A former Verizon employee who tackled and chased away two shoplifters is suing the Decatur police investigator who locked up the wrong man.
Omar Malcolm filed a federal civil lawsuit against Alexander Vots, who recently resigned as an investigator with the City of Decatur Police Department.
Malcolm’s attorneys are asking for $1.5 million in damages for infliction of emotional distress, racial discrimination, fraud malicious prosecution after their client was arrested for a crime he helped stop.
“This is a horrible experience all around,” Malcolm told 11Alive’s Jennifer Leslie during an exclusive interview back in January. “I never want anyone to go through this torture.”
11Alive News tried to reach Vots to get his side of the story, but the two numbers on file for him have been changed.
“Imagine spending days in jail for a crime, not only that you did not commit, but risked your life to prevent,” said Robert James, one of two civil attorneys representing Malcolm. James is also the former DeKalb County District Attorney. “It’s a miscarriage of justice. This should not have happened under any circumstance.”
He jumped in with another employee, tackled one of the shoplifters and got the merchandise back before they ran away.
Months later, Malcolm was the one arrested for the crime after police found his fingerprint on the iPad he grabbed from the real suspects.
The shoplifting charge was eventually dropped after Malcolm’s criminal attorney, J. Max Davis, discovered a big mistake.
When he asked for a copy of the surveillance video used to support Malcolm’s arrest warrant, Investigator Vots sent him video of a different crime from the week before. It was the wrong video.
“It was time-date stamped the 16th of January,” Davis said. “It showed two different employees, a different situation. It was the same store, but it was clear in the corner that is was from 1-16-2016.”
Davis was able to obtain the right video directly from Verizon. It was stamped 1-23-2016.
“I realized everything Omar had told me was absolutely true, and my heart sank,” Davis added. “It’s been a very tough ordeal for Mr. Malcolm. He’s handled it with dignity.”
The big mistake was corrected in January, when Judge Lindsey Jones dismissed the case against Malcolm.
“Mr. Omar, I’m going to apologize to you,” he said. “I’m the judge who signed the warrant to have you arrested.”
Judge Jones explained that he was told about the fingerprint match by Investigator Vots, who also said surveillance video was used to identify Malcolm as one of the suspects.
Judge Jones also said he had no idea that Malcolm was an employee at the time of the crime.
Turns out, Investigator Vots didn’t know that either.
“When I asked him if he ever verified that Omar was an employee of Verizon, he said, ‘Let me call you back.'” Davis said. “Just a little more work, just one phone call, and this wouldn’t have happened.”
The Decatur Police Department is not named in the civil lawsuit.
“I spent 20 years working with police, and I have a lot of respect for law enforcement,” James said. “Our job is to hold someone accountable when they do not act as they should, law enforcement or otherwise.”