A suspect in a murder case walked out of Portland, Oregon’s Multnomah County Jail because of a combination of slow protocol, weak technology, and strained resources that failed to match his fingerprint to an out-of-state warrant, reports The Oregonian. Days later, state police ran a national check and discovered that the prints belonged to Nicholas J. Walter, 23, accused of killing a Spokane high school student. Walter was in custody for trespassing and gave police a fake name.
Portland police ran his fingerprints through a regional database that does not include neighboring Washington and California. In Washington State and Idaho, both local and national fingerprints checks are completed within a few hours, sometimes minutes — enough time to have caught the murder warrant before Walter was released. By the time Oregon jail authorities knew whom they had released, Walter was gone. “For this to happen once is too often in terms of public safety,” said Ronald Hawley of the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics, a nonprofit that helps justice agencies improve their information management.