ATLANTA, GA — When Fulton County deputies showed up to a home on the 100 block of Claire Avenue SE in October, one of the homeowners struggled to explain why they should leave, fearing someone would get hurt.
He was trying to pull up a 2019 Channel 2 investigation on his phone to prove what the criminal justice system already knew—their suspect Wesley Leroy Carter doesn’t live there, hasn’t lived there in seven years, and won’t be in the house when the deputies search the home trying to serve a recycled arrest warrant. “Recycled,” because –as court records show—the system has acknowledged, recorded and voided the same warrant over the years because they can’t find Carter at that address. Yet every time he fails to show up for court, prosecutors ask the judge to sign the warrant with that address.
“We understand what you’re saying,” a Fulton deputy tells the husband and homeowner in home surveillance video. “You have to see it from our perspective.
“We have to do what the judge tell us to do, okay?”
Between themselves, they also acknowledge they won’t find Carter for one of several warrants they’ve tried to serve over the past three years.
“He don’t live here, but they keep sending us the warrant, so we keep coming,” a deputy says to another deputy on the scene.
Still, with the homeowner in the doorway, his mother-in-law holding his and his wife’s baby and an attorney neighbor trying to intervene—the family is threatened. Photos show deputies cut off the entire neighborhood street, and surrounded the home for the search of Carter.
“I gotcha,” one of three visible deputies says to the homeowner, his family and neighbor, Gloria Hawkins-Wynn . “It’s not gonna stop us from coming inside today, though, and if you intervene with our (inaudible) you’re going to jail.”
The homeowner’s wife was away at work this time. Channel 2 agreed not to use their names in the piece, as they say they’ve become increasingly worried about their safety.
“I’m just I’m really, really scared,” she said last month. “I mean, we, we have to really consider moving at this point. “We’re keeping our house but we just… I mean…We can’t have this.”
By Monday afternoon, after weeks of sorting through this issue and locating Carter ourselves, leaders within the Fulton Sheriff’s and Solicitor’s Office tell Channel 2 steps are being taken to ensure this family doesn’t deal with any more attempts for the criminal justice system to find the kid who used to live in their home.
A CHANNEL 2 INVESTIGATION LEADS TO WARRANT ADDRESS STRICKEN FROM STATE SYSTEM
Here’s how we got here.
In 2019, the homeowners had received a second visit that they were aware of, from law enforcement looking for Carter.
Carter, who at some point before 2014 lived in the house with his mother, was wanted on armed robbery charges out of Dawson County. He was 25 years-old at the time.
Read/Watch here: Little recourse for homeowners living in suspect’s old house
As it turns out, a probation officer was looking for Carter and requested a Dawson County judge to sign the warrant. At the time, the Fulton Sheriff’s Office reached out the Dawson County courts to let them know they could never find Carter at the address, and new homeowners were there. It was an attempt ensure they would not have another court order to visit the wrong home.
Seeking help after our story, the homeowners also turned to the Fulton District Attorney’s Office . They stepped in on behalf of the homeowners—although the case wasn’t tied to the office—and reached out to the state Department of Community Supervision and Dawson courts.
In an April 2019 e-mail a then- Fulton assistant district attorney assured the family that warrants would not be sought in their address again.
“Ms. Brown (probation officer) communicated to Inv. Couch (Dawson County) that the address has been “stricken” from the warrant,” the ADA wrote to the homeowner. “I do not know how, when, and why your address became listed on the warrant, but they have relayed to me that this is resolved.”
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A NEW COURT, AND THE TRACKING SYSTEM NO ONE HAS TO CHECK
All was quiet as the homeowners continued renovations on their Lakewood home, started new jobs and welcomed a baby.
“We don’t know what’s going on but they will be coming back,” one of the homeowners told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr last month. “There’s nothing I have gotten from the (Fulton) administration to indicate that they I think they want to fix this.”
Carr found that this time, the warrant did not originate with the state’s probation system.
