7.03.12 Update - Police Impersonators
ORIGINAL NEWS RELEASE:
On April 7th, 2012, at approximately 3:00 a.m. a couple who reside in the 1st block of N. Water St. discovered that their parked vehicle had been struck by another vehicle, which had fled the scene. While examining the damage to their vehicle, the couple was approached by two subjects who drove up in a dark colored sedan. These subjects identified themselves as off-duty police officers. One of these subjects had what appeared to be a holstered handgun on his belt and a hand-held police-type radio. The subjects then asked the victims for identification and paperwork for their vehicle and acted as if they were investigating the hit and run accident. These subjects returned to the victims’ residence approximately one hour later, and began asking the victims for more information. At this point the victims became suspicious and asked the subjects to show them a badge. The subjects refused to do so and the male victim told his wife to call 911. Both suspects then left the area.
Lancaster City Police are exploring the possibility that this incident may be related to a similar incident that occurred on January 1st, 2012 in the 400 blk. N. Prince St. On this date, two 23-year-old females were approached by two subjects who identified themselves as undercover police officers and engaged in conversation with these females. The suspects convinced the females to get into their car, described as a dark-colored sedan. A third male was in the back seat of this vehicle. These subjects then gave the females a ride to an address in the city. (This being the address of a family member of one of the victims and was where the victims had asked to be driven.)
The subjects involved in both of these incidents were NOT Lancaster City Police Officers, and at this time there is nothing to indicate that these subjects are legitimate law enforcement officers in any way. These incidents are being investigated with the assumption that these are individuals impersonating police officers / law enforcement officers.
Suspect descriptions are as follows:
Subject #1: Hispanic male, late 20’s
Jan. 1st incident – wearing blue jeans, sweater, glasses
Subject #2: Hispanic male, late 20’s
Muscular, stocky build
Jan. 1st incident – wearing blue jeans, dark colored dress shirt
Apr. 7th incident – wearing camouflage military style pants, possible handgun on belt, had police-style radio.
Lancaster City Police are currently investigating these incidents and are collecting and reviewing video surveillance footage from the Lancaster Community Safety Coalition and businesses in the area. This investigation is of a high priority, as persons impersonating police officers create a serious erosion of public trust.
Citizens are cautioned that if they are ever approached by someone claiming to be a police officer, particularly someone not in uniform or in an unmarked car, and have any doubts, they should attempt to verify that the person is indeed a law enforcement officer. If you feel uncomfortable, do not be afraid to act on that feeling and ask for identification / confirmation. You should:
1. Ask to see a badge AND photo identification (keep in mind that fake, and even genuine police badges can be obtained by persons not employed in law enforcement).
2. Ask the officer to have his/her supervisor respond to the location.
3. If you still feel uncomfortable or suspicious, call 911. Try to provide your exact location. If the officer stopping you is a real police officer, the dispatcher can quickly confirm this.
4. If you do not have a phone to call 911: If possible, tell the officer that you are going to drive or walk to a public location. Do not attempt to flee (a real officer will, of course react to this, creating a dangerous situation for both of you). If you are in your car, put on your hazard lights and drive slowly to a well-lit, public (busy) area or to the nearest police station.
Plain clothes officers are trained to take steps to confirm their identity when questioned by citizens. Someone impersonating an officer will most likely leave when challenged to do so. Again, if someone claiming to be a police officer refuses to confirm their identity or begins threatening you, call 911.
Anyone with any information on these incidents, or anyone who has experienced a similar incident, should contact the Lancaster City Police at (717)735-3300.
UPDATED INFORMATION 7/3/12:
Lancaster City Police have made an arrest and issued a warrant in connection with the above incident.
Elvin AVILES-MENDEZ 33-year-old male
400 blk. Poplar St. Lancaster, PA
Charged with Burglary, (2) counts of Impersonation of a Public Servant, and (2) counts of Criminal Conspiracy to Impersonate a Public Servant. He has been committed to Lancaster County Prison in lieu of $15,000.00 bail.
A warrant has been issued for:
Alberto LOPEZ 29-year-old male
LKA: 400 blk. S. Queen St. Lancaster, PA
Charged with Burglary, (2) counts of Impersonation of a Public Servant, and (2) counts of Criminal Conspiracy to Impersonate a Public Servant.
On June 17, 2012 one of the victims of the April 7th incident observed the suspect who identified himself as “Officer Mendez” in the 1st block of S. Water St. and contacted police. After additional follow-up investigation conducted by patrol officers and Det. Sgt. Nate Nickel, this individual was identified as Elvin Aviles-Mendez. A warrant was issued and Aviles-Mendez was arrested without incident by members of the patrol division’s C platoon on June 28, 2012.
Subsequent investigation led Det. Sgt. Nickel to the determination that Aviles-Mendez was also one of the suspects from the incident that occurred on January 1st, 2012 in the 400 blk. of N. Prince St. Additional charges were filed in relation to that incident. The second suspect in both incidents has been identified as Alberto Lopez, who is currently wanted on the above charges. Anyone with information on Lopez’ whereabouts should contact Lancaster City Police at (717) 735-3300 or Lancaster City-County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-322-1913.