A St. Louis-area woman who was mistakenly arrested and jailed by local police filed a federal civil lawsuit Monday against police and jail officials, the city of St. Louis and the St. Louis Circuit Clerk.
The Associated Press reports Shannon Renee McNeal was arrested in 2009 on a warrant intended for 23-year-old Shannon Raquel McNeal. That woman was 19 years younger than Shannon Renee McNeal and had actually died three months before the arrest took place.
McNeal’s suit alleges that police and jail employees knew that she had been arrested by mistake but did nothing to free her. The woman spent three days in jail. She claims she was burned by pesticides sprayed on her during processing. The suit also claims she lost her job as a city bus driver because of the arrest and now suffers from high blood pressure as a result of the stress from the experience.
The court documents indicate that McNeal was arrested by police in the nearby city of Ferguson. She claims that fingerprints, taken by police there and at the jail in St. Louis where she was booked, indicated that they had arrested the wrong woman. Jail employees allegedly told her they had to continue holding her until they sorted out the matter.
“Ms. McNeal suffered greatly, being arrested in front of her children and hauled off to jail,” said her lawyer, Jim Hacking.
A recent story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch indicates that the case of mistaken identity came about because a St. Louis Circuit deputy clerk selected the wrong name from a computer menu in 2007, when the original criminal file for Shannon Raquel McNeal was being put together.
Hacking called that “another example of shoddy ID procedures [by St. Louis police] and the clerk’s office.”
McNeal’s case was the subject of a lengthy investigative report conducted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2013.
That investigation found that about 100 people had been mistakenly arrested in recent years and had spent, collectively, at least 2,000 days behind bars.
“There are those who will say that the problem has been fixed, but we’ve seen little evidence of that,” Hacking said, adding that “no substantial changes have occurred since we’ve started investigating and filing lawsuits over this type of conduct.”
McNeal is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A spokesman for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay declined to comment on pending litigation. And a police spokeswoman referred reporters to city attorneys for comment.