OAKLAND -- A San Leandro man says Oakland police ruined his reputation by branding him as one of the city's "four most wanted criminals" and then refusing to remove his name and photograph from the Most Wanted list after prosecutors refused to charge him.
Chau Van, 37, filed suit against the city and top police officials in federal court last week, saying that he "lives in a state of embarrassment, depression and shame" because police accused him publicly of nearly beating a man to death with a baseball bat in December 2011.
"The police had the wrong guy, and they didn't correct the error and they didn't apologize for it," said Van's attorney, DeWitt Lacy.
Lacy, who works for attorney John Burris, said Van is an accountant who had no prior criminal history. The complaint does not seek specific monetary damages from the city.
City officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Law enforcement sources said Van was arrested on a probable cause warrant in connection with the baseball bat assault, but prosecutors declined to charge him after the victim and a witness gave inconsistent statements and the victim then stopped cooperating.
Police Chief Howard Jordan asked for the public's help in apprehending Van during a Feb. 7, 2012, news conference addressing a spike in violent crime.
According to his complaint, Van learned that he was a "dangerous fugitive" from a friend who saw the report that night on KTVU.
After contacting his attorney, Van went to police headquarters nearly a week later to clear his name, according to the complaint.
Police arrested him and sent him to Santa Rita Jail where he was released three days later after not being charged.
During that time, police issued a news release with the headline "Most wanted turns himself in." The release included a photo of Van and a statement from Jordan that "today we have one less criminal on our streets."
Police refused to remove his name from the Most Wanted list for six months after the arrest, according to Van's complaint, and only complied after receiving a letter from Burris.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.