COVINGTON - The Newton County Sheriff's Office is warning residents to be aware that there may be a man who is impersonating a law enforcement officer stopping vehicles in western Newton County.
According to Sheriff Joe Nichols, a 17-year-old girl was stopped around 11:15 Saturday night on Brown Bridge Road and the man attempted to "touch her inappropriately."
Nichols said the incident is especially alarming because it is actually the fourth incident they've heard about, but this is the first time a victim has come forward to make an official complaint. The three other victims said the man just talked to them and did not attempt to make any physical contact. They were suspicious that he was not a law enforcement officer, however.
All of the victims have given similar descriptions of the man and his vehicle. The man is described as black, approximately 6 feet tall with a medium build and no facial hair. He was wearing a dark uniform, either navy blue or black, and presented a "shield-shaped" badge - unlike the NCSO badges, which are star-shaped. He was also wearing a gun and belt with equipment on it similar to what law enforcement officers wear, Nichols said.
The man was said to be driving a black or dark colored vehicle "shaped like" a Ford Crown Victoria, an automobile commonly driven by plain clothes law enforcement officers. The victims said there were blue lights on the dash of the car, but there was no lettering on the side of the vehicle.
Nichols warns that there will very rarely be an occasion when an unmarked vehicle will be used in a traffic stop.
"Our unmarked vehicles will not stop an individual for a traffic stop unless there is some sort of emergency, and the same goes for the GBI," Nichols said. "There's no reason for an unmarked car to pull an individual over, and if it happens, just keep driving and call 911 to make sure the driver is a law enforcement officer."
Officers making traffic stops typically notify their dispatcher prior to pulling the car over that they are about to make a traffic stop and give a vehicle description and tag number. So, the 911 operator should be aware that the traffic stop is underway.
He also pointed out that all NCSO traffic units have lettering that plainly identify the vehicle and that deputies wear khaki uniforms.
Nichols asked that parents warn their young teenagers about this danger, as it appears that the man is targeting younger women who are alone at night.
Investigators ask that anyone with information about this or a similar incident call the NCSO at 678-625-1403. Investigators are anxious to talk with anyone who has encountered this individual.
Tips can also be given to the NCSO anonymously at 678-625-5007 or through their Web at www.newtonsheriffga.org and clicking on "anonymous tip line." Those who want a response from NCSO personnel should leave contact information.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.