Man Arrested When Police Warrant Causes Mistaken Identity

Friday, August 13th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A Tulsa man says he was arrested for a crime he didn't commit. The warrant had his social security number on it, his birthdate and even his address. But it was a case of mistaken identity. The News on Six was there when the man was released from jail Wednesday. This exclusive story is from our Six In-Touch tipline.

Jimmy Howe was glad to be out of jail after spending 24 hours locked up. "It was scary cause at first. I didn't know what was going on," said Howe. The mix-up started when Howe made his monthly visit to his probation officer Tuesday. Howe's uncle, Charles Dempsey, was told by the officer that police had to arrest his nephew on a 1994 warrant. At first, Dempsey thought the officer was joking. When he was assured that this was no joke, Dempsey told the officer, "1994, it's not right."

The probation officer acted because of a warrant had been issued which listed Jimmy Howe's social security number, birthdate and home address. It also contained his name, along with another name, "James House". Based on this information, probation thought it was arresting the right individual. But what they didn't know was the warrant was issued for stalking Nicki Bartlett. The man named House she described did not resemble Howe. "He's not 40 years old and he doesn't weigh 190 pounds. Someone made a big mistake," said Dempsey.

Howe's uncle and father, Brian, made dozens of calls and acquired copies of documents to prove Howe's innocence. "Even when I got the documented proof, nobody would listen," said Howe's father. Then they took their case to Judge Jeff Sellers. Sellers listened and released Howe. The judge has scheduled a hearing to correct the problem.

Probation says they simply respond to the information the department received from police. "Of course, we're concerned this could happen. But until the records are fixed, we still show them to be the same individual," said Becky Lawmaster, probation and parole spokesperson. The reason for House and Howe being linked together in the Tulsa Police Department's computer system? Three years ago, Howe was in a car accident. The driver of the other car was a woman. It was raining, so the police didn't respond. Howe says he wrote down his information and gave it to the lady. But the police report shows his name as James House. Whether he or she wrote it down wrong, police don't know.

This explains how the mix-up happened. But it doesn't answer the questions, who stalked Nicki Bartlett? Who is and where is House? Police still have the warrant and are still looking.