Fake Cops, Real Crimes

Flashing lights in your rearview mirror usually means one thing: Pull over, and get your license and registration ready. But some criminals count on that, using fake badges and realistic-looking police lights to mislead potential victims of acts they intend to carry out.

There's growing concern over crimes being committed by phony cops, reportsCBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales.

On a highway near San Francisco, he says, several women have been assaulted during fake traffic stops by phony cops.

Sacramento, Calif. Police Sgt. Terrell Marshall tells Gonzalez of one such incident in which an assailant "ended up taking (a female victim) back to his vehicle, where he ended up sexually assaulting her."

It's happened off the roads too, Gonzalez points out: When a Florida nursing student was stabbed to death in her Jacksonville apartment earlier this month, investigators suspected a man in uniform.

"We have reason to believe," says Rick Graham of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, "that access into her residence may have been gained through the impersonation of an officer."

In Fort Collins, Col., college student Lacey Miller disappeared in 2003.

A detective says, "Lacey was stopped by an individual posing as a police officer.

Miller's mother, Wendy Cohen, says Miller knew how to protect herself from criminals: "She had mace, and a cell phone. …She had everything she was supposed to have. She even pulled around the corner in front of our house."

Even in their front yard, Cohen says, there's only one reason Miller would have let her guard down: "Someone had to have tricked her to get out of the car."

Tricked, Gonzales, says, with a fake badge and flashing lights belonging to Jason Clausen, who later pleaded guilty to kidnapping, raping and murdering Miller.

Cohen was stunned to learn that, just weeks before her daughter's death, local deputies, responding to a report of a suspicious person in motel parking lot, found Clausen, and a lot more.

"He had a concealed weapons permit," Sheriff Jim Alderden of Larimer County, Col. tells Gonzales. "He was wearing a firearm. He had a, uh, set of handcuffs with him, a police-style flashlight. … And he did have red and blue lights on the visor of the car that could be used to pull somebody over."

Alderden says Clausen was also wearing a badge, but there was nothing deputies could do but let him go.

Miller couldn't believe impersonating a police officer wasn't a felony in Colorado: 'I was just dumbfounded. I said, 'I'm mortified that that's not a felony.' "

Possession of police-like flashers wasn't even a traffic misdemeanor," Alderden recalls. "It was a $15 ticket!"
  • Brian Dakss

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