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Police Photoshopped Man’s Tattoos So He Would Better Fit Description of Bank Robber

A federal court in Oregon is evaluating whether Portland police violated the rights of a bank robbery suspect by digitally removing the man’s face tattoos from his mugshot and using the altered image in a photo lineup. The question before the court is whether the photo constitutes fabricated evidence.

Police in Portland, Oregon were investigating a string of 2017 robberies at four banks when they used digitally erased Tyrone Lamont Allen’s facial tattoos, then showed the altered image to bank tellers who had been robbed at gunpoint.

Witnesses only described the culprit as wearing a baseball-style hat and sunglasses.  None of the bank tellers reported seeing facial tattoos on the man who robbed them at gunpoint, according to a report from The Oregonian.

“I basically painted over the tattoos,’’ police forensic criminalist Mark Weber admitted during his testimony. “Almost like applying electronic makeup.’’

Appearing before U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Maloney said police were right to alter Allen’s photo before presenting it to eyewitnesses.

“The whole idea was to make Mr. Allen blend in so his photo wouldn’t stand out’’ in the lineup, Maloney said.

Maloney argued that police changed Allen’s picture so that it would emulate the disguise worn by Allen when he committed the robberies.

“These procedures were prudent. They were appropriate,” Maloney told the court.

Allen’s Defense attorney, Mark Ahlemeyer, pressed Judge Hernandez to throw out any positive witness identifications of Allen based on what he called “fabricated evidence” involving the altered photos.  Ahlemeyer argued that police intentionally changed his client’s appearance to align with the witness descriptions of the bank robber.

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“This is a very, very slippery slope given the advent of technology,’’ Ahlemeyer said.  “We don’t know where this may end.’’

Court documents revealed that authorities received a tip that Allen may be the person they were looking for after someone saw surveillance pictures of the robbery on KPTV-TV.  From there, investigators pulled a mug shot of Allen and altered it.  The Portland Police Department defended the investigatory tactic in an email to the TV station.

“In this specific circumstance, statements and descriptions from the victims were compared with the information available to the investigators and the decision was made to have the tattoos covered up with “digital makeup” in order to help prevent misidentifying the suspect. No other alterations were made to the structure or appearance of the suspect’s face in regards to the lineup. Again, the bureau does not create suggestive lineups,” a spokesperson for the department wrote.

In an interview with the Oregonian, Temple University law professor and eyewitness testimony expert Jules Epstein said it was the most unconstitutionally suggestive line-up tactic he had seen in his 40 years of experience.

“It’s unbelievable to me that police would ignore the fact that no teller has described a person with glaring tattoos and make this man into a possible suspect by covering them up,” Epstein said. “They’re increasing the risk of mistaken identity.’

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9 comments

JP Maurice August 18, 2019 at 5:57 pm

You can thank Trump and his white racist hate speach for the current magnitude and levels of apartheid racist activity by white European amerikkkans , the police , and the FBI. They were all in the bigot closet though. Just waiting to come out….anyway. And trump the orange dump , got them coming out in droves.
Honorable US Air Force Veteran

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Joan August 19, 2019 at 8:18 am

If none of the witnesses saw any facial tattoos, then he didn’t have any. They are just trying to get a conviction and trying to frame a POC for the crime, just like always. It should be considered tampering with evidence leading to a false arrest, and y’all know a conviction will follow. I hope his lawyer does his job and gets it thrown out.

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Kkk August 19, 2019 at 6:16 pm

Vote trump 2020

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KEITH J Bonds August 19, 2019 at 6:20 pm

The next time the police are looking for a bank robber would one arm they will just find a black mam and cut his arm off. are you kidding me that police department is a freaking joke Those clowns couldn’t solve a case if they were given the Evidence ahead of time 🤪

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Nestor R Ortiz August 19, 2019 at 7:15 pm

In a justice system proven to have many flaws, no such alteration should have been implemented. On the other hand, if the alleged suspect was committing the crimes described, I am sure he, therefore, made effort to cover identifying marks with a cover up make-up.
How do we, then, as a society focus on the true crime without prejudice and no focus on color, creed,etc. and decide on successfully placing the correct suspect in prison? If the pictures were presented in both tattoos and without as well as sunglasses and without, maybe it would have come across more objective.
The next question is how far will law enforcement take technological use? With such corruption in many areas, how do we know that the technology will NOT be used to create images of the wrongfully accused?
It is a double-edged sword that ultimately lies in the hands of those who we are to trust. Let us not cast blame, but VOTE for those who we can believe in as opposed to using media and news to educate us on candidates. We are to blame when WE do no due diligence in researching who WE elect.

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Confusedbyblacks August 19, 2019 at 8:03 pm

I’m curious when I see sites like this. Blacks are always running to support someone. Mexicans. You’re worried about immigration. When was the last time you saw Mexicans standing up/ supporting blacks in their fight for anything? LGBT. They are more likely to support trump who despises their kind then they are to stand up with blacks unless of course they are black. No disrespect, but if you people would stand up for yourself and stop worrying about everybody else in the world who doesn’t give a sh*t about you; you could actually accomplish something. Again. Do you see LGBT, and more importantly Mexicans, Asians, immigrants, standing up supporting you at rallies? Of course not. You can’t become equal until you focus on yourself but you’re too busy kiss enough to kanye when he says blacks want to be slaves. You stand up for the wrong black people and then don’t stand up for people trying to help you like Lebron James spending your rent on Kanye-who clearly despises you people too.

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chuckles Cordes August 19, 2019 at 10:57 pm

Total farce . The man should be set free . And sue the police and states attorney 4 defamation

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Conrad August 30, 2019 at 6:20 pm

All this argument about Trump and this BS and that BS is crap period. Cops have been framing black men for over a century since the slaves were freed. The answer is simple arrest these felons who here try to frame another innocent black man. No it won’t happen so these racist keystone cops will just keep their bullshit up.

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clipping way August 26, 2019 at 3:32 pm

Photo line ups are the most reliable method of getting an ID for any crime…unless you care about whether they actually did it that is. Police are egregiously silent about this fact yet they have known about it for years. Well, you just don’t get those numbers of folk in prison in the US by accident you know. It takes an entire industry of morally corrupt people.

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