Report released into wrongful arrest by Punta Gorda police
PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -
Same name, wrong person. One month after wrongfully arresting an innocent woman, Punta Gorda Police are finally responding to some of your questions. But even tonight they refuse to acknowledge they made a mistake.
To sum up a 27 page report in one sentence, in one place it says the Punta Gorda Police Department is changing policies as a result of the arrest, but then in another place it said that it had adequate information to arrest her.
And, there's something ironic. A very similar situation happened with the same person and the same police agency three months earlier and they did not arrest her then.
"They said 'this is you. It fits the description and you're under arrest'," said Brandy Lowe when FOX4 first talked to her January 2. She was arrested on a warrant out of Lake County and taken to jail by the Punta Gorda Police December 27, 2013. In the summary of a n internal investigative report done by the PGPD, in one place it says sufficient probable cause existed to arrest Lowe based on these factors: Same name, same race, same sex, same hair color, same eye color, same social security number, and same drivers license number. While officers say all of those factors matched, Lowe claimed they still had the wrong person.
But in another place it said it is revising the way it handles warrant arrests. It is now required for officers to ask for a booking photograph, commonly known as a "mug shot" from the agency where the warrant origniated if a suspect claims the PGPD has the wrong person. In Lowe's case, it took her mother finding the mug shot on the internet to get her daughter released. "I did a Google search, that's all it took," said Dappheny Springer back on January 2. When asked how long that took she said, "I think, uhhhh, 30 seconds."
A report by the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, which runs the Charlotte County Jail, where Lowe was taken said Lowe was relesed because, "....the photos we had taken of her did not match the photo the Lake County Sheriff's Office had"
Come to find out, this isn't the first time this has happened to Lowe. Back on September 18, 2013, Lowe was involved in a traffic accident in Punta Gorda which involved the Punta Gorda Police. The same warrant came up. But in that case the officer, according to the PGPD investigative report, "...reported he requested through dispatch to see if we could get a picture related to the wanted person because some of the facts did not match up." He got that mug shot and the report said, "after receiving the picture from dispatch, which had been received from the Lake County Sheriff's Office, the officer decided the Brandy Lowe in the picture was not the same person as the Brandy Lowe he had at the traffic crash investigation". The officer did not arrest Lowe on the warrant and he let her go.
FOX4 once again tried to get you answers from the chief asking for a face to face interview but he would only respond by email saying in part, "an interview would accomplish nothing". He also said that, even though they had the wrong woman in jail, that she was quote: "treated very well while in custody". He also said his officers, "even gave her son a tour of the department" and that they "acted in good faith". Lowe's son is 11 years old. The chief also called our reports undeserved criticism.
Let us know what you think about the chief's response to how this was handled when you call us at (239) 206-FOX4 or email us at www.news@FOX4now.com