Flock cameras lead to wrongful murder arrest in Lexington

Update: LPD has released the following statement on the case:

April 20, 2023:  On April 10, 2023, at around 9:02 p.m., officers responded to the 3700 block of Camelot Drive for a report of shots fired. They located shell casings in the roadway and were given a description of the suspect vehicle. Using Flock LPRs in the area to generate a lead for this violent crime, a vehicle matching the description was identified in the area at the time the shots were fired. This provided the officers with a license plate number for a vehicle matching the description. Since Flock does not maintain personal information on people or vehicles, officers utilized this lead to identify the registered owner. Officers then went to the registered owner’s residence to further investigate the shots fired call.  The vehicle matching the description from the witness and identified via Flock was located at the residence.

When officers arrived, they located several people inside the residence. As part of the investigation into the shots fired, officers obtained identification from everyone inside the residence. One individual provided officers with what appeared to be an official Tamaulipas State identification card (I.D.) issued in Mexico, from his wallet, with the name Nicolas Trujillo-Ruiz, and a specific date of birth. The photograph on the I.D. resembled a younger version of the individual that presented it to officers. 

All identification provided by the individuals was run through NCIC to determine if there were outstanding warrants. At this time, officers learned that Nicholas Trujillo-Ruiz was wanted for a 1980 murder out of Harris County, Texas. The warrant had the exact date of birth as the I.D. given to officers. The individual also matched physical description on the warrant.

Officers worked for twenty minutes with the individual and family members present to determine if he was the same individual who had a warrant. During the investigation, the individual and family members did not provide officers with a different name nor state that the I.D. presented was false. Officers asked for any other identification from the individual, but no one could provide another form of identification. 

The individual was eventually detained and taken to the Fayette County Detention Center for fingerprinting. Language Line services were utilized to explain to the individual what was occurring and that there was a warrant for murder in Texas for a person with the same name and date of birth. The individual told officers that he had moved from Texas about 25 years prior, but did not he tell the officers that his real name was something else and/or that the I.D. was not his. The individual’s fingerprints were not located in the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) so they were unable to be used to confirm nor deny his true identity.  He was ultimately arrested for the warrant.

This individual would have not been arrested for the warrant if he had been truthful and had not provided officers a false identification. The Flock license plate readers did not locate nor identify this individual as a wanted person. The LPRs provided officers an immediate investigative lead to further the shots fired call.”

Lexington, Ky.–Lexington Police Department is facing criticism after it emerged that they arrested the wrong man on a murder warrant. According to defense attorney Abe Mashni, the man police arrested last week had been dead for several years.

Defense Attorney Abe Mashni (Mashni Law)

The man’s name was Nicholas Ruiz, but Mashni says his client’s name was Javier Manriquez, who is still alive. Mashni called for a retraction from the police and said that his client’s reputation had been harmed. The police department credited the Flock cameras for the arrest. The controversial cameras have been a topic of debate in the Lexington community for several months.

Mayor Linda Gorton has previously praised the success of the Flock cameras and called for a new surveillance program. She claimed that the cameras had helped solve murders, burglaries, stolen vehicles, and violent assaults. In her budget address on April 18, she announced that more than half of the 100 Flock cameras planned to be installed around the city had already been set up.

However, this latest incident has raised concerns about the accuracy of the cameras and whether they are infringing on people’s privacy. The Lexington community has previously expressed concern over the push for more Flock cameras. “If the money is already allocated, the money will be there. Why don’t we wait for some data? We have elderly people who were for the flock cameras in the beginning. Now they’re questioning because their houses have been shot up,” current Council Member Tayna Fogle said in December.

The police claim that the Flock cameras have been successful in recovering stolen vehicles and filing charges using the license plate readers. But with this latest incident, there are calls for the police to hold off on expanding the project until there is more data to prove its effectiveness.

The investigation into how the police identified the wrong person is ongoing, and the police department and the City have not yet commented on the incident. As for Manriquez, his case was resolved in Fayette District Court on Wednesday, but it remains to be seen whether he will take any further action against the police department.

Photo: A Flock automated license plate reader at Liberty Road and Fortune Drive in Lexington. (The Lexington Times)