Family says son’s night spent in jail makes no sense

By Robin Fornoff

CMI PROJECTS EDITOR

rfornoff@cnjonline.com

Marcus Lewis, 12, is “a little annoyed” at being arrested by Clovis police and jailed overnight in a case of mistaken identify.

Marcus said he has accepted an apology from Chief Steve Sanders and is ready to move on. His mother Denise Eaton, however, has hired an attorney and is considering a lawsuit.

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Marcus Lewis, 12, and his mother Denise Eaton look over a blank tort claim they said Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders gave Marcus after apologizing for mistakenly arresting him recently near his home. Lewis spent a night in juvenile jail after being booked on a warrant for another juvenile with a similar name.

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks
Marcus Lewis, 12, and his mother Denise Eaton look over a blank tort claim they said Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders gave Marcus after apologizing for mistakenly arresting him recently near his home. Lewis spent a night in juvenile jail after being booked on a warrant for another juvenile with a similar name.

“This was very sloppy police work,” said attorney Jennifer Burrill. “His rights were violated because someone didn’t pay much attention to detail. And when you are talking about people’s rights, the details are very important.”

Marcus was stopped and arrested about 7:30 p.m. Dec. 29 while walking a few blocks from his home near Fourth and Wallace streets. He was booked into the Curry County Juvenile Detention Center overnight on a warrant issued for another juvenile with a similar name but a different Social Security number.

Although police are short on details — Sanders didn’t respond to telephone calls on Friday or Saturday — Marcus was released the following morning after his parents were contacted and they questioned the warrant.

Burrill said Marcus was told by the arresting officer that he was “walking suspiciously.” The officer’s report says the boy was walking in the street. Marcus said he was walking on the curb listening to music with earplugs attached to his cell phone.

“He (the officer) told me if I was going to be walking on the curb, I needed to be on the other side of the street,” said Marcus.

Marcus said the officer asked his name. After giving it, the officer told him a few minutes later there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. The warrant, according to Burrill, was for another juvenile with the same last name and a different first name. That youngster, no relation to Marcus, was accused of selling marijuana at Marshall Middle School last February, when Marcus was a student at James Bickley Elementary School.

“Marcus doesn’t even match the physical description of the other kid,” said Burrill. “He wasn’t attending Marshall then and the Social Security numbers don’t match.”

Marcus was taken to the detention center where he was booked, given a shower and change of clothes and spent the night. He described it as “a little scary.”

“I wouldn’t want to be back there again,” he said.

Marcus said he and a friend did have a run-in with the law about a year ago. They got caught smashing windows on an abandoned garage. Marcus said he completed a program through Teen Court, where he volunteers now. Burrill said she checked with juvenile authorities and Marcus has no record.

Eaton said Sanders showed up at their home Friday morning and spoke only to Marcus when he apologized. Marcus said Sanders “apologized for the false imprisonment.” He said Sanders also gave him a blank tort claim form and told him “you don’t need an attorney” to file such a claim.

“It just makes no sense,” said Marcus’ sister, Shaniqua Byrd. “None of this does.”

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