Mistaken identity haunts local man

January 27, 2008 3:49:51 PM PST
Two years ago in April 2006, San Francisco Police pulled over a local man for a routine traffic violation. Unfortunately, that traffic stop set off a chain of events just now ending.

Adrian Gonzales works as a waiter at a popular local restaurant. While riding his motorcycle in San Francisco, police pulled him over and told him he was wanted for DUI and failing to appear in superior court in Pomona, outside Los Angeles.

"I was pretty startled. It was surreal. Something you see on a movie, but not in real life," said Adrian Gonzales from San Francisco.

Even stranger to Adrian -- he had never even been to Pomona, let alone been arrested for drunk driving. Yet the officer confiscated his license and towed his motorcycle.

The next day he drove his bicycle down to the San Francisco Police Department hoping to clear his name.

"When the officer found me, that's when he said he was on his way to my house and he handcuffed me right then, and dragged me through the police department," said Gonzales.

Police then fingerprinted him, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Officers discovered that his fingerprints didn't match the real suspect in Pomona, who also went by the name of Adrian Gonzalez.

Police released the San Francisco Gonzales from custody, and everything seemed to be resolved.

But there was still the issue of his motorcycle. Police said they couldn't give it back to him until his driving record was wiped clean. They said only the DMV could clear his record.

San Francisco police released a statement saying: "This person is not the same person who has outstanding warrants in Pomona or Redondo Beach, California."

Even after that statement, it took the DMV two more months to clear the San Francisco man's record.

The DMV did it only after being contacted by 7 On Your Side.

"Given the millions of transactions that the DMV does annually, this is an extremely rare occurrence," said Mike Marando from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Marando says a court clerk in Pomona mixed up the driving records of San Francisco Gonzales with the records of Pomona Gonzalez.

It's an accusation the court in Pomona denies. The mix up occurred despite the two spelling their last names differently.

San Francisco Gonzales spells his with an "s," the other spells it with a "z."

Meantime, back in Northern California, things were starting to look up for "San Francisco Gonzales," who earns extra money as a disk jockey in local clubs and private parties.

A month earlier, San Francisco Police issued a waiver, agreeing to pay the daily storage fees after it towed his motorcycle.

Back in 2006 he told us he was going to claim his vehicle from Auto Return, a private towing company that has a contract with San Francisco to store vehicles under police investigation.

"I went down with the voucher and a helmet you know with a big smile on my face thinking victory and she said you're vehicle has been sold," said Adrian Gonzales from San Francisco in 2006.

It seems Auto Return auctioned off the vehicle in a lien sale just three weeks earlier. He filed a claim against the city for the blue book value of his motorcycle the city denied the claim the same day it opened it.

During the next 17 months, he tried to get compensated for his motorcycle.

"No one claims responsibility. They all push it to the other person, yet they're all at fault," said Adrian Gonzales from San Francisco.

San Francisco Gonzales was ready to give up, but not 7 On Your Side. We got the attention of the CEO of Auto Return and presented him with many of the documents from the story.

He immediately jumped into action, getting the police and city attorney on the same page. Within 24 hours, we had a check for $1,600 dollars to present to Adrian Gonzales from San Francisco, and we couldn't wait to give him the good news.

ABC7's Michael Finney: "7 On Your Side is designed to make sure things like this don't happen, and the good news is we have a check for the full amount."

Adrian Gonzales, San Francisco: "No way. Wow, thank you. I didn't think I would ever see anything in return. I'm really shocked. This is phenomenal. I'm glad other people get to see that this works, 7 On Your Side works,"

After two years, Gonzales feels a sense of justice. To add a touch of irony, he tells us it was the Mayor's office who suggested he take his complaint to 7 On Your Side.