paper tag nation

Vehicle Used in Dallas Salon Shooting Had Paper Tag

Dallas police appear to have made a major break in the case thanks to some high-tech policing

NBCUniversal, Inc.

NBC 5 Investigates has learned the vehicle used by the man suspected of opening fire inside a Dallas hair salon earlier this month had a type of Texas temporary paper license plate that can make it more difficult for police to locate the owner of the car.

The shooting, in the city’s Koreatown neighborhood, wounded three Asian women in what police have described as a hate crime.

NBC 5 obtained the tag number for the vehicle from a Dallas Police arrest warrant affidavit. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles then confirmed Tuesday that the tag is what’s known as a “vehicle specific tag,” a type of paper tag that's supposed to be used by car dealers, primarily for test drives or moving vehicles from one dealer to another.

It's not clear why the suspect in the salon shooting, 37-year-old Jeremy Theron Smith, would have had one of these dealer tags, and Dallas police did not immediately respond to questions about the tag Tuesday night.

The TxDMV told NBC 5 Investigates that the small Dallas County dealership that issued the tag had its dealer license revoked in April for violations of TxDMV rules, although the department would not say what specific rules were broken.

Vehicle-specific tags are registered to a dealership and not to a person. So, if the vehicle is involved in a crime, police would first have to contact the dealer to find out who is driving the car, which can slow down an investigation.

But in this case, Dallas police appear to have made a major break in the case thanks to some high-tech policing.

According to a police affidavit, investigators were able to use data collected by license plate readers which had previously captured images of the paper tag on Smith’s car parked multiple times at an address in Dallas. Officers were then able to go to that address and locate the car.

For months, an ongoing NBC 5 Investigation has shown how paper tags are causing major headaches for police investigating crimes across the state because they can often make it harder to identify the owner of a car.

Hundreds of thousands of fraudulent paper tags have been sold illegally for profit, according to law enforcement investigators. And, our reporting has also shown how small dealers often misuse paper tags by putting certain types of temporary tags on cars that should not have them, creating even more challenges for police trying to sort out which ones are legitimate or not.

Texas lawmakers are now considering scrapping the state’s paper tag system to resolve ongoing safety concerns.

Tuesday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson told NBC 5 he wanted more action to deal with the tag problem saying in a statement, "...we will need more help from other law enforcement agencies and from Austin during the next legislative session. We all must work together to put public safety first and stop the unscrupulous dealers, criminals and criminal enterprises that are using these tags."


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