No abduction risk in Sparta police impersonator case

An image of a person of interest in the search for a police impersonator. (Sparta Police Department)

SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) – The moral of the story: don’t play cop.

It appears a 48-year-old Sparta man was trying to stop what he thought were shoplifting suspects when he confronted two young women in the parking lot of a Sparta grocery store late Sunday afternoon.

Witnesses said the man identified himself as a police officer during the incident.

While police ruled out abduction as a motive, one passerby had no way of knowing that. He stopped the incident from going any further.

“It just didn’t seem right,” said that passerby, Jacob Davis. “The whole issue did not look right”

It began with two young women in a car and a man pounding on the widow.

“Yelling, ‘Get out of the car. I [saw] what you did. I’m an officer. You have to listen to me,’” said Davis, who had just walked out of the Sparta Family Fare with his fiancé. “Oh, they were scared… definitely. There was no doubt about it.”

Instinct kicked in when Davis saw what was going on.

“[The suspect] didn’t make any threats. He says, ‘You know you’re in trouble. You need to come with me. Come to my car,’” Davis said. “Then they started to walk to his car and that’s when I yelled, ‘Don’t go to his car!’”

Fortunately, the yet-to-be-identified women listened to Davis and didn’t follow the man. And despite claims he was an officer, the suspect never challenged Davis.

“I said, ‘Are you a cop?’ He said, ‘Yes, I’m on the phone with them,’” Davis said. “I said, ‘That’s fine, let me see your badge.’ He kind of of fidgeted and I said, ‘Show me your badge and I’ll leave you alone.’”

The best the suspect could come with was an empty badge holder and a questionable ID with the name covered up. And as for the phone call to police, the Sparta Police Department confirmed no call was placed to 911.

So how did Davis know he wasn’t about to get cuffed for interfering with police? He told 24 Hour News he knows how things work when it comes to getting arrested. That’s because he spent over a decade in prison for various crimes.

“I can tell if you’re a cop a mile away,” said Davis. “And a bad guy from a mile away.”

Shortly after the incident, Sparta police posted a photo of the suspect on their Facebook page, which generated a number of leads.

“Based on the information we had, we thought it was very important to identify this person very quickly in case there was something more serious going on,” said Sparta Police Officer David Price.

Davis said there were a number of people in the parking lot when then incident happened, but it appears he was the only person who did anything.

While the threat appears to be less than first thought, Davis didn’t know that at the time and he said he has thought about what could have happened if he didn’t speak up.

“Too much. ‘Cause it could have been my daughter. It could have been my fiancé,” he said.

Sparta Police will send the case to the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office for review. The suspect could face a charge of impersonating a police officer.