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Miami-Dade Firefighter Charged With Impersonating Police Officer

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A Miami-Dade firefighter, involved in a slight case of road rage, was jailed for impersonating a law enforcement officer.

A judge in bond court at the Metro Justice Building expressed concern that Alvarez had been arrested before on similar charges. She set his bond at $28,000.

According to a Miami-Dade police arrest affidavit, Alvarez was driving on SW 81st Avenue on Thursday October 3rd when another vehicle pulled up next to him. Alvarez yelled at the other person "to drive better."

The other driver, according to the report, flipped Alvarez the bird and drove into a shopping center at 8333 SW 81st Avenue. Alvarez, apparently angered by getting the middle finger treatment, followed him into the parking lot and parked behind him, blocking his exit.

When Alvarez got out of his truck and approached the driver, the report states, the driver lowered his window and apologized. But Alvarez grabbed the driver's hand and said "I could arrest you for trying to run me over," according to the report.

Several witnesses also heard Alvarez identify himself as a police officer. He was also wearing a Miami-Dade Police T-shirt.

Mitch Becton says he heard Alvarez tell the other driver he was an officer. "He came over, was screaming at the guy, said 'I can have you arrested I'm a cop'," said Becton, adding, "The guy we saw had his hands inside the poor guy's vehicle, looks to me like he was trying to drag him out.   I don't know, but all I know is his hands were inside the vehicle."

Cathy Silva says she began to doubt Alvarez was an officer as the confrontation continued. "The way he was acting the way he was yelling hopefully if it was a cop I wouldn't expect him to be yelling at someone," she said to CBS4's Maggie Newland.

When real officers arrived on the scene, they arrested Alvarez and took him to jail.

Alvarez was charged with falsely impersonating an officer, vehicle burglary and simple battery.

Alvarez told the Judge in bond court that he needed an Assistant Public Defender. He said even though he earned nearly $100,000 last year with overtime, he said he paid a lot of money for child support for three children and he also said he was supporting another family member.

Alvarez also told Judge Brennan that his salary would be closer to $80,000 this year because overtime had been dramatically reduced countywide.

The Judge denied that request and said he would have to hire his own attorney.

She noted that he'd been arrested on similar charges in 2002.

"You have been arrested on the same charges before," said Judge Victoria Brennan.

Records show Alvarez was charged with two counts of battery and impersonating a police officer. He was never convicted of those charges.

A spokesman for the Miami-Dade Fire Department told CBS4's Peter D'Oench that Alvarez has been a firefighter since November of 2003. That's the only comment the department has at this point.

Alvarez lives in a townhouse that has a concrete fire hydrant and a statue of a dalmation outside it.

Neighbors asked that they not be identified and they told D'Oench they were stunned.

"He was always very nice to me," said one neighbor. "He was always telling me that he would do anything to look after me. I'm an elderly person. This is the last thing I would think he would do."

Another neighbor said, "I don't believe this. I am in shock that a firefighter would do such a thing. This is incredible."

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