GRAHAM, N.C. (WGHP) — Police arrested and charged a man for allegedly posing as a first responder.
Graham police said while the person they arrested had a red flashing light on his car and wore a safety vest and what looked like a baseball hat with a fire department logo, incidents like this are rare, but they still advise you to be cautious.
“It’s not something that happens on a regular basis. But, unfortunately, it does happen, and you don’t know if they’re just doing it because they get the excitement of getting to act like a police officer or a firefighter or if they’re actually doing it to try to do harm to somebody,” said Capt. Daniel Sisk with the Graham Police Department.
Graham police with the help of Burlington police pulled over Pedro Virola Jr. last week.
They charged him with unlawful use of a red light, careless and reckless driving and driving while his license was revoked.
“He had no affiliation with the fire department, even though he was flashing red lights. He had a traffic vest … and he had a generic fire department hat on. And he said that he had told them that he was assisting another motorist on the interstate,” Sisk said.
“When you have somebody impersonating a firefighter, it creates an issue of trust,” Graham Fire Chief Tommy Cole said.
They shared his picture with other local police departments and fire departments. Investigators say that just days before Virola stopped at a crash scene and identified himself as a firefighter.
“We all want to make sure that we know what’s going on,” Cole said.
While it’s a rare incident, police say if you encounter someone you believe could be impersonating a first responder, you should look for some type of identification.
If you are still concerned, you should find a safe location and call 911.
“I believe it’s one of the most difficult things that exists with the availability to buy shirts off the internet, to buy red lights and blue lights off the Internet,” Cole said. “It’s getting harder and harder for people to be able to identify who is truly a public safety official versus someone that’s trying to be an impersonator of one of us.”
The Graham Police Department is still asking for the public’s help with any new information related to Virola.