Ex-Wisconsin officer held in Hernando after confrontation at Taco Bell

SPRING HILL — Angry at another motorist in a Taco Bell parking lot, Ryan Romano flashed a badge, authorities say.

The problem: Romano resigned in December from his job as a sheriff's deputy in Kenosha County, Wis.

Romano, 31, was arrested later Saturday and charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer. He was held without bail Monday at the Hernando County Detention Center, in part because Hernando investigators were told he threatened law enforcement officers at the time of his departure from the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department, according to a Hernando Sheriff's Office arrest report.

The report and a news release give this account:

Romano was driving a Chevrolet Silverado when he got angry at another motorist who was trying to turn around in the parking lot of the restaurant at 11140 Spring Hill Drive.

Romano, who had a male passenger with him, maneuvered his truck to block the other driver's path, got out and identified himself as a law enforcement officer. He showed a badge and ordered the occupants to get out of the vehicle.

Suspicious of Romano, they refused. When Romano threatened to arrest them, a man in the other vehicle said he was going to call 911. Romano got back in his truck and drove away.

Later, deputies responded to Spring Haven Apartments after receiving calls about two men impersonating law enforcement officers.

Deputies didn't find the caller, but Romano and his passenger were there.

The passenger reported that Romano had gotten into an argument with another motorist at Taco Bell and flashed a deputy's badge. Romano admitted that he asked for the driver's identification, but denied that he identified himself as an officer. He told authorities he retired from his job in Wisconsin on Dec. 31.

Hernando investigators were then told Romano had been fired about a week before Saturday's incident and had "made threats to harm law enforcement."

Sgt. Bill Beth, spokesman for the Kenosha Sheriff's Department, told the Times on Monday that one of the department's sergeants gave Hernando officials incorrect information.

Romano resigned effective Dec. 15, Beth said. Romano, who started with the department in 2007, was moved from road patrol to administrative duty last August, Beth said. He declined to comment on the circumstances of the reassignment and resignation.

As for the reported threats toward law enforcement, Beth said those were rumors that had not been confirmed, but might have been relayed to Hernando authorities as a precaution.

Reach Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431.

Ex-Wisconsin officer held in Hernando after confrontation at Taco Bell 02/11/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 11, 2013 7:17pm]

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