OAKLAND (CBS SF) - Chau Van, a real estate consultant and freelance web designer, was on the Oakland Police Department's "Most Wanted" list for six months in 2012.
Now, according to CBS San Francisco, he's filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city for what his lawyer calls "an egregious and scandalous error" by putting him on that most undesirable list.
Attorney DeWitt Lacy said Tuesday the top priority of Van, 37, is to clear his name. The suit, filed on March 5, alleges that Van's reputation was "irreparably harmed." It says he is "a law-abiding citizen with no history of violence," CBS San Francisco reported.
Van's photo and name were placed on a list of the city's four most wanted suspects by Police Chief Howard Jordan during a news conference about gang violence on Feb. 7, 2012. At the time, Jordan said Van was wanted for a shooting.
The lawsuit says Van learned about the listing when a friend called that night and told him that a television station was reporting that he was one of Oakland's most wanted criminals.
Lacy said he believes restoring Van's reputation would require a public acknowledgement of the error as well as efforts to make sure Van's name is removed from related federal and state "most wanted" lists.
A second purpose of the lawsuit, Lacy said, is to obtain financial compensation for Van for lost employment and emotional trauma.
"It put a great amount of fear on him and his family. He was wounded and he needs to be made whole," Lacy said, according to CBS San Francisco. The lawsuit does not specify an amount of compensation.
Alex Katz, a spokesman for Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker, said he could not comment on the lawsuit.
"We just got it. We have to look at the allegations and determine the facts," Katz said.
A police spokeswoman was not available for comment.
A lawyer Van consulted after he wound up on the "most wanted" list, Stuart Hanlon, advised Van to stay in his house. After Hanlon investigated and learned that there was no police warrant for Van's arrest, Van went to the police department on Feb. 13, 2012, with the intent of clearing up the error.
Instead, Van was arrested and searched and kept in custody for 72 hours before he was released, the lawsuit says.