Police admitted Thursday a photo they released of a reality television star was included with photos of a person of interest in the Strip shooting and car crash that left three dead.
A photo of Tasha Brooke Malek, of Miami, was released by Las Vegas police, who erroneously identified her as Yenesis Alfonzo.
Homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said the photos were released as part of an investigative technique to gather more information on shooting suspect Ammar Harris, who was arrested in Los Angeles on Thursday.
“The photos that were released to the general public were not through a social media site. Those were through … evidence collected as part of our investigation,” Steiber said. “It’s our obligation to determine who are persons of interest, and sometimes … we have to put photos out that are intended to drum up some talk so that we can determine who we’re actually dealing with.”
He also added that he spoke with Malek, who is in Miami.
“I can honestly say that person is not obviously a person of interest but did have connections and does know our suspect, Ammar Harris,” he said.
Malek’s attorney, Michael Grieco, said in a press release Thursday he is desperately trying to clear Malek’s name and repair her reputation after the photo mix-up.
“People on the street who don’t know my client are recognizing her face from the national news reports and are making hurtful comments,” Grieco said. “We hope the Las Vegas police will issue an official apology and assist us in making sure Ms. Malek’s face and name are no longer associated with this terrible crime.”
“Not me.” Malek tweeted several times Tuesday in reference to being the passenger in Harris’ vehicle.
Steiber said Malek had an “uncanny likeness to Ms. Alfonzo.”
Late Wednesday night, police sent out a statement that Alfonzo, a Cuban-American from Miami, was no longer sought as a person of interest and no longer considered a missing person.
On Tuesday, police identified Alfonzo, also known as Tineesha Lashun Howard, as a passenger in Harris’ Range Rover.
Before Harris’ arrest Thursday, a post on her Instagram account payyeni, said: “thank you everyone who took the time out of their day to text/call/ig/facebook me. i’m truly sorry for everyone’s loss ..”
Her post was met with a series of messages of relief from friends.
She stated in another post she was fine and thanked another person for inquiring about her well being.
Police said Alfonzo’s arrest history includes soliciting prostitution, trespassing, possession of a stolen vehicle and grand larceny.
Contact reporter Caitlyn Belcher at cbelcher@review
journal.com or 702-383-0264. Contact reporter Antonio Planas at email@example.com or 702-383-4638.