The Prince William County (Virginia) Police Department said in a statement on Tuesday that a man charged with shoplifting on June 22 was not former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Lucky Whitehead, as it had originally indicated.
Whitehead and his agent, David Rich, said Monday it was a case of mistaken identity. Rich cited flight records to prove Whitehead wasn't in Virginia at the time of the incident.
"It's disappointing, but it's a tough life lesson for the young man. He'll be fine. I've had three or four teams reach out to me already, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was picked up, especially with the way rosters are right now."Agent David Rich on Lucky Whitehead
The Cowboys, however, released Whitehead and cited a pattern of behavior in justifying the move.
"Let's not sugarcoat anything. I was pretty much being called a liar," Whitehead told the Dallas Morning News in a telephone interview.
Whitehead told the newspaper he was "blindsided" and "no one [in Cowboys management] had my back in the whole situation. I knew about it at, what? 12:45. By 2:30, I'm released."
Whitehead, however, told the newspaper that his teammates believed him when it wasn't he who was arrested.
Rich told ESPN's Todd Archer on Tuesday that the original report was a total surprise.
"Everybody was [surprised], the Cowboys, Lucky, myself," Rich said. "That's what drove this thing. From the first call, it was a breakup tone. I've been broken up with before, and I know what that sounds like. It was, 'You better have a darn good reason for this,' and we were completely blindsided by it."
The Prince William County Police Department said the man who was arrested didn't have identification with him. He verbally provided the name, date of birth and Social Security number of Rodney Darnell Whitehead Jr. to police officers, who checked the information through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles database.
Police also compared the DMV photo on file with the man in custody and "acted in good faith that, at the time, the man in custody was the same man matching the information provided."
"At this point, the police department is also confident in confirming that Mr. Whitehead's identity was falsely provided to police during the investigation," according to the statement.
The police are currently seeking the correct identity of the man arrested on June 22 for allegedly taking items from a Wawa convenience store without paying at approximately 1:30 a.m.
"Since the identifying information provided by the arrestee during the investigation was apparently false," the statement read, "the police department is working with the Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney's Office to clear Mr. Whitehead from this investigation."
The Prince William County Police Department also said it "regrets the impact these events had on Mr. Whitehead and his family."
A Cowboys source told ESPN's Josina Anderson that the team isn't concerned that Whitehead will file a grievance, as their move was "dealing with ability."
"Just time to improve the roster from an ability and team-culture standpoint," the source said.
Asked if the Cowboys could rescind the waiver request on Whitehead, Rich said, "I don't know that would be a healthy place for anybody right now."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Tuesday that a decision was made "that we thought was in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys. We're going to stand by that decision and move forward." He also said the Cowboys know things about their players that the media doesn't know about.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones did not want to discuss Whitehead's release, but he became emotional when defending the team's way of operating.
"I know how much a player that is wanting to when he competes at this level," Jones said after Tuesday's practice. "I know how much he wants to make the team. I've never talked to a player that I've said -- I'm not going to talk about Lucky, I'm going to talk about players -- I've never talked to a player that I didn't have empathy. Now you're talking to somebody here that if y'all had done one thing in my time and to criticize me is how I will back up a player to a fault. You've done it. You've done it for years for that. I will back them up to a fault so that when we do make a decision around here that's in the best interest of the team to move on, there's one thing you can forget about and that is whether you're being fair or whether you've given it consideration of what it means to the individual. That doesn't happen around here."
Because the Cowboys' release of Whitehead came after the close of the NFL's business day on Monday, Whitehead would not appear on the waiver wire until Tuesday, making him eligible to be claimed by another team by Wednesday afternoon.
"It's disappointing, but it's a tough life lesson for the young man," Rich told Archer on Tuesday. "He'll be fine. I've had three or four teams reach out to me already, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was picked up, especially with the way rosters are right now. You can add a receiver from Long Beach State Community College or add a guy like Lucky Whitehead, who has a pretty good body of work."
Rich said he will consult with Whitehead and Whitehead's family over what direction to pursue next, either legally or with the NFL Players Association.
"Right now, he just wants to play football," Rich said. "He had a challenge ahead of him, and he was ready for the challenge. He was tweeting 20 minutes before the first practice how excited he was. It's been a tough 24 hours. I think it will make him stronger."
"We got made an example of," Rich added. "They needed to make an example of somebody to get those boys' heads on straight. It is calculated. But I get it. It's business ... Jason Garrett said it. They needed to do what's in the best interest of the Cowboys. I think they're wrong, but I get it."
Whitehead made headlines last week when he announced on social media that his dog, Blitz, was kidnapped and being held for ransom. He later announced on social media that the dog had been returned unharmed.