Documents: At least six wrongfully arrested by Dallas police

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by REBECCA LOPEZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

WFAA

Posted on May 13, 2014 at 10:03 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 14 at 2:06 PM

NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE

DALLAS — Imagine police showing up at your door or your workplace with an arrest warrant for a crime you didn't commit.

Over the past year, there have been at least six cases in Dallas where police arrested the wrong person. Now those people are fighting to clear their names.

Shantel Johnson says she won't forget the day her grandmother called her to say Dallas police were at her house looking for her.

"For someone to just be minding your own business and you don't do anything to get in trouble, but police can all of a sudden come look for you? That is kind of frustrating," Johnson said.

When they didn't find Johnson at home, officers went to her workplace.

"The V.P., everybody asking me and e-mailing me, asking me what was going on, like I really committed a crime... something that I didn't do," she said.

Police told Johnson there was a warrant for her arrest for assault in a domestic violence case.

Because police kept looking for her, Johnson turned herself in and was booked into jail. But Dallas police had the wrong woman in custody.

According to internal affairs documents, the detective — Durman Johnson — knew he might have the wrong person, but filed the case anyway.

“Despite being unable to positively identify the suspect, Senior Corporal Johnson filed the case against Ms. S. Johnson, who has a similar name, but is more than 20 years older than the true suspect," said one internal affairs document. “I talked to the detective and told him they had the wrong person — of course he's not trying to hear all that. All he knows is he has a warrant and he has to do his job."

Shantel Johnson is not alone. News 8 found five other cases of people wrongly arrested within the last year that were investigated by the police department's internal affairs division.

In another case, police arrested a woman for making threatening calls to a day care center.

According to documents, the suspect they were looking for was a thin, black female; but they arrested a heavy-set, black female. The women didn't even have the same date of birth.

And then there's the case of Jimmy Ratliff, who was arrested by Hutchins police and confessed to burglaries in Hutchins and Dallas. His confession was obtained by News 8.

"I didn't do it because I wanted to; I did it because I was trying to get back on my feet, or wait 'til a good job popped up," he told police.

Despite a confession and a suspect in custody, when the Dallas detective went to file his case, he filed the case under the wrong name.

Dallas police said they file thousands of successful cases every year, and when they catch a mistake, they fix it and discipline the officers.

But the innocent people involved say clearing their name isn't always easy and sometimes takes months because of what they call sloppy police work.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

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