Searcy man blames lazy police work for photo being shared in connection to crime
SEARCY (KATV) —
A Searcy man blames lazy police work for a picture of him and a woman being plastered all over the internet, potentially linking the two to credit card fraud - a crime the two eventually were cleared of committing.
Danny Hughes said he initially thought it was a joke when his daughter called him last week, telling him multiple media outlets were sharing photos of him and a woman who had shopped at the Searcy Walmart Supercenter, alleging the two had used stolen credit cards. Unfortunately Hughes soon saw, a joke it was not.
"Shortly afterward she sent me on my iPhone a picture of it - so it looked pretty real then," said Hughes.
This past Friday, Searcy Police had sent a photo of security camera footage of Hughes and a photo of a woman to dozens of media outlets including KATV. Channel 7 never shared the photos, but countless websites, newspapers and TV stations did.
The e-mail read: "The Searcy Police Department is asking for the public’s help in identifying two subjects regarding fraudulent use of a credit card. If you have any information regarding the identity of the individuals in the photos, please contact the Searcy Police Department at 501-268-3531. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This case is under investigation."
Hughes said he immediately went to the Searcy Police department to identify himself to law enforcement. A detective quickly determined Hughes had nothing to do with the crime he was investigating, issuing a retraction less than two hours after the initial e-mail was sent.
The recently retired 69-year-old said he's still waiting on an explanation as to why he was linked to the investigation in the first place. Hughes had been told the last four digits of the credit card he used appeared to be the same as the stolen credit card being investigated - something Hughes finds hard to believe.
"The assistant chief was telling me at city hall that most every time they do this, the person is actually guilty and charged with it," recalled Hughes. "Yet there's two people here on the same day on Friday put on the website - neither one were guilty of anything."
Hughes said he didn't know the woman pictured next to him. Searcy Police were able to identify her later on Friday, and by Monday issued an e-mail saying she had been cleared of any wrongdoing as well.
Hughes said he has lived his whole life in Searcy, showing off his junior-year photo in the 1965 Searcy High School yearbook. He believes instead of plastered his face all over the web, Searcy Police could have simply showed his picture at the local drugstore and someone would have known who he was.
"When you live in a town like this your whole life, you're either kin to them or you know them for the most part," chuckled Hughes.
Now Hughes hopes Searcy Police will do a little more investigative work before sending out photos like the ones sent out on Friday.
Searcy Police Public Information Officer Terri Lee wasn't able to do an on-camera interview with on Thursday, but issued this statement to KATV in response to the photo mishap:
"Our criminal investigation division investigated the fraudulent use of a credit card and developed two subjects as possibly having information regarding this case. The two photos were sent out to the media and asked for the public’s help to determine the identities of these individuals. Both subjects came to the police department and cooperated fully with the investigation. After speaking to these individuals, both were cleared of any wrongdoing."