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Man Arrested for Crime He Stopped Sues for $1.5 Million

by David Reutter

Typically an employee who intervenes to tackle a perpetrator to prevent a shoplifting is extolled as a hero. A Decatur police detective investigating the crime, however, arrested the employee and charged him with the crime. Now, the detective faces a $1.5 million lawsuit.

Omar Malcolm was working at a Verizon store on January 23, 2016, when he tackled one of two shoplifters and grabbed an iPad from one of the two suspects, who both subsequently ran away. Detective Alexander Vots of the City of Decatur Police Department investigated the crime.

Months later, Vots learned Malcolm's fingerprint was found on the iPad. He then sought a warrant for Malcolm's arrest, and Malcolm was arrested on December 10, 2016. He spent three days in jail before the mistake was uncovered by his attorney, J. Max Davis.

Davis obtained a copy of the surveillance video used to support the arrest warrant. Vots, however, relied on the wrong video.

"It was date stamped the 16th of January," Davis said. "it showed two different employees, a different situation. It was the same store, but it was clear in the corner that it was from 1-16-2016." Then, Davis obtained from Verizon the video date stamped 1-23-16.

"I realized everything Omar had told me was absolutely true, and my heart sank," Davis said. "It's been a very tough ordeal for Mr. Malcolm. He's handled it with dignity."

"Mr. Omar, I'm going to apologize to you," said Judge Lindsey Jones when dismissing the charges. "I'm the judge who signed the warrant to have you arrested." Judge Jones explained about the fingerprint match, surveillance video, and that he was never informed that Malcolm was a Verizon employee.

Vots, apparently, was also not aware that Malcolm worked for Verizon. "When I asked him if he ever verified that Omar was an employee of Verizon, he said, 'Let me call you back,'" Davis said. "Just a little more work just one phone call and this wouldn't have happened."

Malcolm has sued Vots for $1.5 million in a federal civil rights lawsuit. "Imagine spending days in jail for a crime not only that you did not commit, but risked your life to prevent," said Robert James, one of Malcolm's attorneys in the civil suit. "It's a miscarriage of justice. This should not have happened under any circumstance."


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