Phony officer searches home
A man posing as a law enforcement officer gained access into a Newton home under the pretense of making an arrest.
The man, who was dressed in a black long-sleeved shirt and dark pants with a stripe down the leg, arrived at 1100 Aunt Hill Drive in Newton about 5 p.m. Dec. 18.
Brian Timothy Sipe, 26, who lives at the residence, answered the door to find the man standing on the property, said Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid. The man had a gun at his side, and his clothes looked like a police uniform, Reid said.
"It looked like he had a badge on," Reid said. "It was like an upside-down bullet on his shirt."
A Ford Crown Victoria with a light bar on the top was parked outside of Sipe's residence. The Crown Victoria is a common car model for police officers. Reid said the vehicle's lights weren't on.
Reid said the man told Sipe he had an arrest warrant from the Knoxville Police Department for Sipe's brother, Robert Sipe.
The man claimed Robert is wanted in Tennessee for a driving while impaired charge, and he asked to search the house in an attempt to locate Robert.
Reid said the man never explicitly told Sipe he was a police officer, but because of the man's car and apparent police uniform, Sipe assumed the officer was legitimate.
Sipe let the man into the house, and he looked through each room. Reid didn't know how long the phony officer was inside the house.
The man left the house eventually, but Sipe didn't see which way he went.
Reid said Sipe relayed the incident to his mother, and she reported it to the Catawba County Sheriff's Office on Dec. 20.
Sheriff's deputies contacted Tennessee law enforcement officials, and they said they never sent an officer to Catawba County to look for Robert.
Reid discovered that Robert is wanted in Tennessee for failure to appear. Authorities in Tennessee, however, won't extradite Robert, so Catawba County sheriff's deputies can't make an arrest, Reid said.
According to Reid, Sipe didn't recognize the man posing as an officer. Reid said it's possible that the phony officer knew Robert personally.
There are no suspects, and the case is under investigation. The man, if located, could be charged with impersonation of a peace officer.
Reid advised people to be certain before admitting law enforcement officers into their homes.
"If you're not sure that these people are law enforcement officers, ask," Reid said.
Officers carry identification, and Reid said residents should ask for identification from law enforcement officials if they're uncertain of officers' legitimacy.
Residents can also call in a police officers' car tags to law enforcement officials to ensure officers are who they say.