Case of mistaken identity lands Durham teen in jail

Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Teen arrested was mistaken for criminal
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A mom says her son was arrested for a crime he didn't commit

DURHAM (WTVD) -- A Durham high school student was handcuffed and hauled off to jail for a crime he says he didn't commit.

The teenager's mother turned to ABC11 for help, calling it a case of mistaken identity.

It was last week when LaVerne Johnson got a disturbing phone call. Her son said there was a warrant for his arrest and that he was going to jail.

Johnson says her son Marquis Whitaker, 17, was publicly humiliated.

"They went into my son's class and arrested him. He was handcuffed, fingerprinted," said Johnson. "This can, like, affect him."

The high school junior was charged with misdemeanor simple assault. He claims he doesn't even know the alleged victim who took out an arrest warrant.

The listed victim claims Whitaker-- or someone with the same last name-- grabbed him and tried to punch him.

Durham County authorities went in search of Devon Whitaker, the named suspect in the arrest warrant. It's just one a few discrepancies his mother found.

"His name is not complete. It's Devon Whitaker," explained Johnson. "My son's name is Marquis Devon Whitaker. It says that he's 21."

Johnson pointed out the alleged suspect's address which is different from their home address. The suspect's date of birth was also missing on the arrest warrant.

The Durham County Magistrate's Office tells ABC11 an approximate age is sometimes allowed. After an alleged victim takes out a warrant on their own, authorities search for the suspect's name in a statewide database. Then law enforcement is notified and the warrant is served.

"How did they get his name from wherever they looked and chose him," Johnson asked. "It clearly has to be mistaken identity."

ABC11 Eyewitness News contacted the Durham County Sheriff's Office. They tell us there was a discrepancy between the person who was arrested and the suspect who is listed in the arrest warrant.

As a result of the ABC11 story, an arrest warrant was issued for the real suspect.

Johnson is relieved but fears the damage may already be done.

"I just want my son's name cleared," she said, adding that before this incident her son wanted to the join the U.S. Army and become a police officer.

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