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DALLAS The scene on the second floor of the police headquarters was almost unprecedented on Wednesday evening. Chief David Brown, flanked by a half dozen top officers, explained what went right and what went wrong as his department sought a serial rapist in the Fair Park area.

'I chose the best path that gave us the best chance to arrest, charge and prosecute the suspect,' Brown said. 'Pick your poison... damned if you do, damned if you don't.'

For the first time, the chief said the suspect now under arrest, Van Dixson, fled to Mexico on Monday using a border crossing near Laredo. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents told DPD that he later returned.

The chief said he thinks Dixson crossed the border to try to confuse investigators.

But 24 hours later, a task force captured Dixson in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

During an interview with Dallas' lead investigator on the series of rapes in the Fair Park area, police said Dixson made statements linking him to one sexual assault.

DNA evidence connects him to four others, police said.

But could the manhunt have been avoided? Dallas police had Dixson at its headquarters last week, where he voluntarily submitted a DNA sample.

At the time, detectives had no evidence to hold him, and had to let Dixson who was considered a 'person of interest' at the time go free.

News 8 pressed the chief on why he failed to order officers to monitor Dixson's whereabouts, which might have prevented his escape.

'That's one of things that I'm continuing to grapple with,' Chief Brown said. 'We had him; we didn't have a reason to hold him. But we certainly had a reason to surveil him. We were scrambling.'

Dallas police said Alan Mason would be cleared as another 'person of interest' in the rapes after evidence from the final sexual assault comes back.

But Chief Brown never was clear on whether he would offer a personal apology to Mason for bringing him into the investigation. The chief said the news media deserves blame as well.

'Down the road, with his friends, his family, his employer, we all have some skin in the game on this one,' the chief said.

The chief later added he would tell a City Council committee and anyone else that Mason never was a suspect in the cases.

On Tuesday, Mason asserted to News 8 that he is innocent of the rape allegations.

Chief Brown spent 90 minutes in all saying he played the percentages, had to make trade-offs, and faced no easy decisions in this case.

He revealed his only regret is wishing his officers could have captured Dixson sooner.

It's uncertain when Van Dixson will face justice in Dallas. He still has to be extradited back to Texas from Baton Rouge, which could happen within days.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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