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Man Mistaken for Navy Deserter Endures Tough 42-Hour Stretch

February 21, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ Naval officials mistook Tommy Darryl Pulliam for a deserter, put him in the brig, cut his hair, shaved his mustache and forced him to exercise. Then they threatened to get rough.

″I never felt so helpless in my life,″ Pulliam said Friday, recalling his 42-hour ordeal. ″I kept saying to anyone and everyone, ‘I’m innocent,’ and thinking this nightmare is going to end soon. But no one would listen to me.

″Then, when they got me to the naval base, they kept telling me, ‘You’re going back to San Diego.’ And after a while, I started thinking, ’I might really be going into the Navy for good.‴

Pulliam was released from the brig at Great Lakes Naval Training Base on Wednesday after a check of dental records showed he was not the Tommy Darryl Pulliam wanted on charges of deserting the Navy at San Diego.

The deserter is still at large. He was sent to San Diego in May and deserted Dec. 16, officials said.

The 27-year-old grocery clerk’s ordeal began when an Illinois state trooper stopped him late Monday for speeding and a computer check found Pulliam fit most of the particulars listed on a Navy arrest warrant.

There were discrepancies - Pulliam was an inch taller, 30 pounds heavier and had no visible scar on his forehead - but apparently not enough for Pulliam to convince the trooper and officers at Great Lakes that he had never served in the Navy.

The trooper turned Pulliam over to Chicago police Monday night, and Tuesday afternoon the Navy took him to the base, 30 miles north of Chicago.

Pulliam’s stepfather, the Rev. Leonard DeVille, said someone apparently had used Pulliam’s name and personal information to enlist.

″The trooper told me it was out of his hands, the police kept saying it’s a federal matter and the people at Great Lakes kept saying they were investigating,″ DeVille said.

″I told them, ’I raised that boy, I’d sure know if he’d ever been away long enough to be in the Navy,‴ he said. ″And I told them, even a blind man could run his hand over Tommy’s forehead and see there’s no scar, never has been. But nobody seemed to want to hear the right story.″

″The unusual twist in this case,″ said Great Lakes spokesman Bill Dermody, ″is that all the personal history information checked out - date of birth, schooling, mother’s maiden name.″

While there were inconsistencies on the enlistment application, ″there are many consistencies,″ Dermody said. He declined to be more specific.

In the brig, Pulliam was given a haircut and his moustache was shaved. He said he suffered an asthma attack only minutes before he said he was forced to undergo a rigorous 45-minute workout.

He declined to give more details of his incarceration, saying he might sue.

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