Authorities are investigating after a man posed as an off-duty police officer in Old Lyme earlier this month, stopping a car and yelling at the woman behind the wheel about her driving, according to state police.
State police spokesperson Trooper First Class Kelly Grant said the incident happened Aug. 2 on Hawks Nest Road and was reported to police the following day.
Sade Vargas, 25, of Waterbury, told NBC Connecticut she was visiting the beach with a group of friends Aug. 2 and parked on a side street because all public lots were full. Other cars had parked along the road and no signs were posted indicating it was not allowed.
As she was leaving the beach, Vargas, who was driving, noticed a man in a red pickup truck driving behind her and flagging her down.
"I noticed the guy waving me down, like out his window, waving me down to pull over," she explained.
She thought something was wrong with her car, so she pulled over and he approached. Vargas said the man accused her of rolling through stop signs, an allegation she denies.
The man, clad in a gray T-shirt, identified himself as an off-duty Old Lyme officer and flashed what appeared to be a badge so quickly, Vargas could not make out what it said.
She told the man she felt uncomfortable about their interaction and was going to record video for her own protection.
"Everything that’s going on in the news right now with police officers and stuff like that, that’s what made me really nervous and that’s what made me pull out my camera," Vargas explained.
The man balked when Vargas began recording and said, "There's nothing to video for" and "There's nothing to record for," according to the video. He walked back to his truck, the camera still rolling, but he didn't leave.
"He followed my car from that street to the highway entrance, which was at least two miles," Vargas said.
She caught his license plate on camera and brought the footage to the police department the next day. Vargas said police ran the plate and told her the man is not an officer.
"We didn’t think he was going to say he was a cop pulling us over," Vargas said. "We thought he was going to say he was a resident concerned for our safety. But it turned out completely different."
Police told Vargas she did the right thing by reporting the encounter and said she has the right to record video of both herself and police.
State police are encouraging drivers to take the following actions if they feel uncomfortable during a traffic stop:
- Put your hazard lights on and slow down but do not stop if you suspect you're being pulled over by someone who isn't an actual police officer.
- Drive to a well-lit, populated area before pulling over.
- Call 911 and give the dispatcher your location and a license plate number, if possible, of the person pulling you over.
- If the person pulling you over is in plain clothes, you can ask for identification to verify he or she is a law enforcement officer.
- You can also request that a second, uniformed officer be dispatched to the scene.
Authorities continue to investigate. No charges have been filed.
It's not the first time someone has posed as Old Lyme officer. The brother of a former Massachusetts senator pleaded guilty to impersonating an officer in Old Lyme last year.