ATLANTA -- Teresa Culpepper of Northwest Atlanta called police one day last year to report her car had been stolen. By the end of the day -- according to an APD internal investigation -- the same officer who answered that call had locked her up and mistakenly charged her with another crime.
Culpepper spent 53 days in jail, unable to convince authorities they'd jailed the wrong suspect. She is now suing Atlanta Police, the Fulton Sheriff and District Attorney, among others.
Culpepper was booked into the Fulton County Jail August 21, 2011, charged with aggravated assault.
The day she called police, they were investigating an incident that had taken place at a house more than a mile away from her home. The victim of the assault had identified his attacker as another woman with the first name of "Teresa."
An internal affairs investigation describes a series of baffling mistakes.
The investigation report says "there was no attempt to verify the crime scene location, no one attempted to interview any possible witnesses or attempt to get names or statements to confirm or dispel these accusations. Most importantly, there was no verification of Ms. Culpepper's identity."
Police didn't even ask the victim of the assault to identify the women they'd arrested.
Weeks later, Culpepper got a court date. The victim of the assault showed up, looked at the woman accused of the assault and told the judge he'd never seen her before. The judge apologized and dismissed the charge.
The Atlanta Police Department suspended three officers involved in the mistaken identity arrest for a total of 54 days -- one more day than Culpepper had spent in jail for a crime she didn't commit.
A police spokesman declined comment -- because of the pending lawsuit.