DALLAS -- It's a mess that's embarrassed the Dallas Police Department.
At least 22 prisoners were set free without posting bond from the Dallas County Jail since June 1. They were let go in the fiasco surrounding the department’s new, $4 million records management system.
At least one of them - Lavatray Polk - is now accused in a much more serious crime. He’s accused of robbing a man in downtown Dallas early Sunday with a machete.
“I got scared, I felt like they were going to stab me or something,” Miguel Casas told News 8. “I am very disappointed that they let those people out of jail.”
Last week, police acknowledged that three property crime offenders went free because cases weren’t filed in time with prosecutors. They only acknowledged this week that there had been more releases following a News 8 review of police arrests.
They went free because county policy gives police three business days to file misdemeanors and many felonies with prosecutors. If that doesn’t happen, a prisoner is simply released.
According to police records, Polk and another man were jailed on June 8, accused of a car burglary on Harwood Avenue. The county jail released them June 12. Detectives hadn't met the filing deadline.
Three days later, in the early morning hours of Sunday, Casas was walking to his car on Elm Street after finishing a shift cooking at a downtown restaurant. He told police that two men approached him and demanded his phone.
“I told them I didn't have service,” Casas said. “He then said he didn't care if I had service or not. He demanded that I give him my phone as his friend showed me a large, knife-like machete.”
Casas handed over the phone. He chased after them. He encountered a police sergeant patrolling on a bicycle at Akard and Main Streets. He told the officer that he'd been robbed.
He and the officer cut through Pegasus Plaza and spotted the two robbers at AT&T Plaza Park.
“That’s them. Give me back my phone,” Casas yelled at them, according to police reports.
One robber fled down Jackson Street. The other - subsequently identified as Polk – fled down Akard with the police sergeant chasing him.
“I’m on a bike. You’re not getting away,” the sergeant told Polk, according to the reports.
Polk stopped and the sergeant arrested him, the reports state. Casas said that Polk was the one with the machete. Police found the machete and phone in nearby bushes.
DPD officials have promised that won't happen again. They say they've put procedures in place to prevent it. They are having police jail sergeants keep lists of those arrested, and then those lists are sent to the investigative units to prevent additional mistaken releases.
Police unions are skeptical at best.
“I hope that that is enough to fix the problem,” said Richard Todd, president of the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police, “but who knows? You’re going to have to wait and see, because it’s a mess."
Polk is in jail on bail totaling $100,000. He’s accused of aggravated robbery and evading arrest.
His alleged accomplice remains at large. He, too, is believed to have been among those mistakenly released.