DALLAS –– Alan Mason didn’t know his face was on the news until he was isolated in protective custody Friday at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center.
At 3 a.m. that morning, at least eight officers arrested him at his Arlington apartment and took him to Dallas police headquarters. He was behind on court payments, he said, meaning he had violated his probation for driving while intoxicated.
At headquarters, however, police questioned him about the series of rapes in the Fair Park area. He fully cooperated, submitting to a DNA test and consenting to searches of his apartment and vehicle. Three hours prior to his arrest, though, Dallas Police Chief David Brown tweeted, “Alan mason a person of interest at this point.” He has never been elevated to a suspect in the rapes nor has he been charged with any.
Since his arrest, police have linked Van Dralan Dixson to one of the nine rapes by DNA evidence and issued a warrant for his arrest. Meanwhile, Mason remains a person of interest.
"They don't have to call me a suspect," he said from jail on Monday. "Just by putting my picture by that type of, you know, those crimes, I'm automatically a suspect in the public's eye. It's now like I'm guilty until I'm proven innocent. They didn't call me a suspect, no. But they put my picture up. If I'm not a suspect, why did you put my picture up like that?"
Mason, 29, is a father of one with a master’s degree in criminal justice. He works as an insurance salesman, his plan to work in law enforcement derailed by a conviction for driving while intoxicated. From February 2009 to September 2010, he worked for the Dallas Independent School District as a monitor at Spruce High School, said spokeswoman Libby Daniels. Mason said he helped coach girls basketball and football.
Before the arrest, he knew he was behind in court costs related to his DWI conviction. But being named as a person of interest in the serial rapes blindsided him.
“I just don’t know what to expect now,” Mason said. I’m kind of scared to even, you know, walk around. When I get out, I don’t know how people are going to react to me. I don’t know how my job is going to react. It’s like a fear; I don’t know what to expect.”
Dallas police said an anonymous tip pointed them to Mason. The tipster reported hearing Mason say he did something wrong and needed to skip town. Investigators said he drove a similar car to one the rapist had fled in. He also had similar eyeglasses and, like the suspect, is a black man who stood near six feet tall and weighed between 180 and 200 pounds. Police have not commented further about anything else linking Mason to the rapes.
He was announced as a person of interest hours after a contentious community meeting organized by police regarding the rapes and the department’s response. Police officials have fielded much criticism regarding their decision not to alert the community after two rapes were reported in the area in June.
The department announced the investigation on September 3, when police discovered five more sexual assaults in a three-mile radius south of Fair Park were the work of one man.
“As I take it or understand it, he (Chief Brown) was under pressure because he didn’t put out the proper, he didn’t put those rapes out fast enough through the community. I feel like he was feeling pressured and he used me to take that pressure off of him and I don’t think that’s right,” Mason said.
In a news conference on Friday, Maj. Jeff Cotner, head of the department’s Crimes Against Persons division, announced Mason would not be charged with the rapes. The major also defended the decision to release his name and image.
"We had nine victims. When we started this investigation a couple of days ago, we had seven victims," he said. "We felt it was very important to get the information out and get everyone's assistance in bringing this person to custody to stop these offenses."
Meanwhile, Mason remains at Lew Sterrett awaiting a meeting with a judge. He said he hopes an internal investigation will answer his myriad questions about why he was linked to the rapes, even as a person of interest: Why did police so hastily issue his image and name to the media? Who is the tipster and what is his or her motivation? And will police continue, as they currently are, to label him a person of interest in the case?
“I just feel like, I didn’t have a voice. I was helpless. I felt helpless,” he said. “This morning, I was hoping that they would at least say I’m no longer a person of interest or that my DNA doesn’t match. They didn’t even mention me today. Yesterday, they mentioned me, but they wouldn’t comment.”
Mason said he has not ruled out suing the department.