Niagara Gazette

July 31, 2013

Man apparently impersonating police officer stopped by sheriff's deputy in Lewiston

Staff Reports
Niagara Gazette

A traffic stop Monday led to the discovery of a man armed with a handgun who appeared to be actively impersonating a police officer driving an unmarked patrol car.

A Niagara County Sheriff's deputy said he was parked at the intersection of Route 31 and Chew Road about 10:45 p.m. Monday when he noticed a black Ford Crown Victoria car with a prisoner cage on the rear windows tailgating a car in front of it. The deputy said he initially thought it was an unmarked patrol car trying to get the license plate of the car in front of it but ran a DMV check of the "police car's" license plates, which came back as a personal vehicle.

The deputy stopped the car and noticed it had two antennas on the rear of the vehicle and "deck" lights in the rear window — such as would be on an unmarked patrol car. Inside the car was an aftermarket center console with a Whelen light control and two police-type radios and a computer mount for an MDT (mobile data terminal.)

When questioned about the equipment, the driver became nervous, according to the report, but stated the vehicle had been given to him by his former employer, a security firm, and the equipment had been left inside.

The deputy said the man was evasive when questioned about the vehicle's lights and sirens, saying they were yellow warning lights and there was no siren but refusing to demonstrate for the deputy.

When asked if he had any weapons, the man replied he replied he was a full-time officer employed by an armored truck service and had a Glock 26 on his waist holster for which he had a valid permit. The deputy said he noticed the man's security guard ID was in a wallet attached to a neck lanyard with the badge secured to the front of the wallet, such as an undercover officer would wear. The man said he carried the badge that way in the event of an active shooter — so he could take out the shooter and be easily identified by responding officers.

At this point, the deputy said he noticed an equipment duty bag marked "POLICE" as well as a straight baton. Additionally, when the man stepped out of his vehicle, the deputy noted that he was wearing black BDU (battle dress uniform) style pants and black combat boots.

The deputy placed him in the back of his patrol car and contacted a sheriff's supervisor to appraise him of the situation. When he returned to the patrol car, the man said he was once "one of you" and knew he was being trapped but then denied ever being a police officer.

Asked to show how the radio worked, the deputy noted the man became agitated and refused. Instead, the deputy had the man contact his former employer who had given him the car. The man called a supervisor who told the deputy the man had worked for him in the past, but he had never been given a car or the equipment inside. The supervisor said he believed the man bought it at auction in Tonawanda.

A sheriff's supervisor arrived on the scene but the man refused to answer any more questions. At that point, the deputy had the car towed and issued the man a traffic ticket. The man called for a ride and left with a friend.

After obtaining a search warrant on Tuesday, sheriff's investigators looked over the car which had a fully functioning police radio, a speaker with functional "wail," "yelp" and two-tone" sirens like a normal police car and had a hideaway LED light controller that switched on front and rear amber LED lights. 

In addition, "State Officer" and "Police" velcro patches worn by officers were found as was a business card that read (man's name)/armed officer which had the man's cell phone number as well as the Buffalo Police Department phone number, as well as the tip line number, and a task force email address.

Sheriff's investigators then made a call to the Erie County Pistol Permit Office which stated the man's gun permit was a restricted permit used for target practice and hunting only and he should not have been driving around with a Glock. 

Sheriff's investigators said further charges are pending in the case. The man was not fully identified in the report.