Little Rock police say they are working with the Pulaski County prosecuting attorney's office to drop all charges against a 25-year-old man arrested in the robbery of two doughnut stores late last year.
Brandon Lockhart, who was arrested the day after Christmas, was mistakenly identified by witnesses as the perpetrator in both robberies, according to department spokesman Lt. Michael Ford.
Now, cleared by the same department that made the arrest, Lockhart and his attorney are questioning how Little Rock police developed him as a suspect and why his name was brought up in the first place.
"It just makes no type of sense," Lockhart said in an interview last week.
"I'm not the only person that has been in this situation," he said. "I was blessed that I was able to get out of it."
Earlier this month, the Police Department reported it would work to drop all charges against Lockhart. The written statement came after authorities said 19-year-old Terry Dewan Tate Jr. admitted to the two doughnut shop robberies, among other crimes. Tate is charged in a string of 12 armed robberies that spanned from Dec. 3 through Jan. 30, including the robberies at the two doughnut stores.
He faces 12 counts of aggravated robbery and 12 counts of theft of property.
Lockhart's attorney, Rickey Hicks, said he does not know how Little Rock police managed to make his client a suspect. He called on the Police Department to conduct an internal investigation and questioned how investigators presented the photo spreads to the witnesses.
"I have no idea how they got on to his name," Hicks said.
Without the admission from the other suspect, Lockhart could have easily been convicted of crimes he did not commit, Hicks said, arguing that Lockhart's race would have been a factor in how a jury viewed his innocence. Lockhart is black.
Lockhart said he found out he was a suspect after his mother received a phone call informing her of the situation.
A day after Christmas, Lockhart was arrested at the department's substation on West 12th Street on four felonies tied to the two robberies. He recalled being taken to the Pulaski County jail.
His mother, Nikki Lockhart, said she had to pay $5,000 to bail her son out of jail and another $1,500 for an attorney. If he had stayed in jail for too long, she said, Brandon Lockhart could have lost his job at Popeyes, where he works full time.
"I know my child did not do this," she said, noting that she was "completely shocked" that police had developed him as a suspect.
She said her belief in her son's innocence never wavered, but his arrest weighed on her mind -- the thought that she could lose her son to prison for crimes he did not commit.
"I feel like they were just trying to pin the crime on someone," she said of investigators.
Despite the arrest, Lockhart said, he still has his job at Popeyes. Hicks said he has represented people who have lost their jobs simply over an arrest, even though charges have later been dropped.
In a short phone interview, Ford said cases of mistaken identity are rare but have happened before. He said that in those cases, the agency works to drop the charges and clear the person's record.
Later, in an emailed statement, Ford said that "everything the Detectives did was in good faith in accordance with state and local laws."
Court records indicate Lockhart has never been convicted of a felony in Pulaski County.
Only witness identification linked Lockhart to the two doughnut shop robberies, according to an affidavit. The court document did not specify how investigators developed him as a suspect.
The first of the two robberies occurred on the morning of Dec. 3 at the Shipley Do-Nuts at 2900 S. University Ave. The second came on Dec. 10 at the Daylight Donuts at 7610 Geyer Springs Road.
Two witnesses -- one at each robbery -- identified Lockhart in a photographic spread as the robber, the affidavit says.
Another witness to one of the robberies told police that two people in the photo spread "looked familiar, and one of them is the person who robbed him at gunpoint," according to the document. One of those two people the witness pointed out in the photo spread was Lockhart.
Another witness who was shown a photo spread could not identify anyone, the document says.
Hicks said he does not blame the witnesses who misidentified his client.
Metro on 02/12/2018
Print Headline: Mistakenly ID'd as suspect, man now asking why