Twice in the past two days, people in Catawba County have encountered an armed man impersonating a law enforcement officer, according to local officials.
The suspect is not only dressed like a cop, but he drives an SUV “equipped with blue lights in its front windshield,” the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
One of the stops occurred around 6:50 a.m. Wednesday on Little Mountain Road in Catawba County, and the other happened around 3 a.m. Thursday on U.S. 321 in Hickory, near James Oxygen Supply, officials said.
Investigators suspect he may have stopped others, but those encounters haven’t been reported.
The Wednesday incident involved a “high school age female ... stopped by what she believed as a law enforcement officer,” according to the sheriff’s office.
“This person’s appearance and demeanor resulted in the female concluding that they were impersonating a law enforcement officer,” officials said.
“This person allowed the female to leave following a brief verbal exchange in which she asked to see a badge and what department he was employed by. This female reported the incident to her School Resource Officer.”
Both witnesses described the same man: “A white male in his 30’s, who is approximately 5 ft. 8 inches tall with a medium build. This person has a long beard which is dark in color,” according to releases from the Hickory Police Department and Catawba County Sheriff’s Office.
The man was not wearing a badge but displayed “other law enforcement type equipment,” witnesses told officials. The SUV is black and has no “law enforcement style markings” on it, officials said.
Investigators are asking potential witnesses to call Hickory police at 828-328-5551 or the sheriff’s office at 828-464-3112.
Until the suspect is caught, the sheriff’s office released a series of tips for drivers:
“Turn your vehicle’s emergency flashers on and continue driving at a slower speed while attempting to pull over in a well-lit, populated area.
Ask the person stopping you to provide you with photo ID and which department they work for.
Pay attention to the person’s clothing.
Request another officer to respond to the traffic stop.”