Wrong suspect photo released in TCU drug arrests raises questions

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on February 18, 2012 at 12:12 AM

FORT WORTH - The arrests warrants for Austin Carpenter include a picture and a birth date. The accusations against him detailed in the warrant include the sale of prescription pain killers and anxiety pills.

But, it's the wrong man.

Fort Worth police corrected the mistake, but some are now asking questions about the Texas Christian University drug arrests investigation.

"They made mistakes in one and they were very sloppy, then they were probably sloppy and made mistakes in the other [warrants]," said attorney David Wells.

We interviewed Wells from our Houston sister station, KHOU. He is representing another Austin Carpenter.

The teen's family contacted Wells after the possibility came up that their son might be the suspect police were originally looking for.

A reporter from the Dallas Morning News called the family because the teen's truck matched the description of a similar vehicle included in the affidavit. The paper ran checks on the plate also included in the affidavit. They also conducted searches on several databases and Facebook.

"I'm not sure that my client is the Austin Carpenter that they are looking for, either," Wells said. "My client, he's a 19-year-old man, and was a TCU student up to last semester."
 
In the arrest papers, the narcotics investigator wrote that after looking up Carpenter's picture in a database, he confirmed it was the same person he purchased drugs from.

Wells told us he doesn't know what to believe.

"[The two Austin Carpenters in question] don't look alike," Wells said. "The big mistake that they made, placing the wrong photograph on the arrest warrants, makes everything suspect in all the warrants."

Fort Worth police did not respond to our request for information Friday night, but earlier this week they sent out a statement on the Carpenter photo mix-up.

"Unfortunately, one of these arrests listed the incorrect date of birth with an incorrect photo," the statement read. "This arrest warrant has been canceled and the individual has been notified of the error and the warrant cancellation. A corrected arrest warrant will be issued."

Wells told News 8 that so far, no arrests warrants have been filed against his client.

Meanwhile, the family of the Austin Carpenter whose picture ended up on TV stations and internet sites is looking for a public apology from FWPD and they are apparently exploring legal options.

News 8 had the opportunity to interview Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price Friday afternoon on the drug sweep.

She applauded TCU's efforts and called it's response, a "bold statement." City leaders are encouraging all residents and businesses to wear purple on Tuesday in support of TCU.

"Essentially, they are sending a statement and the city wants to be there to support them," Price said.

We asked if she was concerned about the mistake and the possibility that it might lead to lawsuits or jeopardize the other cases. She told us, she's letting Fort Worth police handle it.

"It's really an issue that they will take care of, that the legal team will take care of," Price said.

Investigators have not submitted their cases to the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office. Melody McDonald, the spokesperson for the DA told us, they cannot comment on what might happen in the future, but that each case will stand on its own merit.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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