Doppelganger causes arrest confusion

James Phillips
Posted 6/14/17

Around 10:30 a.m. on Friday, my wife got the following message sent to her by a friend:

“Hey, girl, I am not seeking gossip or details, but I heard a rumor this morning that James got arrested.”

The arrest was definitely news to Andrea because she had just spoken with me via FaceTime about 10 minutes earlier, and I was in the familiar setting of my office, wearing a shirt and tie, instead of in a block cell, wearing an orange jumpsuit.

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Doppelganger causes arrest confusion

Posted

Around 10:30 a.m. on Friday, my wife got the following message sent to her by a friend:

“Hey, girl, I am not seeking gossip or details, but I heard a rumor this morning that James got arrested.”

The arrest was definitely news to Andrea because she had just spoken with me via FaceTime about 10 minutes earlier, and I was in the familiar setting of my office, wearing a shirt and tie, instead of in a block cell, wearing an orange jumpsuit.

The friend was truly being nice by offering to help in any way, adding we had her support and encouragement. After Andrea informed her that I had not been arrested, she said she felt silly because she did not think that would be the case and wondered if there was possibly another James Phillips in the area.

There, in fact, is another James Phillips in the area, and if you look at his picture with your eyes squinted just right, there may be some resemblance between him and myself. That James Phillips had been arrested a few months back, and it was reported in the Daily Mountain Eagle. The Walker County Sheriff’s Office recently arrested that same James Phillips, who has always gone by his middle name of Anthony or his nickname of “Preacher Man,” again, and his mug shot was shared on Facebook by the sheriff’s office Friday morning. That Facebook post is what led to the rumors of my arrest.

Andrea suggested that I should put out a statement on social media, letting people know that rumors may be circulating but local authorities had, in fact, not arrested me. I assured her that would not be necessary and went on with my day at work.

It was about an hour later when I learned that a Facebook page based in Walker County had posted a picture of me alongside a photo of the person who was arrested to clear up the fact that the local newspaper publisher had not been arrested.

Nearly immediately, I shared the post, pointing out how ridiculous the situation had become. I was getting message after message on social media and via text, joking with me about the ordeal.

Earlier this week, I was sent a link to a story from CNN that reported on a man who spent 17 years in jail for a crime he says he didn’t commit. He was recently released when a photograph of his doppelganger surfaced and the witness to the crime couldn’t tell the two men apart. Those two guys only shared a first name and looked alike. For anyone who isn’t familiar with a doppelganger, the word has come to mean a person who looks spookily like another person but isn’t a twin. And while we share the same first and last name, I am not even related to the person who had the run-in with the sheriff’s office.

While I did get a few chuckles out of the ribbing my friends were giving me, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the other guy. He had been arrested, and it was being plastered everywhere, only because we shared a name. Even though we are only a few years apart in age and we grew up in the same general area, I don’t really know James Anthony Phillips. From speaking to others who do know him, I have heard that he was at one time a pastor or evangelist who has fallen on hard times in recent years.

If anyone reading this may know him, please pass along that I am praying for him, and that I would offer in any way possible to help him. We all have hard times, and we all struggle. We all make mistakes. We all need grace, love and understanding. I certainly do not mind being an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on. I’m blessed to have people in my life who offer the same to me.

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.