TAMPA — Karen Murphy saw the Crown Victoria's flashing lights and thought a cop was pulling her over Sunday evening as she drove on the Veterans Expressway.
She eased onto the shoulder, but as the Crown Victoria pulled behind her, she saw the driver was wearing a camouflage sweatshirt — and there were two other people in the car.
She became uneasy and drove away, and the car sped off, the Sheriff's Office reported. As the Crown Victoria passed, she saw a man in the back seat laughing.
She followed the car to get a good description and the tag number, and deputies were able to find the vehicle near Ehrlich Road and Gunn Highway.
Bradley Hamel, 20, of 4012 W Zelar St. in Tampa admitted to deputies that he owns the car, and purchased lights and sirens, which he installed, the Sheriff's Office said.
David Green II, 19, of 204 N Himes Ave. in Tampa also was arrested. Both were charged with impersonating an officer, a third-degree felony, and each was released on $2,000 bail.
A female passenger in the front seat was not arrested because she had no idea what the two men were planning to do.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said deputies do not know what the men's plans were if they had pulled someone over.
"It might have been just goofing off," Carter said. "Who knows what they would have done."
She said Murphy did not know any of the Crown Victoria's passengers.
Carter said Murphy did the right thing, and said anyone suspicious that a person pulling them over is not a legitimate police officer should proceed with caution.
"Don't speed away, but go to a well-lit area like a gas station where there are people or a fire station," she said. "You can even call 911 and say 'I feel uncomfortable — there's a car behind me, and I don't know if it's a real deputy.' The dispatchers will have that information because a legitimate law enforcement officer will have called that in."
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.