A man arrested by Lexington police as the suspect in a 1980 Texas murder case was wrongly accused, according to Abe Mashni, a defense attorney.
Lexington police said they arrested Nicholas Trujillo-Ruiz, 71, on April 10 with the help of a Flock license plate reader. Trujillo-Ruiz was wanted on a murder warrant in Texas.
But after his arrest, Mashni’s criminal defense team said they investigated the case and determined the real Trujillo-Ruiz died several years earlier, and the identity of their client was actually Javier Manriquez.
The case was resolved in Fayette District Court Wednesday morning, the law office said. They also said Manriquez’s reputation has been harmed and their client should not suffer any further damage.
“The recent case involving Mr. Manriquez is a reminder of why presuming guilt without compelling evidence is an unacceptable action,” the law office said in a press release.
Maj. Matt LeMonds with the Fayette County Detention Center said Manriquez was booked into the jail on April 10 and released Wednesday.
Police: The man who was arrested had an ID matching the suspect
When asked for comment about the incident, a spokesperson for the Lexington Police Department said it was an ongoing investigation. Police sent out a press release later Thursday providing additional information.
Lexington police were investigating a shots fired call on April 10 in the 3700 block of Camelot Drive. Police said offers found shell casings and were given a description of the suspect’s vehicle by a witness.
A Flock camera provided investigators with a license plate number for a vehicle matching the description of the suspected shooter’s vehicle, according to police. Investigators used that information to determine the vehicle’s owner, and once they obtained a name, they went to that person’s residence and found the suspected vehicle involved in the shooting.
Officers encountered multiple people inside the residence and asked to see everyone’s ID, the police said. One person was in possession of an official Tamaulipas State identification card from Mexico that was issued to Nicholas Trujillo-Ruiz.
Officers ran all identifications through the National Crime Information Center online database and learned that Trujillo-Ruiz had an outstanding warrant for a 1980 murder cold case in Harris County, Texas. The police said the warrant had the same date of birth as the ID card and Manriquez matched the physical description on the warrant.
“Officers worked for twenty minutes with the man and family members present to determine if he was the same individual who had a warrant,” Hannah Sloan, a spokesperson for the LPD, said in a news release. “During the investigation, the individual and family members did not provide officers with a different name nor state that the ID presented was false.
“Officers asked for any other identification from the individual, but no one could not provide another form of identification.”
Police said Language Line Services were used at the jail to explain the situation to Manriquez. He told officers he had moved away from Texas roughly 25 years ago, but did not tell officers he was not Trujillo-Ruiz.
Manriquez’s DNA wasn’t found in the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, police said.
“This individual would not have been arrested for the warrant if he had been truthful and had not provided officers a false identification,” police said in a news release.
Police also clarified that Flock cameras didn’t identify the individual as a suspect or a wanted person.
“The Flock license plate readers did not locate nor identify this individual as a wanted person,” police said. “The (license plate reader) provided officers an immediate investigative lead to further the shots fired call.”
The flock camera program is being expanded
In December the Lexington council voted 10-4 to expand the Flock camera program that was launched in March 2022.
Under the pilot program, the city was given 25 Flock cameras, which read license plate numbers and compared them against various databases, including stolen vehicles and missing persons. The pilot program was originally slated to last a year.
However, just shy of six months into that pilot, Mayor Linda Gorton asked the council to spend more $230,000 to purchase 75 additional cameras, saying the program has been an overwhelming success.
As of April 12, the license plate readers had helped police recover 152 stolen vehicles valued at over $2.1 million, according to police. The cameras have also helped police serve nearly 200 warrants/subpoenas, charge 245 people and locate 18 missing persons.
Gorton also spoke in support of using Flock cameras and other additional technology during her budget address Tuesday, saying she wanted to invest $150,000 in linking Flock cameras up with the city’s traffic cameras.
“Technology is the future,” Gorton said. “Like the Flock program, intelligence software will enable us to solve crimes faster, support our officers and strengthen the cases we take to court because there will often be videos to back up witness statements.”
Reporter Beth Musgrave contributed to this story.