No doubt the pressure on police to solve the "Bonnie and Clyde" burglaries was intense. Every time the male-female duo robbed another wealthy south Charlotte home, it was all over the evening news. They burglarized places in broad daylight, stole tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff, then drove off in a red Jeep Cherokee. People saw them everywhere, but the police couldn't catch them.
But were police so desperate to arrest someone who drove a Jeep Cherokee that they grabbed the first drug addict they could find? I hope not, but you've got to wonder.
Carl Caleb Allen has a long record of drug-related charges, but none for robbery or violent crime. He drives a red Jeep Cherokee. On that basis, police put his picture in a lineup they showed a burglary victim who saw him "fleetingly." South Charlotte Weekly reported that police used an identification by her and an ID off a grainy convenience store video by a law enforcement officer who once dealt with Allen to arrest him in one of the burglaries. When they showed burglary victims pictures of Allen's female associates, they identified different women, all of whom had alibis.
When they interrogated him, Allen says police told him they hadn't yet tied him to the other burglaries, but they would. Despite these red flags, police blasted Allen's mug out to the media anyway, announcing that they'd caught one half of the Bonnie and Clyde duo.
Allen says he passed a court-mandated drug test on the day of the burglary and was meeting with a court official at around the time the crime occurred. Yet no one would listen to his protestations, he tells me. Diana Allen, his mom, tells me she immediately knew something was wrong. As South Charlotte Weekly reported, with no law enforcement background, she set out to do what the authorities couldn't — find the real Bonnie and Clyde. She called other heroin addicts her son knew, soon branching out to those he didn't. Many people hung up on her, she told me, but the pair had been bragging, and eventually she was able to track them down to a room in Matthews they were renting and a hotel parking lot where they parked the car.
At first the police virtually ignored her, with one Matthews officer coming out but neglecting to file a report. (The duo Diana Allen tracked down were arrested in Concord for burglaries committed in a red Jeep Cherokee.) Allen and her family even chased the Cherokee down I-485, calling law enforcement and begging them to pull it over. Eventually, police who had virtually ignored Allen, were forced to take notice thanks to reporting about the case by South Charlotte Weekly.
A search of the residence of Anna Hoard and Justin Aldrich found tens of thousands of dollars worth of apparently stolen goods, the paper reports. Unfortunately, police bungled the search warrant, peeking through a window and then illegally entering part of the residence. The fact that they'd blasted Allen's face to the media, telling everyone he was Clyde, made trying Hoard and Aldrich nearly impossible. Frustrated Mecklenburg County prosecutors were forced to drop the charges.
Incredibly, Bonnie and Clyde appear to have gotten away with the south Charlotte burglaries. Hoard, Aldrich (who doesn't look much like Allen except for having brown hair) and an accomplice still face charges in Concord. But for now they are out on bond and free to do as they please.
That a weekly news reporter and Allen's mom had to shame the police into dropping the charges is disturbing. That they were so easily able to solve a case that stumped the police is inexplicable.
I've been a fan of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's officers for years, and have promoted their fundraising events. This and other recent events, including the disappearance of notes in a cop-killing trial, have shaken my confidence in the department to the core.
Officers tell me the pressure to solve crimes and keep the crime rate down has become almost unbearable under Chief Rodney Monroe. That's a good thing, but perhaps some are taking things too far.
There is a casualness about Allen's arrest that's disturbing. You gotta do better than this, guys.