Misinformation leads law enforcement to wrongly name escaped man

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – The Pender County Sheriff’s Office responded to an incident that led law enforcement to mistakenly identify a man as an armed suspect and escaped.

A day later, they retracted that statement.

but how did it happen?

The Pender County Sheriff’s Office provided a statement, and it appears to come down to a case of misinformation, possibly given by another law enforcement agency.

According to the PCSO, “At 7:46 p.m. on Sunday, February 27, Pender County deputies were dispatched to report a domestic violence situation that occurred at the Scotchman store located at the corner of US Hwy 17 and Country Club Road in Hampstead. While responding to the location, deputies observed the vehicle believed to have been involved in the altercation at the Scotchman store.

Deputies then followed that vehicle into a parking lot and made contact. Two people were in the car, a driver and a passenger.

“During the investigation, the male passenger was arrested, handcuffed and placed in a patrol vehicle. At some point during the investigation, the unidentified male subject escaped from the patrol vehicle and fled the area,” according to the PCSO.

Almost a day after naming the wrong person and warning people he might be armed, the sheriff’s office said they named the wrong person.

When asked how it happened, Sheriff Alan Cutler sent a written response.

“During this investigation, my deputies continued to work to identify who had escaped from our custody. We used available resources, including other law enforcement agencies who had interactions prior contact with individuals involved in this investigation who were known to law enforcement, i.e., positively identified,” Cutler said.

“The name of the individual initially identified as a suspect was provided to our agency during this investigation. Based on information known at the time, we released the information to the media. Further investigation eventually revealed that the first person identified was not the person we were looking for. My office continues to investigate this matter and I ask anyone with information related to this case to contact our office at 910-259-1212,” he concluded.

The man originally named by the PCSO has a criminal background. The sheriff’s office did not say which law enforcement agency provided them with the wrong man’s name.

The PCSO has sent an updated photo of the man they are looking for.

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