News10NBC Investigates: Pittsford teacher wrongfully arrested by Webster PD when suspected thief drops teacher’s name

Webster man wrongly arrested

Webster man wrongly arrested and his fight to clear his name.

WEBSTER, N.Y. – “Appreciate your freedom because it’s much more fragile than you think it is,” Christopher Moore said from his dining room table. “Because I was looking at a horrible situation.”

Christopher Moore was a science teacher at Calkins Road Middle School and wrestling coach when he was wrongly arrested by Webster Police after a suspected thief used Moore’s name when police accused the man of stealing.

And it happened again and again and again, up and down the Thruway. He shared his story with Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean.

A federal lawsuit says if Webster Police had done their job, they would have known they had the wrong guy.

It started on February 25th, 2022 when Webster Police officers knocked on Moore’s door.

“They asked me my name. And I told them it’s Christopher Moore,” he said. “They turned me around. Handcuffed me.”
Moore was charged with stealing thousands of dollars worth of vacuums from Kohl’s in Webster.

The arrest destroyed his reputation.

He was put on leave from Pittsford schools.

His teaching license was flagged by the state.
Lawyer fees put him in debt.
And it made the illness he was fighting even worse.

That’s why he wears a hat and mask.

Berkeley Brean, News10NBC: “Have you ever stolen anything in your life?”
Christopher Moore: “Never been arrested in my life.”
Moore’s nightmare started in a parking lot in Batavia one month before his arrest. Genesee County Sheriff’s deputies stopped two men suspected of trying to steal from the Kohl’s in Batavia.
Body-worn camera video shows one deputy asking for the name of a man in the green hoodie.

“Christopher Moore,” the man replies.

His name is actually Christopher Cole.

Sheriff’s deputy: “So that’s correct information? You understand you can’t lie to a police officer?”
Christopher Cole: “Yes, yes, yes, yes.”
Cole says he doesn’t have identification. But because he gave Chris Moore’s name, middle initial and date of birth, it checked out in the system as valid. 

Cole and his accomplice did not get arrested that night in Batavia because the items Cole was accused of piling into a shopping cart never left the store.

But a report was made. And when Webster Police got the information, it matched a suspect wanted for stealing from the Webster Kohl’s.

But when Webster Police got an arrest warrant, they used the name the suspect gave: Christopher M. Moore.

“You’re sitting in your house, minding your own business and the next thing you know you’re being pulled out of your own home and detained at a police station,” Moore said. “Humiliated.”
Moore had so many charges he was looking at years in prison.

His case was about to go to a grand jury when his criminal lawyer, Larry Kasparek, obtained Chris Cole’s image from the Genesee County Sheriff’s body-worn camera video. When Kasparek showed that to the court and Monroe County District Attorney’s office, the charges were dropped.

Brean: “So if Webster Police had just looked at that picture that they got from the Genesee County Sheriff’s deputy they would have realized…?”

J. Morgan Levy, attorney: “That he was not the person they were looking for. And the picture was in their possession. It was sent to them by the Genesee County Sheriff’s [Office], who had the interaction with the suspect.”
J. Morgan Levy is Moore’s civil attorney. Last week, she filed a federal lawsuit against the Town of Webster, the officer who initiated the arrest, and Kohl’s security.

“They either completely neglected to look at it or looked at it and didn’t pay attention to it. I’m not sure. I don’t know exactly what happened there,” Levy said. “But when you see the picture and you see a picture of Chris Moore, it’s clear they are not the same person.”
When I asked the Webster town supervisor and police chief to sit down and talk to us, they decided to write a statement. But instead of explaining how they could arrest an innocent man and what they’ve done to make sure it doesn’t happen again, they decided to share all the good things they do.

They wrote:

“The Webster Police Department remains committed to maintaining high standards in public safety and serving the Webster community. In supporting this mission, officers undergo robust training and are educated on the department’s policies and procedures, including eyewitness identification. Webster Police will continue to implement effective strategies to enhance safety and service in the Town of Webster.”

Webster Police’s 2022 annual report shows the officer who filed for Moore’s arrest warrant and who is now named in the federal lawsuit was promoted that year.

Moore says Webster Police never apologized.

“It’s been incredibly frustrating,” he said. “It’s still going on.”

“Wait a second,” I interjected. “Other police in New York are calling you to say there’s a warrant for your arrest?”

“Numerous warrants,” he said.

Just about every time Chris Cole was stopped and accused of stealing, he gave Chris Moore’s name. I tracked police reports and warrants in Orchard Park, Erie County; the Town of Greece; Ontario County; Genesee County; and Cayuga County.

Just days before I met Moore in January, he got another call from a sheriff’s office because of a warrant.

All the warrants have now been cleared.

J. Morgan Levy says it took the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office15 minutes to discard the warrant once they compared Chris Moore to the image of Chris Cole.

Brean: “Do you think Webster Police could have done the same thing?”
Levy: “Absolutely.”
Christopher Cole called me Tuesday, and I asked how he knew Chris Moore’s name and date of birth. He told me they were high school classmates and friends in Irondequoit.

Cole told me he’s gone through Veterans Treatment Court and he’s sober now. He told me using Moore’s name was “stupid” and he did it because he thought there was a warrant for his arrest. 

“I was in a horrible place,” Cole said. “I’m completely and totally sorry. I ruined a lifelong friendship and it sickens me.”

Chris Moore told me about a strange effect. After his arrest and the constant warrants, he started to feel guilty.

He started to wonder if he’s a good person.

“Constantly having to explain to people, sheriffs, judges, that you’re not a criminal, being accused of something you haven’t done numerous times, is a horrible experience,” he said. “And to have people on the other side believing you are a criminal, is a horrible feeling.”

Five years ago, the Webster Police Department was sued for arresting a man for robbery when security video showed it wasn’t him.

The town settled a state lawsuit case costing taxpayers $350,000.