An attorney said Thursday that a prominent Highland Park family is “considering all options” against the Fort Worth Police Department a day after their son’s picture mistakenly appeared on an arrest warrant as a target in this week’s TCU drug busts.
“A public apology would appear to be in order, for starters,” said David Finn, attorney for the Carpenter family in Dallas. He would not rule out legal action.
On Wednesday, Fort Worth police released a warrant for an Austin W. Carpenter, 26, accusing him of selling drugs to an undercover narcotics investigator in November. The warrant also featured a black-and-white picture of the man, which quickly made its way online through news websites.
Carpenter is the great-grandson of famed Dallas businessman John W. Carpenter, who has a local freeway named after him.
Carpenter was not arrested. When his family saw his picture on news sites Wednesday, they called Fort Worth police for answers. After several phone calls, the department acknowledged the error to them, apologized, and later Wednesday, alerted local media about the error.
Police said they are still seeking an Austin Carpenter in connection with the drug investigation, but as of Thursday they had not explained how the wrong man’s picture ended up on the publicly available warrant.
The flawed document was one of 19 arrest warrant affidavits released Wednesday.
In it, Fort Worth narcotics investigator J.C. Williams wrote that on Nov. 3, he got a tip that a man named Austin was selling drugs to TCU students. A confidential informant arranged a meeting between Williams and Austin in the parking lot of a Fort Worth pharmacy that same day. Austin drove to the rendezvous in a maroon Ford pickup.
After buying $100 of Xanax and hydrocodone pills from the man, Williams noted the suspect’s license plate. Later that day, he wrote, he found that it was registered to a woman with the last name Carpenter from Missouri City.
Williams typed “Austin Carpenter” into his databases to try to identify his suspect, according to the warrant. He found an Austin W. Carpenter born in 1985.
“I looked up this [driver’s license] from this subject and confirmed that this was the same person from whom your affiant purchased [the drugs],” Williams wrote.
While the affidavit does not mention this, Austin W. Carpenter’s driver’s license information, accessed by The Dallas Morning News through a paid commercial database, shows a Highland Park address.
A search for “Austin Carpenter” on Facebook yields a profile of a TCU student from Missouri City. It also features pictures of his new maroon Ford pickup. Based on his middle name, his driver’s license shows him to be 19.
Reached on Thursday, the man’s father said he was unaware that a pickup like his son’s was mentioned as the suspect vehicle in the TCU drug investigation. He said that his son was in Houston and he would call him to inquire. The father did not answer subsequent calls.
Meanwhile, Finn said that the Carpenters in Dallas were not commenting Thursday so they wouldn’t “perpetuate” the story. But Wednesday, John Carpenter, the Dallas man’s father, was frantic to clear his son’s name, which was all over the news and Internet.
“His name and his picture are on MSNBC right now!” an irate elder Carpenter told The News on Wednesday. “My son never went to TCU.”
By JASON TRAHAN Staff Writer
Dallas Morning News
Published: 16 February 2012 10:44 PM