Police: Wrong man arrested

Published 10:08 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A North Carolina man woke up one day last month to learn he’d been arrested in Suffolk the night before.

The trouble was, he hadn’t been in Suffolk at all.

That was when Richard Allen Rison Jr., 26, learned how easy it is to pass yourself off as someone else.

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“We made mistakes,” Suffolk Police Department Maj. Gerald Brandsasse said of the case last week. “We’re currently re-examining our policies to determine what changes we need to make, if any.”

The incident started on Sept. 7, when police received a call about a suspicious person in a parking lot.

Officers approached the person and “saw obvious signs of drug use and possession,” and arrested him, Brandsasse said.

They set about trying to determine whom they had arrested. The man said he didn’t have photo identification on him. He gave Richard Rison’s full name, date of birth and address and said he had a North Carolina license.

Police searched “Richard Rison” in their system and found his information from a previous contact, Brandsasse said. All the information matched what the man in their custody had given.

They searched for Richard Rison’s driver’s license and, again, everything matched what the man in custody had told them, Brandsasse said. But officers could not see the driver’s license photo to compare it with the man standing in front of them, because they don’t have access to DMV photos from their cars, Brandsasse said.

“The officers made a reasonable effort to identify the offender, and based upon the information they were provided and verified, they had sufficient probable cause to believe the individual arrested was Richard Rison,” Brandsasse said.

But the man standing in front of them was not Richard Rison. It was actually Buddy D. Rison, Richard’s cousin. Buddy Rison is on probation from a 2014 felony drug charge.

The next day, when family members learned Buddy had been arrested and was able to get out of jail so quickly, they thought of his criminal record and started looking into the matter. Then, they alerted police to the incorrect name.

Richard Rison said he was “hurt and aggravated” by the whole thing.

“I’m just glad this was an ID thing, instead of a murderer or a rapist that got out,” he said. “It scares me how people can get out of jail so easily.”

Brandsasse said police have taken steps to clear Richard’s name.

“We’ve done everything with our systems to remove the ‘fact’ that Richard Rison was arrested,” Brandsasse said. “The fact is that Buddy Rison was arrested.”

They’ve also charged Buddy Rison with a count of forgery for every document he signed under Richard’s name.

As of Wednesday, he is listed on Suffolk’s “Most Wanted” list for October. The document lists him as a Gates, N.C., resident.

“I’m comfortable with the efforts the officers made, from a management perspective,” Brandsasse said. “But there were a lot of people that paraded through my office and had to give me some good explanations.”

Richard Rison said he still doesn’t think the police have done everything they can do to make it right. He’s been applying for jobs and isn’t sure if any potential employers saw the report of his “arrest.”

His name still shows up in the General District Court system, although the charges were dismissed at the Sept. 22 arraignment hearing. He’s exploring how to have the charge expunged, but that costs money.

“I don’t understand why I have to pay it,” he said. “It wasn’t me who let the guy out and didn’t pay attention.”