By Karen Morfitt
DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– Months after a high-speed chase that ended in a bizarre mistaken identity case, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office admits the arrest of Joshua McCay as the suspect driver– was a mistake.
Douglas County Undersheriff Holly Nicholson-Kluth sat down with CBS4’s Karen Morfitt to discuss the case.
“I do not know what we will do to make it right but we will sincerely apologize, I know that,” she said.
Nicholson-Kluth says deputies were able to identify three people involved in the chase early on.
The trio claimed a homeless man named “Josh” who they barely knew, was driving.
Sarah Palmeri was in that car and spoke with CBS4 over the phone.
“One of my friends pulled up the name, it seemed like he pulled it out of thin air, he came up with the name Josh McCay,” she said.
Deputies took that name and ran with it.
Using a DMV database they found a Josh McCay in Windsor, they took his photo to two of those witnesses and a deputy involved to make an identification.
When asked how a sworn deputy was able to identify a man whom they now know was entirely made up, Nicholson-Kluth says they do not know how that happened.
“That is the subject of an internal investigation and we will get to the bottom of that,” she said.
Using that information investigators were writing a warrant and McCay was 80 miles away at home with his wife and infant son.
He says no one tried contacting him.
Nicholson-Kluth says despite having an address accompany the photo used, they did not know where to reach out to him.
“Even DMV records are not always accurate, we don’t always have information about where people are living. If we believe somebody was homeless, we may not believe that they were at that address. Whether or not any effort was made… I don’t have that information,” she said.
A month later, McCay learned about the warrant through contact with the DMV who threatened to revoke his license.
Thinking it was all a big mix up he turned himself in and was arrested, put in jail, and forced to fight it out in court.
Months would pass before one of those witnesses confessed to being the actual driver.
“We want to go back and look and find out how this happened because we don’t want it to happen again,” Nicholson-Kluth said.
In addition to looking into the deputy who made the false identification, the undersheriff says they want to know why only McCay’s photo was used when trying to make an ID.
Outside of the wrongful arrest, the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s office let this continue for months. They say they cannot comment on an active case.
The undersheriff says they plan to reach out to McCay directly and are looking into if and how they can address any damage the arrest may have caused.
McCay was told he has no recourse against the county and is now buried in a mountain of debt. If you’d like to help the family, there is a GoFundMe page established for the family.
Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.