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Wrong man arrested, says suit against Layton

Thursday , June 12, 2014 - 4:59 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

LAYTON -- A case of mistaken identity has deeply upset an autistic man after he says he was falsely arrested and imprisoned.

Lance Whitaker, 43, is suing Layton City for damages after he was thrown in the Davis County Jail for a crime he did not commit, because police mistook him for another man with a similar name, according to U.S. District Court documents in Salt Lake City.

On July 19, 2013, police arrived at Whitaker’s Layton home to arrest him. They handcuffed him to his front porch and said they had a warrant for his arrest, according to court documents. Whitaker, who has autism and also cares for his elderly father, was shocked by the arrest and said that the police did not question him further about his identity.

Police actually had a warrant for felon Lancer Whitaker, 42, of Brigham City. Lancer was arrested a year earlier for shoplifting. After failing to appear for his court date, a bench warrant was issued. However, Lancer allegedly gave the slip to police by providing a fake name and address. 

This somehow led police to Lance Whitaker, who has no criminal history. He was booked into jail and despite his protests and pleas that he had no idea what was going on, he was ignored, he said. Whitaker tried to phone his father from jail, but was unable to reach him.

Scared and frustrated, he began hurting himself by banging his head against objects. He was eventually transferred to the medical wing of the jail and able to reach his father to post bail, four days after he was arrested.

Shortly after he was released, city prosecutors realized they had the wrong defendant and moved to dismiss the charges against him.

The lawsuit alleges that after the whole ordeal, Whitaker has been treated differently by his neighbors and acquaintances. 

The real criminal, Lancer Whitaker, was arrested in October and convicted of felony theft, possession of a dangerous weapon by a felon and giving false information to a law officer. He is not named in the lawsuit, which places full liability on Layton City.

Lancer has an extensive history of felonies including theft, forgery and drug possession. He is currently being held in the Davis County Jail.

It is unknown what relationship, if any, Lancer Whitaker has to Lance Whitaker or how police concluded that the autistic man was their suspect. The Layton City Attorney’s Office declined to comment on pending litigation.

Whitaker’s family and his attorney also declined to comment.

Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at 801-625-4227 or Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Andreas.

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