The came out of Fulton State court, where Carter is facing years-old battery and family violation charges dating
Three of the four cases are in dormant status, because the courts acknowledge
Judge Susan Edlein has set aside or voided Carter’s warrants several times since 2017, noting in a 2019 order that failure to serve the warrants were a result of the fact that he no longer resides at the Lakewood address.
Court records also show that the clerk is notating that much in an offender tracking system, accessible to the courts and law enforcement.
And soon after the latest warrant service attempt , Atlanta City Councilwoman Carla Smith wrote and e-mail to the Fulton County Solicitor Keith Gammage, linking to the previous Channel 2 report and begging for intervention.
“Knowing what happened to Breonna Taylor and Kathryn Johnston I am pleading with you to please make sure no warrants/Fulton County officers ever go back to (home address) located in District 1 in the City of Atlanta,” Smith wrote.
Last week, Carr found Carter’s new attorney Jabari Jones. He just started representing Carter in December and was not aware of the warrant execution searches at the wrong address until Carr called.
“We’re not trying to hide anything, his whereabouts or anything of that nature,” said Jones. “Especially when it’s something as simple as an address.”
Jones said he would provide the courts with the information when asked during an upcoming hearing he’s requested.
“Whether, it’s a clerical error, or, you know, a staff oversight or something like that, I’m not surprised, but it is an unfortunate situation,” he said.
While Jones declined to reveal where Carter was at the time, Carr was able to track him down in the Clayton County jail, where he’s facing new charges tied to an separate, unrelated incident at the Atlanta Airport in December—explaining the need for representation.
Those records show Carter has recently provided law enforcement with a correct address .
When Carr asked the Solicitor’s office why it continually asked for a warrant to be signed with the incorrect address, it revealed it is not legally obligated to check an offender tracking systems that hold more information about the defendant.
“The issue is the address that we have on file,” said Special Prosecutor, Jackie Patterson. “Where are we going to get another address if the defendant fails to give us one?”
“But what happens when you know it’s the wrong address?” Carr asked.
“That’s just it -We don’t know it’s the wrong address. We only know what the defendant gave us.”
Patterson said this incident would not occur again, since our findings that he’s incarcerated and has provided law enforcement with a good address.
“We truly empathize with the victims in this case when the police came to their house,” Patterson said. “But it is the defendant’s fault for being a fugitive and not showing up in court.”
Last week, Judge Edlein declined to comment on details of the warrants’ cycle because Carter’s case is still open. She did point Carr towards an upcoming hearing, taking up Carter’s attorney’s request to address the warrants.
Towards the end of the October home surveillance, a Fulton deputy makes a promise to the homeowners neighbor, an attorney who had come over to help sort things out.
“I’ve given him my word, when we leave here today, I can make sure it doesn’t happen again,” the deputy says.
On Saturday, as we awaited a statement for the report, the Fulton Sheriff’s office confirms it sent two command staff members to the home to resolve the matter. They left information for them, as the homeowners were not there at the time.
“Internally, we are directing the warrant to the FCSO’s Fugitive Unit, the statement read. “This action may prevent further visits. We will do all that is feasibly, lawfully, and legally possible to flag the fugitive named in the warrant.”
“However, if another jurisdiction issues a separate warrant for the fugitive at the address in question, the FCSO will partner with that agency to execute the warrant,” the statement continues. “Likewise, if the address is used on a warrant for a different suspect, the FCSO will take action to execute the warrant. "
“While we understand the matter may be frustrating, as constitutional officers, we are fully committed to the overall safety of our great County, its residents, business community, and visitors. We certainly hope that our command staff’s personal visit and our internal measures implemented to flag the warrant demonstrate the high level of customer service that Sheriff (Pat) Labat expects from every member of the FCSO. "
Should this be another unkept promise, the homeowners say they’re prepared for a worst-case scenario because they don’t intend to allow the deputies to search the home again.