West Virginia State WR spends three nights in custody over mistaken identity

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To complicate matters, Jawon Johnson has the same birthday as Jawan Johnson. (Ian Duncan/Youtube)

To complicate matters, Jawon Johnson has the same birthday as Jawan Johnson. (Ian Duncan/Youtube)

A wide receiver at West Virginia State University spent three nights in custody over his holiday break earlier this week because of a mistaken identity, according to a report from Ian Duncan of The Baltimore Sun.

Jawon Johnson, an 18-year-old freshman at WVSU, was pulled over in Maryland by a local police officer last Saturday night. After realizing his name, the officer thought he had found a man -- Jawan Johnson -- who has a warrant out for his arrest to testify in a Washington burglary case.

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Because of the "quirks of the interstate extradition process and the slow crawl of weekend paperwork," according to the report, Jawon, the Baltimore resident who was simply on the road to visit a friend during his holiday break, had to spend the next three nights in a cell at the Harford County Detention Center.

"They arrested me and took me back to the station and showed me a picture of who the guy actually was. It wasn't me, but they said they still had to hold me until the marshals came and got me."

Since the warrant was issued in Washington, the student-athlete had to wait for U.S. marshals to take him to federal court in Baltimore. Jawon's family friend, David Lutz, a deputy U.S. marshal, picked him and drove him to Baltimore, but because of standard operating procedures for transporting a prisoner, innocent or guilty, Lutz had to keep his friend in handcuffs while he transported him.

"He's an upstanding young citizen. Even if we trust the person or believe their story, you have to treat everybody the same."

A spokesman from the local Havre de Grace police department said that they honestly thought they had the right person at first, in part because the two men coincidentally share the same birthday.

"When you have similar photos, name and date of birth ... the stars looked aligned. We honestly thought everything was on the up and up."

The man police are seeking remained at large as of Tuesday night. Footage of Jawon, the student-athlete, being released into his family on Tuesday can be seen here:

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