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AWOL Sailor Arrested after Case of Mistaken Identity

May 9, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ A U.S. Navy deserter who assumed a grocery clerk’s identity to enlist has been arrested in North Carolina, much to the relief of the clerk, who was thrown into the brig in a case of mistaken identity.

″I’m happy. It’s very relieving,″ said Tommy Darryl Pulliam, 28, after being told of the arrest Thursday of a man identified as Willie Earl Warren.

Warren allegedly enlisted a year ago as Tommy Darryl Pulliam and was reported absent without authorization Dec. 16 at the San Diego Naval Base.

″Bingo, we’ve got our guy,″ said Lt. Cmdr. Scott Wilson of the Naval Military Personnel Command in Washington, D.C., after his arrest the the commissary at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Wilson said the suspect had deserted from the Army and the Marines as well, and carried a card identifying him as Tommy Darryl Pulliam when he was arrested.

Warren was expected to be formally charged Friday at the Absentee Collection Unit in Norfolk, Va., Wilson said.

The real Pulliam was pulled over for speeding by state police in February when a computer check revealed that Tommy Darryl Pulliam was wanted on a federal warrant for desertion.

Pulliam, protesting his innocence, was turned over to naval authorities.

After detention in both police and naval lockups that included forced exercise, a haircut and shaving his mustache, Pulliam was released after a check of dental records showed he wasn’t the missing sailor.

Pulliam, who has worked at the Little Nickel Grocery since he was 14, said he knew Warren ″only from graduation″ from Morgan Park High School. The two are pictured in the school’s 1975-76 and 1976-77 yearbooks.

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