GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — After he spent a night in jail for a crime he says he did not commit, a Winston-Salem ice cream shop owner has claimed he is the victim of mistaken identity and has said he has the proof to back it up.
Johnny Gonzalez, 21, was in a Guilford County courtroom on Tuesday afternoon to appear for a traffic violation.
During that appearance, a deputy put him in handcuffs and told him he was wanted on a warrant out of Texas.
“I couldn’t really process,” Johnny said of his mindset after being taken out of the courtroom. “Wanted out of Texas when I’ve only ever been here.”
He was given a stack of papers that showed he was wanted out of Austin, Texas for robbery with a deadly weapon on June 9.
“It was just out of nowhere. I got cuffed and was told I had a warrant. I didn’t ask what it was for,” Johnny said.
“When I got into the jail, they gave me the paper, and I say to the officer ‘this isn’t me.’ He looked at me with confusion in his eyes,” Johnny said.
Johnny said “this isn’t me” because the name at the top of the indictment he was given was different even though the address was correct.
It read Jimmy Ray Gonzales. The first names are different, and the last names end differently as well; Johnny’s last name ends with a “z”, while Jimmy’s ends with an “s”.
In court on Wednesday, Johnny’s attorney argued that this was a case of mistaken identity.
He explained to the judge that Gonzalez is extremely common. “It’s like Smith,” is how the attorney compared it to other common last names.
The prosecutor argued that Jimmy could be an alias and that the dates of birth and addresses matched for both Jimmy and Johnny.
To that, the defense attorney said there is evidence that Johnny was not in Texas or even out of Winston-Salem.
“His business has security cameras to show that he was here when the crime took place,” they explained.
Johnny was released on a bond related to his traffic violation charge.
His next court date is Oct. 28.
FOX8 has reached out to the district attorney’s office for a comment on if they feel they had the right individual.
After being released from jail, Johnny returned to his ice cream shop, Sabor Tropical Ice Cream, which he opened during the pandemic to celebrate Hispanic culture.
“I opened it next to my dad’s western shop, and I go over there so he can help me,” Johnny said.
“When I got out, I came straight here. I came to work. I wanted some sense of normality. Of maybe it was all a dream,” Johnny said.