brandy Lowe's mother did. She took the mug shots to the Charlotte County Jail and after being detained for 12 hours, Lowe was let out. "I really don't know why they didn't look at it," Kagan reasoned. "It doesn't make any sense to me."

FOX4 has sent emails asking for an explanation to the mayor, all the council members, the city manager, and of course, the police chief and have received no response whatsoever. They say they're doing an internal investigation.