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Opinion
Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

It's important to take a deeper look at a case of mistaken identity

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I feel some sympathy for everybody involved in the Jasmine Horne case.

WFAE’s Sarah Delia has been reporting this story since it began. Jasmine Horne is a young woman who went through a traumatic experience last June at the hands of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. She was sitting in her parked car in front of her house when police arrived — somewhere around 10 cars in all. Officers yelled at her to get out. She was patted down, handcuffed, and put in the back of a cruiser. Only then did police figure out they were looking for somebody else.

They were looking for a woman named Jaselyn Horne – J-A-S-E-L-Y-N. Jasmine is J-A-S-M-I-N-E. They let Jasmine Horne go. Two days later, they arrested Jaselyn Horne on a charge of attempted murder.

The police department has done or is doing its own investigation. Nobody from the department has said if the investigation is done or what it might have found. So it’s still not clear just how police ended up with the wrong name and the wrong car and the wrong address that led them to the wrong suspect.

What is clear is that the Citizens Review Board, which investigates police misconduct, believes the case is worth looking into. After going into closed session, the board voted 9-0 last week to conduct a hearing to look into the actions of the officers involved.

This is not a board that historically pushes back against the police – it took nearly 20 years after it was formed for the board to rule against the police in a case.

This might seem like a lot of angst over a relatively minor thing. Jasmine Horne didn’t get thrown in jail. Police made a mistake and corrected it quickly. You might say “no harm, no foul.”

That’s a lot easier to say if you’re not on the receiving end. The police body-camera footage shows Jasmine Horne in handcuffs, her breathing heavy and sharp, like she was on the edge of a panic attack. Her grandmother's caregiver is in the yard, trying to understand what was going on.

It seems like there are two questions here. One is how the mistake happened in the first place. The second is how the police treated Jasmine Horne, not just during the time they thought she was a suspect, but after it was clear she wasn’t.

The history of police violence against Black Americans hangs over every interaction like this. An officer’s job is not just to catch the bad guys, but to be aware of how their actions affect the people they encounter along the way. That’s a really tough thing, especially when you’re chasing a murder suspect. It is also what police officers sign up for.

Jasmine Horne has every right to be rattled over what happened to her. What might become clearer along the way is whether the police, once they discovered their mistake, made things better or worse.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

Corrected: April 11, 2022 at 12:02 PM EDT
The original version of this column incorrectly said that Jasmine Horne's grandmother was in the yard at the scene of her arrest.