Silverthorne PD hunting for armed man who posed as a Sheriff’s deputy | VailDaily.com

Silverthorne PD hunting for armed man who posed as a Sheriff’s deputy

Jack Queen
jqueen@summitdaily.com

Silverthorne police are investigating a report that a man was impersonating a Sheriff's deputy at a convenience store Friday evening.

A woman at a convenience store in Silverthorne reported on Friday night that a man impersonating a sheriff's deputy approached her and inspected her ID before driving away, police chief John Minor confirmed.

Minor said the incident is still under investigation and that his department has put out a statewide, all-points bulletin to law enforcement agencies informing them of the report. He said that more information would be released as it becomes available.

According to the report, a balding man dressed in a tan shirt and military pants got out of his car and approached the woman in the parking lot with a gun holstered at his hip, identifying himself as a deputy and presenting what appeared to be a sheriff's star. He said he needed to inspect the woman's ID, which she provided.

The man then reportedly told to the woman to get back in her car before leaving the scene traveling in an unknown direction in a white, 4-door Jeep Wrangler with a black top.

According to a dispatch report, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials reported not seeing a vehicle on its cameras matching that description pass through the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel on Interstate 70 after the incident was reported.

Chief Minor said his department was gathering and analyzing security camera footage and hopes to have a license plate or a clear photo of the suspect soon.

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Another customer who saw the encounter said the suspect had done the same thing to him and had taken a picture of his ID. He said the suspect also told him that he would be receiving a citation in the mail. (It's unclear from the report whether or not this separate incident happened on the same evening).

Good cop, bad cop, fake cop

Minor, who served as Summit County Sheriff for 12 years before becoming Silverthorne police chief, said officer impersonation is very rare in Summit County.

That's not the case on the Front Range, however, where cases of police impersonation have prompted the city of Denver to take a hard line. Instead of auctioning off vehicles used by impersonators, Denver PD now crushes them under the authority of the Nuisance Abatement Law, which permits the destruction of property used in certain types of crimes as a deterrent measure.

In March, Denver police made good on that threat by shredding a Chevrolet Impala used in an impersonation case along with all of its contents, including a police scanner, emergency lights and a mounted laptop. In September 2015 the car's owner, Robert Montoya, attempted to pull over another vehicle, but the driver happened to be a Denver police detective who arrested Montoya on the spot.

In last Friday's incident, the suspected impersonator didn't pull over his targets but instead approached them on foot in the parking lot. Minor said there are easy and practical ways to avoid being targeted by a fake cop whether in a car or on foot.

"This was not a traditional type of traffic stop or a typical police vehicle," he said, adding that drivers shouldn't be reluctant to ask an officer for identification if they are at all suspicious that a traffic stop isn't legitimate.

In such scenarios, Minor said, pull over in a well-lit, high-traffic area. Drivers can also call 911 during a stop to confirm via dispatch whether or not a stop is legitimate.

"Bottom line: if you're suspicious, ask for an ID and call dispatch," Minor said. "It's that simple."