DALTON, Ga.—Call it an epidemic of wannabe officers or the onslaught of macho men gone wrong.
Whitfield County authorities have arrested the third Dalton man in less than two weeks for posing as a police officer.
“I guess we have a lot of dream police — wannabes,” Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant said Friday. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The first man, arrested March 15, wore a holstered Glock and handcuffs on his belt as he attempted to stop what turned out to be a police detective.
The second, arrested on March 23, flipped a toggle switch to activate blue lights when another car pulled in front of him. And the third man put his hands on hips and pulled back his jacket to show a police department-issued sport shirt after a store manager confronted him about shoplifting.
All have been booked into the Whitfield County Jail for impersonating an officer in what authorities are calling unprecedented, but unrelated, incidents.
Grant’s officers arrested the third man on Wednesday after a call from the local Dollar General about a possible shoplifter. Gregory Lee Shepard, 40, of Dalton, was arrested in the incident.
The store manager told officers he noticed Shepard cutting open a package while inside the store, according to the Varnell police report. Shepard put down the items and walked outside, but the store manager followed and confronted him, the report states.
When the manager asked Shepard why he was cutting open packages, Shepard put his hands on his hips to pull back his jacket to reveal the Dalton Police Department emblem, according to the report. The black polo shirt also had the name of an officer on it.
The store manager told police that, before the incident, he saw Shepard put on the shirt and a camouflage jacket while he was sitting in his black Volkswagen Beetle outside the Dollar General.
Shepard also is charged with shoplifting for taking three cans of Axe spray and two cans of Febreeze.
Dalton police spokesman Bruce Frazier said the officer to whom the shirt was issued, Randy Patterson, resigned from the department in 2007. The department, which collects and inventories all police-issued items when an officer leaves, is trying to determine why the shirt was not taken, Frazier said.
“If you would have told me we would arrest one person (for impersonating an officer) this year, I would have laughed,” Frazier said. “But three — it’s strange.”
A Chattanooga security guard who lives in Dalton was arrested March 15 when he turned on his vehicle’s strobe lights behind another car he thought “was not driving in a safe manner,” according to a police report.
The driver of the other car was a Dalton police detective, who called in additional police officers.
James Dale Smith, 58, is charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer and fleeing to elude, the report states.
At the time of his arrest, Smith was driving a white Ford Crown Victoria with a “Police Interceptor” icon on the back and white strobe lights mounted along with police-style radio antennas.
He was wearing clothing similar to that of a police detective, had a Glock pistol in a belt holster, a security badge on his belt and a spare ammunition magazine and handcuffs in a holster. Smith had more bullets, gun products and eight sets of handcuffs in his trunk, according to the police report.
Jackie Plemons, 53, was arrested on March 23 for turning on blue lights when he was behind another car on the Dalton Bypass. He faces charges of impersonating an officer and having unauthorized lights, according to a police report of that incident.
The driver of the other car called police after Plemons drove up next to him in a red Ford Mustang and appeared to try to get him to race, according to the police report. Plemons told police he turned the lights on only to “say hi” and that he was not trying to spook the other driver, the report states.
Plemons had switches in his car that turned on extra fog lights, clear strobe lights that flashed in the grille and a blue light mounted on the bumper, according to the report.
Both men have been released on bond, according to the sheriff’s office. They do not have court dates scheduled, according to Whitfield County Superior Court.
Information on whether Shepard had been released on bond was not available Friday afternoon.
Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...