The article in the newspaper last week was news indeed to Scott D. Allen, 24, of Huntington Beach.
As he read it in his parents' living room, it informed him that he had been shot by Cypress police as he resisted arrest and that he was recovering in a Long Beach hospital.
It was not the first time that Allen had been surprised to find his name erroneously attached to a criminal suspect.
There was the time he was arrested in Buena Park for drunk driving when he actually was in Utah studying for exams at Brigham Young University.
And there was the time he was arrested in Huntington Beach for stealing a car--and later was convicted by a jury--when he was not even in Orange County.
The tale of how Allen, newly married and about to start medical school, got into this mess and his partly successful struggle to get out is a story of how difficult "positive" identification sometimes is for police when a suspect is a skillful liar.
Fortunately for Allen, this time Cypress police discovered their suspect's true identity by the following day. They identified him as Kevin Mark Greene, 30, a transient whose name is by now very familiar to Allen.
Had Worked With Greene
When he was in high school, Allen said, he worked in a fast-food restaurant with Greene, whom he had forgotten until last year.
Apparently, Greene, who has served two terms at the California Institution for Men at Chino for armed robbery, had not forgotten Allen. When Greene was arrested in November, 1985, on suspicion of stealing a car, records indicate, he told Huntington Beach jailers that his name was Scott Douglas Allen, a transient, born on Dec. 6.
He had no documentary identification, so jailers checked the Department of Motor Vehicles driver's license computer files. They showed that there was, indeed, a Scott Allen with the middle initial, "D"--although the middle name was different--who, by what turned out to be an extraordinary coincidence, was born Dec. 6, but in a different year than the suspect had given. The suspect was four inches taller than the driver's license description, but the license description was 6 years old.
Jailers accepted the identification as correct and filled in the missing information from the computer printout--driver's license number, address. And when they put Greene's fingerprints on a fingerprint identification card, they put Scott Allen's name and address on it, too.
The jury trial of Kevin Greene, known to the courts as Scott Allen, proceeded normally, and he was convicted. In March, 1986, as he was awaiting sentencing, he was arrested in Buena Park for drunk driving and again told police that he was Scott Douglas Allen.
Buena Park police checked the suspect's fingerprints, and this time there was proof: the fingerprints matched the prints taken by Huntington Beach police that now were in the files of the state Justice Department in Sacramento. The state had opened a brand new criminal file for Scott D. Allen because he had no previous criminal record.
According to Buena Park Police Officer Ken Patrick, who later helped set the record straight, the fingerprints had fallen through a crack in the Sacramento system. The erroneous fingerprint card had arrived at a time when Greene's previous cards had been sent out to be included in the system's new computer. If they had still been in the old files, someone would have compared the incoming prints to prints already on file and discovered that they matched Greene's. They would have deduced that Scott Allen was an alias.
But now Buena Park police had Scott Allen in their records, too. When Kevin Greene began to miss his scheduled court hearings, police began looking for Scott Allen, and they knew where to find him.
When letters from police departments and court officers began to
arrive at the Allen household, Jack E. Allen, 49, an aerospace executive and Scott's father, said he didn't take them seriously at first, thinking them to be clerical errors or jokes.
When they began to take on ominous tones, however--citations for drunk driving, warnings that arrest warrants had been issued--he took action.
His son was away at college, so Jack Allen called the police himself. He said that the officers were more than a little skeptical when he telephoned. But when he appeared at the Buena Park Police Station, he got some help.
Officer Patrick, who talked to Allen at the station, said Allen was so straight looking, "I knew right away there was something totally wrong with the name." The father and the police photograph of the suspect--long-haired and past college age--just didn't fit together, he said.
Scott Allen sent his fingerprints to Patrick via the Provo, Utah, Police Department and Patrick issued Allen a card explaining the identity mix-up and intended to prevent his mistaken arrest.