A Tampa man was arrested Tuesday on multiple charges after investigators determined he sexually battered a woman at a Tampa hotel earlier this year while pretending to be a law enforcement officer, police said.
Investigators have also linked Sonny Albert Gonzalez Jr., 42, to a similar incident during which he exposed himself to another woman at a different hotel, according to information released Wednesday by the Tampa Police Department.
The investigation began when a woman told detectives about an incident on May 20 at the Hotel Inn at 2225 North Lois Ave. The woman said she met Gonzalez at the hotel that day and he grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into the stairway, police said. Gonzalez then pulled up his shirt to show a gun and what appeared to be a law enforcement badge, according to police.
Gonzalez began to question the woman, asking if she was trafficking drugs or guns. He told her he wasn’t taking her to jail, then sexually battered the woman, police said. Afterward, he told her to leave and not to tell anyone what happened.
While investigating the case, detectives linked Gonzalez to a similar incident on the night of Feb. 22 at the Ramada Inn, 1300 North Westshore Blvd. In that case, Gonzalez showed a badge to a woman, then pulled her into a stairwell and exposed himself, police said. The woman, who was not injured, pushed Gonzalez away and ran to safety.
Surveillance video showed Gonzalez exiting a stairwell in the hotel lobby immediately after the incident and walking northbound onto the property next door.
Detectives found Gonzalez Tuesday night in the parking lot of the Courtyard Marriott, 12817 Easy St., and arrested him with the help of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. While searching his vehicle, investigators found a novelty police badge with a blue star.
Gonzalez faces charges including sexual battery while armed with a deadly weapon, false personation, armed false imprisonment, exposure of sexual organs and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. He was being held in a Hillsborough County jail Wednesday, with his bond set at $267,000.
“Unfortunately, we believe there may possibly be more victims in our community,” police Chief Lee Bercaw said at a news conference Wednesday. “We want to communicate in the strongest manner that we take these incidents very seriously. We are here and ready to investigate and make sure that any victim has the support and services that they may need.”
Bercaw urged anyone who suspects they are interacting with someone who is impersonating an officer to ask for a badge number and for identification, and to call the Tampa department’s non-emergency line or 911 to verify the person’s credentials.
“Most importantly, trust your instincts,” Bercaw said. “Ask the officer for their name and badge number, and then confirm it with us.”
The department’s non-emergency line is 813-231-6130.