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Tampa police search for rapist who posed as a cop

TAMPA — Police are searching for a man they believe posed as an undercover narcotics officer Thursday night to rape and rob a motorist along Bayshore Boulevard.

The attacker parked a beige, four-door 2006 to 2009 Chevrolet Impala with a satellite-style antenna on the roof and a standard antenna on the trunk, similar to a police vehicle, in the median of Bayshore Boulevard about 10 p.m. He used a blue laser flashlight to flag down a woman driving near Howard Avenue, police said.

The impersonator told the woman, in her early 30s, that he thought she was intoxicated, police said. He handcuffed her, said she was going to jail and put her in the back of his car.

He drove around with her for a while before taking her to a Hyde Park automated teller machine and using her debit card to withdraw money, police said. Police did not release the amount. The ATM's camera caught a photo of the assailant.

He returned her to the Bayshore area and parked at Patriot's Park. There, he climbed into the back seat with her and raped her, police said.

The man let the woman go and told her he would follow her home. She lost sight of him after a few blocks, arrived home and called police about 1 a.m.

Tampa police said the attacker may be a Hispanic man with a dark complexion, about 6 feet 2 to 6 feet 4 and weighing 190 pounds. He was wearing a gray T-shirt and dark jeans.

Laura McElroy, a spokeswoman for the Tampa police, said officers do not usually make DUI stops with flashlights.

"They usually have marked units with lights on top and in the grille," she explained.

A motorist uncertain about the authenticity of a traffic stop should roll down a window and wave for the officer to follow to a well-lit area, she said.

"You can call 911 to confirm that it is one of their personnel who has stopped you," McElroy said.

She urges anyone who has seen or sees a man with a blue laser flashlight parked in a median to call the Tampa police at (813) 231-6130.

"This is very rare and a very brazen and bold suspect," McElroy said. "He's obviously a threat to our community."

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at rmitchell@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3373.

facts

Safety on

the road

If you're being pulled over and feel uncomfortable:

• Acknowledge the officer.

• Drive slowly until you find a well-lit place with other people around.

• Call 911 to verify you are being pulled over by a police officer.

Tampa police search for rapist who posed as a cop 07/30/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 30, 2010 11:40pm]
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