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Deputies on lookout for police impersonator in Botetourt County

Published: Mar. 13, 2021 at 5:29 PM EST
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BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Deputies are on the lookout for a police impersonator, after a report of a man pulling over a woman on Interstate 81 in Botetourt County.

A woman was driving southbound on I-81, when investigators say she was pulled over late at night, only to discover the person was just pretending to be a police officer. Neighbors in the area say they are now on high alert.

“Just as a single woman, that would be incredibly frightening to think that you’re being law-abiding and then to be pulled over and attempted assault or actual assault, really gives you pause,” Fincastle resident Melissa Zimmerman said.

Sunday, March 7, just before midnight, Virginia State Police received a call that a driver used red and blue emergency lights to pull a woman over. This stop happened near mile marker 159 on I-81.

“It’s shocking, really, because this is an incredibly safe area,” Zimmerman said.

According to investigators, the woman was not asked for her license and registration but was asked to get out of her car. When she tried to get back into her car, the man reportedly dragged her down. She kicked the suspect and was able to get in her car and drive off.

“We’re out here to try to keep folks safe, and when something like that happens, it makes people more scared of us,” said Scott Gathje, patrol lieutenant with the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office.

Gathje said if you are being pulled over and aren’t sure if the officer is legitimate, slow down and acknowledge the officer “and then find a well-lit area to stop ... You want to stop somewhere where it might be populated, the big thing is if you have the ability to call 9-1-1, call 9-1-1.”

Gathje said to let the officer on the phone know it’s not an emergency but you would like to verify if there is an officer in the area on patrol. He asks that you be as descriptive as possible about the car that pulled you over. Most of the State Police vehicles are marked, and the troopers who drive unmarked cars are very accustomed to travelers not stopping right away while the driver goes to a place where they feel safe.

“It is quite frustrating for not only me being law enforcement, but me being female as well,” Halie Farris, patrol deputy with the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office, said.

The Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division is working closely with VSP to investigate this incident. If you have any related information, you can call VSP.

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