Local man details experience being pulled over by cop impersonator

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – We’re hearing from a local man who called 911, after he says he was pulled over by someone pretending to be a cop.

That man thinks Daniel Bell, 19, was behind the wheel. Knoxville police announced Bell’s arrest Tuesday.

KPD says Bell was driving a 2010 Ford Crown Victoria, a decommissioned police cruiser. He had a black shirt with “police” written on the front and back, a gold badge and a police-like radio with a microphone.

WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel spoke to Zack Hawkins. He’s one of many who called 911.

Hawkins called the news of Bell’s arrest a big win. Knoxville police also say it’s a big deal to them, too, because they say something like this happening here is pretty rare.

Hawkins says he was pulling out of a parking lot on Western Avenue last week when it all happened.

“I’m sitting there trying to wrack my brain as to what I might have done wrong for a cop to be pulling me over,” he said.

Some things, he says, seemed legit. He noticed a transport cage in the back of the car and alternating flashing headlights, but he didn’t see any blue lights. Still, he decided to stop.

“He all of a sudden cut back over back into traffic, and pulled up next to me on Western Avenue, stopped in the middle of Western Avenue, and gave me a thumbs up and waved at me, and then took off,” said Hawkins.

That’s when Hawkins says he called 911.

“I’ve got a wife and kids, so it’s a dangerous thing, and so I had to make sure that nobody else was going to be in any kind of danger,” he said.

Knoxville police announced the arrest of Daniel Bell Tuesday. He’s someone they say pretended to be a real officer. It’s who Hawkins also thinks tried to pull him over.

“We do utilize just a handful of unmarked vehicles, not a lot. Just on a regular basis we probably only have about two in our patrol division in a day,” said KPD Sgt. Samuel Henard.

The lights on the cars are a key way to distinguish between a real cruiser and a fake one.

“What we’ve seen with impersonators they have one little flashing light in the dash that they can remove very quickly. All of our vehicles that we utilize have mounted lights all over the vehicle, so you know, it’s like a Christmas tree at Christmas. It lights up like crazy,” Henard said.

As for Hawkins, he’s thankful what happened to him likely won’t happen to anyone else.

“Anytime that justice is served and crime is taken off the street, it’s a win,” Hawkins said.

Police also say it’s important if you’re being pulled over by an unmarked vehicle and you just feel uncomfortable, slow down, turn your hazards on and call 911 to verify you are being pulled over by legitimate law enforcement.

This is still an ongoing investigation, and the Knoxville Police Department wants to hear from anyone who thinks they might have been stopped by Bell. You can give them a call on the Crime Hotline at 865-215-7272 or message the department on Facebook.

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