For six months, a new lawsuit alleges, Chau Van (pictured), was one of Oakland's "most wanted criminals," according to the Oakland Police Department. The only problem? He wasn't actually wanted for anything—even though his name and photograph were published on a KTVU feature about Oakland's most wanted.
Van discovered that he was one of Oakland's most notorious in February of last year, when a friend saw him on KTVU, which reported that he was responsible for "a shooting" (with no other details). He called a lawyer, Stuart Hanlon, who in turn called the cops—who openly admitted that there was no arrest warrant.
Van hid out for a week, and then, ever a responsible citizen, turned himself in. He was held for three days and released without being charged. And then Oakland Police released a statement bragging that they'd got one of Oakland's most wanted:
Yet on Feb. 14, the Oakland Police Department released a statement, "Most Wanted Turns Himself In," which began: "One of Oakland's four most wanted suspects has been taken off the streets. Last week, Oakland's Police Chief Howard Jordan named Van Chau as one of the City's four most wanted criminals. Today, the Oakland Police
Department reports that Van Chau is off the streets of Oakland and is safely behind bars after turning himself in due to media pressure. Chief Howard Jordan said, 'A week ago I stood with community members and asked the community to stand with me to fight crime and today we have one less criminal on our streets. Today a victim is one step closer to justice.'"
The press statement includes a mug shot of Van, and claims that he "was identified as the person responsible for assaulting his victim with a deadly weapon, leaving the victim hospitalized with serious head injuries, on December 9, 2011, at 12:23 a.m."
Van is suing the Oakland Police Department and the City of Oakland, as well as two media relations officers, seeking damages for defamation, false arrest and imprisonment, civil rights violations, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. But at least OPD got their man.