OAKLAND -- Responding to a lawsuit filed against the city and top police officials last week, Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan defended his department's decision to brand a San Leandro man as one of the city's "four most wanted criminals."
Police accused man, Chau Van, 37, of nearly beating a man to death with a baseball bat in December 2011.
The lawsuit filed in federal court last week claimed OPD refused to remove Van's name and photograph from the "Most Wanted" list even after prosecutors refused to charge the 37-year-old who had no history of violence..
The case remains an open, active investigation for which Van remains as an identified and named suspect, Jordan said in a prepared statement issued late Friday afternoon.
In addition, Jordan said, "At no time was Van's name or photo maintained on a Most Wanted list nor does the Department maintain a Most Wanted list made available to the public as alleged."
The only related record was an OPD news release, which was automatically archived, as are all officially issued news releases, on the department's website as a public record, according to Jordan.
The department removed the news release from the archive pending review by the Oakland City Attorney's office after concerns were raised in Van's lawsuit, Jordan said.
Van only found out he had been branded a "dangerous fugitive" from a TV news report and said in the lawsuit that he "lives in a state of embarrassment, depression and shame."
Law enforcement sources said Van was arrested on a probable cause warrant in connection with the baseball bat assault, but prosecutors declined to charge him after the victim and a witness gave inconsistent statements and the victim then stopped cooperating. Jordan asked for the public's help in apprehending Van during a Feb. 7, 2012, news conference, addressing a spike in violent crime.
Van is not a criminal, was not involved in criminal activity at all and is not a legitimate suspect, Attorney John Burris, whose office is representing Van, said Friday by telephone.
"He shouldn't have been on a list. Period."