A Chatham County woman has filed a lawsuit against the Burlington police department, seeking $1 million for alleged “defamation by libel slander” over a “Most Wanted” flyer that erroneously listed her as being wanted for trafficking methamphetamine.
The Burlington police department distributes a weekly “most wanted” flyer that it distributes to news outlets and on posts on social media websites in hopes of tracking down alleged perpetrators who remain at large.
The lawsuit was filed in Alamance County civil superior court earlier this month by Brandy Dawn Dixon, of 79 East Carthage Street in Bennett, which is located in southwestern Chatham County, near the Randolph County border.
Dixon is seeking a jury trial and an award for $1 million for alleged “irreparable reputation damages” caused by the department’s “release of false information to various media outlets,” the complaint states. The flyer with the incorrect information was issued on October 29, 2020, according to Dixon’s suit.
In her suit, Dixon claims she hadn’t learned that she’d been erroneously included on the “most wanted” flyer until nearly six months later.
“During the weekend of March 20, 2021, you contacted the police department [and] informed patrol staff that you were aware of the media release with you photo and age, and the information was correct,” Burlington police captain Mark Rascoe recalled in a written apology the department subsequently issued to Dixon. . A copy of the letter, dated March 22, 2021, is included in the court file.
A lieutenant in the patrol division and a lieutenant in the criminal investigations unit worked with staff to remove “wrong image and information” from the website and social media pages for the Burlington police department, Rascoe wrote. “This was an error on our behalf,” the letter to Dixon stated.
The original “most wanted” flyer included the name and photo of a Brandy Dawn Dixon, age 43; the correct individual that was being sought for trafficking meth was Brandy Dawn Dixon, age 22, who had the “same first, middle, and last name with the exact spelling,” Rascoe explained in the letter.
The Burlington police department notified all news media as soon as the error was discovered, according to Rascoe. “Brandy, please accept our humble apology for this oversight and how it may have impacted you,” Rascoe wrote. “We are diligently reviewing our procedures to make the necessary changes to ensure this oversight is not repeated.”
In her suit, Dixon characterized the police department’s misidentification of her on the flyer as “reckless negligence” that was committed without “validating the information fully before publishing it to various social media sites and distributing it out to the various media outlets.”
Dixon intends to represent herself for her lawsuit against the Burlington police department, according to the court file.
The Burlington police department had not filed a response by press time.