Tahlequah Daily Press

January 14, 2014

Man grilled for posing as trooper

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Investigators with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office have questioned a man who allegedly pretended to be a state trooper Sunday when he approached two women in their driveway early in the morning.

Undersheriff Jason Chennault said the investigation is still ongoing, and the suspect’s name has not been released.

The women filed reports over the weekend saying a silver, single-cab Dodge truck followed their vehicle into a driveway in the Dry Creek area, near 869 Road, at about 2:45 a.m.

The women noticed red-and-blue flashing lights from inside the truck that approached them, but they said the lights appeared to be emanating from a cell phone hanging on the vehicle’s rear-view mirror.

According to the women, a man driving the truck approached the driver’s side window and asked for a driver’s license and vehicle registration. The suspect was wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the words “state trooper” printed in white letters.

The man told the women he was responding to a noise complaint, and asked if they had been drinking alcohol. Both women told deputies they asked the man for a badge several times, but he never responded to their requests. Instead, he asked whether they would submit to a breathalyzer test.

At one point, the man reached for the door handle, but the woman driving the vehicle told him she would not get out until she could see a badge. The passenger then got out of the vehicle and ran into the house to get a male family member.

The alleged impersonator got back into his truck and sped toward State Highway 100, the women said.

Chennault confirmed Monday that the man investigators have pinpointed as the driver of the truck is not a law enforcement officer. He urged drivers to be smart and cautious if they are pulled over by a vehicle with flashing lights.

“It’s always best to pull over in a public place, a well-lit area, if possible,” said Chennault. “A law enforcement officer is going to understand – although in this case, the victims really didn’t have that choice.”

Chennault said drivers can ask to see a badge if one is not clearly visible. Another option is to call 911 and ask for confirmation that the stop is legitimate.