1970 arrest may threaten veteran teacher’s license

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ST. LOUIS - A 47-year-old case of mistaken identity may threaten a veteran teacher’s license. He said it was a wrongful arrest he never thought he’d hear about again.

“I’ve been crying for 47 years for somebody to listen to this,” said Danny Flowers.

Flowers said he had long buried memories of what happened in 1970. St. Louis police arrested him and his friend outside Flowers’ home when they were 17. He said police wouldn’t tell him why and wouldn’t even let Flowers’ parents inside their home.

“(My parents) actually went to the district police station and reported me missing and I can remember my parents telling me that the police officers told them that they would keep an eye out for us, but actually we were locked up during the time they told them,” Flowers said. “We were actually locked up in the building they were in requesting to locate us.”

The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office has no record of charges. The Fox Files pulled the 1970 police report describing a construction worker who “chased two negroes away from his auto” at 2516 North Pendelton. Officers arrested Flowers and his friend about a mile away, outside Flowers’ house in the 4200 block of E. Maffitt.

No record shows anything else that happened with the case. Flowers went on to graduate from Mizzou and teach in St. Louis Public Schools for 25 years.

“Nothing ever came up in my background check,” Flowers said.

He's received a warning letter from the Missouri Department of Education after applying to be a substitute teacher during his retirement. The letter said “an alert” had been placed on his license.

“It really made my stomach drop when I saw this piece of paper with my name on it, accusing me of something I didn’t do,” he said.

Joe Coleman, Flowers’ friend, was arrested with him that day. He went on to join the U.S. Navy, move to San Francisco, and get a Master’s Degree in education.

“I’ve never had a problem getting a clearance from day one,” he said in a telephone interview.

Yet Coleman said he’s still haunted by the memory of from that day in 1970.

“One or two homeless guys told (police) we weren’t the guys who broke into the car. In fact, they were looking for two guys that had big afros and we had crew cuts.”

We brought the story of the alleged wrongful arrest to defense attorney, Joel Schwartz, who said, “It happens a ton.”

Schwartz said he can't explain why it's now a problem for Flowers and not Coleman, but he doesn't think this record should exist at all.

“My feeling is if there’s an arrest and there’s no charges that should automatically be expunged,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to retain an attorney to do something like that when you’ve done nothing wrong.”

Schwartz said it's getting harder to expunge an arrest record. He said the courts won't allow it if you’ve admitted to any minor state charge.

“That means if you were speeding on the highway and plead guilty to it, you don’t have the right to an expungement. Tinted window ticket; you don’t have a right to an expungement.”

Court records show nothing like that on Flower’s background, but he'll still have to convince the courts he should be allowed to keep giving back to his community through the public school system.