by Ali Winston
A San Leandro accountant is suing the Oakland Police Department for being placed on the city's Most Wanted list for six months, even though he was not being sought by authorities. In a federal lawsuit filed on March 5, Chau Van said that a friend called him on February 7 last year to inform him that KTVU-TV was airing a segment on Oakland's most wanted criminals and showed his name and photograph along with several other alleged felons.
Fearing for his safety, Van called San Francisco civil rights attorney Stuart Hanlon, who conducted his own investigation and learned that OPD did not have a warrant out for Van's arrest. A week later, Van turned himself in to Oakland Police on February 13 to try and clear his name. After being held for three days, he was released without charge.a press release on February 14 entitled “Most Wanted Turns Himself In,” describing Van as “one of Oakland's “four most wanted suspects.” The press release read: “[T]oday, 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 release went on to describe Van as “the person responsible” for a December 9, 2011 assault that left a victim with serious head injuries.
However, Van's lawsuit alleges that OPD did not remove his name from its Most Wanted list — even though the department had released him and had no warrant for his arrest — until he had attorney John Burris send the department a demand letter in August of 2012.
The lawsuit names Howard Jordan, OPD spokeswoman Johnna Watson, and Cynthia Perkins, a civilian OPD employee who works in the Media Relations office.
Van is seeking punitive damages for defamation, false arrest and imprisonment, civil rights violations, and emotional distress.