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Police chief apologizes after wrongfully arrested man spends 2 nights in Newport News jail

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Posted at 4:20 PM, Jan 28, 2021

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew apologized to Maurice Williams and his family after Williams was wrongfully arrested last week at his place of employment and spent two nights in jail.

News 3 spoke exclusively to Williams, his girlfriend Christina Brown and Chief Drew about the mistake.

Williams works as a cook and said he was about to go on break last Tuesday afternoon when his supervisor asked him to go out back. He was then greeted by officers.

“They told me that I had an outstanding warrant but didn't tell me what it was about, then they put me in handcuffs and searched me,” Williams said.

He said he was not read his rights and was told he would be informed of the charges once the arresting officer got the paperwork. He later learned he was accused of an armed robbery involving a cell phone.

Williams was then taken to the city jail and booked Tuesday afternoon. He was able to call his girlfriend that night and tell her what was going on.

Williams said he was confused and embarrassed, and told the officers that they had the wrong guy and that he did not live anywhere near the address they were asking him about.

He said for the first time, he spent the night in jail.

“I didn't like it, I didn’t like the way it made me feel,” Williams said.

Wednesday morning, he was hopeful to get a bond when he went in front of a judge, but got more bad news.

“My stomach dropped when the judge told me that what I was being charged with, there is no bond, and he said my court date would be March 24. I almost lost it," Williams said.

Williams admits he was angry and a bit scared that he would be stuck behind bars for weeks.

“[The judge] said ‘no bail’. No bail? I’m going to go crazy. I said, 'What did I do?' I didn’t do this. He said, ‘You're going to have to talk to your lawyer'.”

Meanwhile, Brown, the mother of his two children, was hard at work, along with other relatives, trying to make sense of what happened and clear Williams' name.

She said it was hard answering questions from their children about where Williams was.

Brown said she could not believe the charge and knew there was some type of mistake. Brown said all she and Williams do is work, come home and take care of the kids. She said there was no way he was involved in cell phone robbery.

She started investigating the situation and realized that it was a case of mistaken identity.

After some persistence and several phone calls, Brown said police realized the mistake and called her to explain.

After two nights in jail, Williams was released.

“From the bottom of my heart, it doesn’t change what happened and I wish I had the ability to turn the clock back to travel back in time and fix it but I can’t. I would be remiss if I did not tell him that I apologize for the situation that occurred, and I’m very sorry,” Drew, the police chief, said.

Drew said the situation is currently under investigation by internal affairs and the department. He said he reviewed the policies and procedures, but doesn’t think there is a problem there. He said he believes there were mistakes made with the investigation.

He said as soon as they realized the mistake, the top priority was to get Williams out of jail. An investigator went up to Williams' place of employment and explained the mistake.

Drew said he takes full responsibility, and said changes will be made if necessary once the investigation is complete.

“We will reevaluate the policy and procedure. I don’t think the flaw is there - I think we did not do enough investigating in this case as we should have. I think it was a case of mistaken identity,” Drew said. “It’s important that this community hear, and I’ve said this before, we will make mistakes and when we do, we have to address them.”

He said the mistake should not have happened and said Williams and his family are the victim in this case.

Williams and Brown said they appreciate the actions by the chief.

They said they would like more consideration to be made when arresting someone at their place of employment.

“I think there just has to be a little bit more time taken to really make sure you're picking up who you need to pick up, because for him it's embarrassing, you know, that's his job,” Brown said. “Maurice has us. We were going to make sure he was out of there, but there are so many people who don't have that.”

She said the situation was very eye-opening about people who are wrongly arrested. She said she and Williams have never had any experience with jail prior to this experience.

“They didn't do the job right,” Williams said.

Williams said he is glad to be home with his family.