After Metro Nashville Police Officer William McKay swore out a probable cause affidavit against a woman, claiming she stole from a Kohl’s store in January. He then took that affidavit to presiding night court Magistrate Bruce Kessler, who signed the arrest warrant for the woman. The DA’s office then prepared to prosecute the case, and a court date was set. Not a single person bothered to check if the accused woman was already in custody. She was. She had been sitting in jail for several months, yet the retail theft just happened the day before the warrant was signed. It was impossible for her to have committed this crime – and no one noticed.
Everything started on January 23rd, when MNPD Officer William McKay was called to the Kohl’s to view a video of a shoplifter. The video showed a woman select merchandise, and attempt to leave the stop without paying. The store’s loss prevention approached the woman as she was leaving, there was a scuffle, and the woman fled in a vehicle that was registered to a man from Mt. Juliet.
According to MNPD’s Office of Professional Accountability, Officer McKay then ran the tag of the vehicle, and cross referenced connections with the vehicle’s owner, including people who had been arrested with him previously, which included the woman who had been in jail since November. The OPA says that McKay “looked to the officer to be the same person in the shoplifting video”, and swore out the warrant for her arrest. While McKay did run the woman’s driver’s license to see that her status was suspended, as he noted in his arrest warrant, he did not check to see if she was in jail at the time of the arrest – a simple check that’s available to the general public with a few clicks.
It was only when Scoop: Nashville saw her name scheduled to appear, and noticed the date of the crime meant it was impossible for her to commit the crime, and posted it on social media, that it was realized a mistake was made. The OPA tells us:
“It was a case of misidentification”.. Officer McKay “took steps with the Court and the District Attorney’s Office to correct his mistake. The department also checked to be certain that [mis-identified woman] did not incur any financial loss from court fees, etc. Since this was a simple mistake, which was immediately corrected, no disciplinary action will be taken. Officers will, however, be cautioned about making similar mistakes in the future.”
The arrest warrants were served on here in jail, so we dispute the claim that it was ‘immediately corrected’. Despite those assurances made by the OPA, a simple ‘was this person in jail when the crime was committed’ seems like the least bit of due diligence that should be done before signing an affidavit under oath, or signing and arrest warrant, or placing the case on the docket, or assigning an ADA to it. The two charges remain on the woman’s record, with a status of ‘Nolle Prosequi’ (not prosecuted), instead of dismissed, or expunged.
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