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Charlotte teacher reflects on footage after she was mistaken for the suspect in a crime

jasmine horne cmpd blurred plate.jpg
CMPD
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Jasmine Horne was handcuffed and detained by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police after she was mistakenly identified as a suspect in a violent crime. The vehicle's tag has been blurred by WFAE.

June 14, 2021, is a date burned into Jasmine Horne’s memory. On that day, the elementary school teacher was outside her west Charlotte home when a police officer approached her car. He ordered her to get out.

"I couldn't believe it," she told WFAE last June. "It was almost like he wasn't even talking to me. It was so surreal, almost like an out-of-body experience."

Fast forward to January 2022, when the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released body-worn camera footage from the incident, including video from the officer who approached Horne with his gun drawn.

In the footage, Horne, who is Black, is seen as she's handcuffed, searched and placed in the back of a police car. It turns out that officers were looking for a woman with a similar name who was suspected of a violent crime from the day before. Eventually, police realized they had the wrong person and let Horne go.

CMPD says Horne didn’t report any physical injuries, but Horne says she’s still processing the trauma from the experience.

Horne says she went back and forth about whether to watch footage from that day. She didn’t know if she was ready to see herself being handcuffed. She worried watching footage of a gun being pointed at her would be retraumatizing. But when WSOC-TV successfully petitioned for the release of the footage, she decided it was time to sit down and view it for herself.

"I feel like I was watching a movie, and I could relate very well to the main character," Horne said. "But then also my body reacted as if it was in the present. When something like that happens to you, it's almost like your brain kind of has to disconnect to what's going on in order for you to kind of cope."

Ten pieces of video were released from different officers who arrived on the scene. CMPD says Horne was released on scene within 15 minutes of first being placed in handcuffs. But it felt like an eternity to Horne. You can hear how heavily she was breathing as she was handcuffed.

"I was in shock, I was angry — every negative feeling you think of," she said. "I felt violated. A bit of embarrassment and shame."

In the footage, an officer asks if she has any weapons or drugs. No, she says — she’s a teacher, she doesn’t understand what’s going on.

It wasn’t just hard for Horne to watch herself being handcuffed. One clip shows officers nearby discussing getting their brakes fixed. In retrospect, seeing how such a casual conversation was happening nearby as she tried to stay calm really bothered her.

"Officers are talking about getting their police cars repaired," she said. "This is like the worst day of my life, and they're shooting the breeze."

In another clip, an officer speaks to Horne’s mother, who is on speakerphone. He tries to explain what happened.

"For some reason, we got an email that a Jasleyn Horne was driving your daughter’s vehicle, so we found the vehicle and your daughter in it, and that's who we thought that was," the officer says.

The officer then explained that Horne was out of handcuffs and about to be released. Horne says in this portion of the video, she felt like the officer was being condescending to her mother.

"Let her go," Horne's mother is heard saying with a sigh.

"She's already let go, ma'am," the officer says.

Horne filed a complaint with CMPD. An internal investigation concluded the officers who detained Horne did not violate policy and were acting in good faith with the information they received. Horne says she’s appealed that decision with the Citizens Review Board. CMPD says there is an ongoing internal investigation to determine if any policies were violated in entering Horne's name into the license plate reader system.

"That’s a very unfortunate situation," CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said Wednesday on WFAE's Charlotte Talks. "We have over 500,000 contacts that we have with individuals every year.  We’re not going to get it right every single time."

"The person that they were looking for was very similar names," Jennings said. "The information that was put in that they were acting on was based on the incorrect name, so the officers had no way of knowing that. I thought they did a fantastic job while they were out there, realizing that something just wasn’t right.

"They didn't feel like they had the right individual, and as soon as they investigated that, they corrected those actions. So, I can’t fault the officers for looking for a violent criminal who had just committed a very serious crime and responded to that."

Jasmine Horne says she looked up the person police were really looking for — Jaselyn Horne, who was arrested two days after this incident on a charge of attempted first-degree murder.

"It’s not the same name, our faces look different," Horne said. "Yes, we are both Black women, but our faces are different, our birthdays are different, our addresses are different."

This point about the difference in addresses really bothers Horne. Her car was registered to the address where she was stopped, she says. She wonders why that wasn’t taken into account before she was ever approached.

"They didn’t even think, 'Oh, maybe this car belongs to this address, and maybe it actually belongs to this person," she said.

This whole experience has completely changed how she views police.

"When you have a government that has historically suppressed people of color and you have police officers who are an extension of that — I experienced it through my just through my community," Horne said. "But now that the incident has happened, it becomes even more real, and it's disappointing. It's so disappointing. But I use my strength of knowing that I can speak up for myself and that I don’t allow certain things to happen around police officers without knowing I have a voice."

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Sarah Delia covers criminal justice and the arts for WFAE. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.