Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla.
Two women were arrested after they pulled over a car while impersonating law enforcement officers and streamed the event on social media early Sunday, the Sarasota Police Department reports.
According to police, officers found a vehicle attempting to stop another vehicle at about 1 a.m. near Cocoanut Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The vehicle had red and blue lights in the windshield and a siren.
Driver Jymieka McDowell, 28, of Sarasota and passenger Ryshawnna Poole, 39, of Manatee County streamed the fake traffic stop on social media and made threatening and derogatory statements to the victims they pulled over for close to seven minutes.
“This is a real concern that these two women felt the need to commit this crime and act like it was a joke,” said SPD spokeswoman Genevieve Judge, who said the suspect and the victim didn’t appear to know each other. “This isn’t how a SPD officer would conduct themselves. On a typical stop, you are going to have an officer walk up to your vehicle, identify themselves and tell you why you were pulled over. Officers aren’t going to scream profanities and tell you, ‘Black lives don’t matter.'”
Detectives believe there are other victims and asks anyone who was stopped by these women to call the Criminal Investigations Division at 941-263-6070.
“This wasn’t Sarasota police officers pulling over a car,” Chief Bernadette DiPino said in a news release. “These were people who were pretending to be law enforcement officers and putting fear into innocent victims and residents of our community. If you ever suspect if someone is pulling you over that you feel isn’t a law enforcement officer, call 911 to validate the traffic stop.”
Judge said officers were tipped off to the impersonators by a 911 call reporting that an officer needed help. They believed the officer’s actions were because they were in distress.
During the video, multiple occupants of a vehicle activated red and blue lights similar to police lights. They can be heard laughing before someone inside the car yelled to a dark-colored SUV, “Driver, exit the vehicle. Throw your keys out the car. Throw your keys out the car.”
Their commands were often followed with profanities, and three victims appeared to exit the vehicle briefly. One began to record the encounter on a cellphone.
An occupant in the suspect’s vehicle can be heard discussing what to say, and someone suggests, “Black Lives don’t (expletive) matter.” It’s followed by more laughter.
Once the victims were outside the vehicle, the suspects ordered them to the right side of the car and to turn off the recorder. They called out the vehicle’s tag number and threatened “I will shoot” multiple times if they ran.
A neighbor who witnessed the incident believed an officer needed help and called 911. The incident led to an “all-hands” police response to search for a potential distressed officer.
The video has been shared more than 30 times on social media, and there are 137 comments left. Commenters warned, “This will get you in trouble. Delete this” and “Not funny. This is embarrasing.”
“There was no officer in distress,” Judge said. “One of our sergeants noticed a vehicle trying to pull over another vehicle.”
McDowell and Poole are at the Sarasota County jail on multiple charges including impersonating a law enforcement officer and false imprisonment.
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