Fake cop with gun stops youth in Palo Alto

Teen bicyclist followed by irate man who lectures him on his riding habits

A high school student was pulled over by a police impersonator who displayed either a stun gun or a handgun on Greer Road at Ivy Lane on Sept. 5, the Palo Alto police department is reporting.

After reprimanding the student for committing a traffic violation, the fake cop drove away and remains at large, a press release states.

Two male high school students had been riding their bicycles in the bike lane on Channing Avenue near Rhodes Drive when they heard a voice over a public address system behind them order them to ride single file instead of side-by-side, they told police.

They looked back, saw it was a car with no police markings, and -- thinking it was an unmarked police car -- they complied. The two students kept riding and parted ways at Greer.

The vehicle followed one of the students and again used the public address system to order the student to stop. When the student looked back, he saw flashing police-style lights emanating from inside the car. He stopped his bicycle, and the car drove up next to him, police said.

The police impersonator remained seated in the car, showed the teenager a badge and then proceeded to "angrily lecture him about his riding habits," the press release states.

The man produced a weapon, which the student described as either a stun gun or a handgun, and held it up pointed at the roof of his car so the student could see it. The man then drove away. The student rode home and later told his parents what had happened.

The student described the suspect as a white male in his 60s with balding, short gray hair. He was about 5 feet 10 inches tall and had a heavy build. He was wearing a light-blue collared shirt, similar to a uniform shirt. The badge he displayed was silver but had a color design on it, with a green tree in the center, the police stated.

The man's vehicle was a cream-colored, four-door sedan and had radio antennas on the roof. The student met with a police artist (see sketch).

Detectives are investigating this incident and are checking with other law enforcement agencies, police said. No similar cases have been reported in Palo Alto.

Police are asking that anyone with information about this incident call the 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to or sent via text message or voicemail to 650-383-8984. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through the department's free mobile app, downloadable at or

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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3 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Really scary to hear that creeps like this are prowling our residential streets and threatening our children. Someone like this must have a police record somewhere, either as a criminal or as a wannabe cop. Maybe a store security guard?

1 person likes this
Posted by If it smells like
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Kinda sounds like a rent-a-cop playing dress-up!

1 person likes this
Posted by just a thought
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Do the security guards at HP or other local tech companies wear blue shirts and have flashing lights and loudspeakers in their patrol cars? I assume all these guys have to be registered with the real police. Would be interesting to compare their home addresses to the location of this crime.

3 people like this
Posted by Perspectives
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Perspectives is a registered user.

I don't understand why we're just now finding out about this? It's been over a week since the incident.

Like this comment
Posted by Get Him!
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 13, 2014 at 5:09 am

Catch this sicko before he does something worse to a child!

1 person likes this
Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 13, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I am astonished the police kept this secret for a full week. They claimed they needed the time to interview witnesses and prepare the drawing. Absurd!

Leaving the public unaware that a police impostor is on the lose is unforgivable. Is public safety the top police priority or do they have some other agenda? Not to mention I thought speed was the most critical element to police work.

Thank goodness a second child was not assaulted last week.

Like this comment
Posted by larry
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Antennas on the car roof? He probably has an amateur radio license. Can't be too many 60 year old hams in the area who own cream colored sedans.

Like this comment
Posted by Perspectives
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Perspectives is a registered user.

Palo Alto parent is absolutely right.

I don't consider this guy a "ham" or a "rent-a-cop"... This was a potentially very dangerous situation (a displayed gun- whether decipherable as real or not), and the public should have been alerted immediately.

A pice department should not wait over a week to alert the public to keep an eye out for someone like this in order to protect children.

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I have been aware in past of someone who purchased an old discarded police car and retained the side light (sort of like The Blues brothers). This could then be used to pretend to be a cop and threaten someone. The person I recall died in "death by cop" - a sad story of a former Palo Alto resident.
Children are taught to respect authority, but that means REAL authority not posers or freaks or criminals. So it is worrisome to have this odd guy trolling around our streets.
A good defense is awareness in our neighborhoods - when you can, do notice the cars driving by on your street (that are not recognizable, owned by residents, or just passing through) and parking nearby.
Where I reside, there have been a huge number of run-down vehicles from out of area parked in front of our homes; these are associated with multi-month construction jobs; some of these persons look askance at local residents. My defense is awareness - take note of the vehicles and their description if/when something comes up like missing bikes out of side yards, petty theft, and etc. There have been cases of rogue gardeners, too...(see past

1 person likes this
Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Have the complainers upset about the PD's lack of timely reporting to the public of this incident made their views known to the police chief and/or city manager and city council?

3 people like this
Posted by Henry
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2014 at 9:12 pm

This is a disturbing incident, and I hope they catch the guy, BUT if he was upset at bad and unsafe and inconsiderate bicycle riding, parents and schools should try harder to get kids to ride more safely. I am sick of kids riding 2 or 3 abreast, with shifting loads (backpacks), not looking for cars right next to them at all. The worst is riding no-hands. Unbelievably stupid. Parents -- please spend time with your kids so they won't do this.

2 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 15, 2014 at 12:14 am

[Portion removed.] Bicycling 2 abreast in a bike lane is safe and legal and recommended by the police as a way to make yourselves more visible to cars. When you see bicycle police riding in pairs, they are almost always riding abreast, not single file, even when there is no bike lane.

Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 15, 2014 at 8:49 am

This is a worrying situation.

My kids have used their bikes for school and I can only trust that they have always obeyed the safety rules we instilled in them from when they first were able to ride a bike. We have always taught them to be respectful of authority but never really had to tell them how to spot the real police from fake.

The fact that biking students have such a bad rap for disregarding traffic rules that a vigilante is trying to do the work the police should be doing makes me wonder how many other students on bikes have been approached like this.

The best advice I can give my kids on this one is to ensure that they are obeying the traffic laws so that police - real or fake - don't have to approach them.

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Posted by don't blame the victims
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2014 at 10:40 am

Blaming the victims for this crime is like blaming women for getting raped.

Like this comment
Posted by Dad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 15, 2014 at 4:13 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Am I seriously hearing that people are reading this as a reaction kids not following all traffic laws on their bikes? Like if there was some creep stopping high school kids speeding in their cars it would be understandable due to our concerns about traffic safety?

Like this comment
Posted by It's always the other guy
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 16, 2014 at 5:13 am

Henry, where are the vigilantes trying to reel in all the drivers? Where are the adults telling each other to please obey the speed laws and laws regarding using turn signals? It was clever how you tried to twist this into some rally against those evil children riding to school on their bikes.

Your complaint about the kids would be akin to saying "I know murder is wrong, but I can understand the frustration of the person who was stuck behind the cell phone user at the red light. People please don't use your cell phones at red lights so you won't be murdered by someone off his nut."

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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