TAMPA — Daniel Rangel Jr. was a citizen volunteer with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office until Monday, when authorities say he identified himself as something more: a reserve deputy.
Rangel, 22, who now faces a felony charge at a time when there have been several warnings in the Tampa Bay area of police imposters, admits the allegation is true. And he says he's sorry.
"I thought our program was under the reserve part," he said Monday night.
Temple Terrace police officers were on foot patrol near 56th Street and Bullard Parkway about 2 a.m. Monday when Rangel drove up to them in a white Ford Crown Victoria, city spokesman Michael Dunn said in a news release. The vehicle resembled an unmarked patrol car.
Rangel opened the passenger window, identified himself as a reserve deputy and started talking about criminal activity, Dunn said. Rangel wore a gun belt with a tactical-style thigh holster and handgun, along with black cargo pants and a black knit shirt with the Sheriff's Office emblem.
Citizen volunteers don't carry guns. Reserve deputies might.
Rangel works for G-Force Security and has a permit that allows him to work as an armed security officer, Dunn said. State records confirm that Rangel has both a statewide firearms license and a security officer license.
G-Force's website touts stringent background checks, drug and psychological screening, aptitude tests and training on criminal law and police tactics.
Guns aren't the only difference between citizen volunteers and reserve deputies.
Volunteers safeguard school crossings, direct traffic at crash scenes and drive through neighborhoods, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said. In pairs of two, they're permitted to drive Sheriff's Office Citizen Patrol cars, which are clearly marked and have yellow lights on top.
"All they are is the eyes and ears of the community," she said.
Reserve deputies get paid to work part-time, as needed, alongside regular deputies. They work at special events, at times helping with crowd control. They're required to put in at least 20 hours a month.
Volunteers can't arrest people. Reserve deputies can.
So can Temple Terrace police officers, who became suspicious when Rangel didn't seem to know jurisdictional boundaries. They arrested him on charges of impersonating an officer and unlawful use of police indicia. He was released on $2,500 bail.
"I'm deeply sorry if I have hurt anyone for my actions," Rangel told the Tampa Bay Times. "And trust me, nothing like that will ever happen again."
There have been other recent reports of people posing as law enforcement officers. In one Hernando County case, the alleged victim recanted. In another, a former Wisconsin sheriff's deputy was accused of flashing his badge in anger outside a Taco Bell.
And, on the night of Feb. 4, a man driving a white Crown Victoria stopped a motorist in Hernando County. The man — who wore a gun belt, black cargo pants, a black jacket and black baseball cap but showed no badge — asked the motorist if he knew why he was being pulled over. The motorist, apparently suspicious, drove away.
Rangel said he had nothing to do with any of that.
As of Monday, he has nothing to do with the Sheriff's Office.
"He will no longer be volunteering," Carter said.
Staff writer Patty Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3382.