1. News

He's not a cop, but he unknowingly tried to pull over one in Plant City, deputies say

Matthew J. Erris, left, was driving this 2007 Chevy Trailblazer on Paul Buchman Highway in Plant City Tuesday night when he pulled up behind another car and turned on the red and blue lights as if to attempt a traffic stop, deputies say. Erris didn’t know it at the time, but the driver of the other car was an undercover detective with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Minutes later, Erris was under arrest and charged with impersonating an officer. [Photos from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]
Published Apr. 18

PLANT CITY — Matthew J. Erris was driving north on Paul Buchman Highway on Tuesday night when he flipped the red and blue lights attached to the front of his Chevy Trailblazer to pull over a car in front of him, deputies say.

Erris isn't a cop, but the 26-year-old Dade City man would soon find out the driver in front of him was — an undercover Hillsborough County sheriff's detective in an unmarked agency car. Minutes later, Erris was under arrest on a charge of impersonating a public officer.

The undercover detective first noticed the white 2007 Chevy behind him about 8 p.m. near the intersection of Buchman Highway and Sam Allen Road, north of Plant City. At the intersection, an arrest report says, Erris turned on the red and blue lights on the front and underneath the Blazer "to convey the appearance of a law enforcement officer and attempted to conduct a traffic stop," the report says.

When the detective didn't pull over, Erris merged over to the inside lane, turned off the red and blue lights and passed the detective, who called dispatchers to alert patrol deputies. Then a deputy in a marked vehicle pulled over Erris at the intersection of Buchman Highway and Lightning Rod Lane.

After the deputy read him his rights, Erris admitted he installed the red and blue lights and used them to get through heavy traffic, the report says. He also admitted to installing a public address system with speakers on both sides of the Chevy and a white and yellow light bar on top. Deputies also found an airsoft pistol underneath the front passenger seat.

Erris was booked into the Hillsborough County jail and freed Thursday after posting $2,000 bail, records show. Jail records say he works as a senior dismantler at a salvage yard.

The Sheriff's Office said it's unclear if Erris has committed similar offenses, but anyone who recognizes him or his vehicle and believes they may have been victimized by him should call deputies at (813) 247-8200.


  1. People are lead out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Santa Clarita, Calif.  The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says on Twitter that deputies are responding to the high school about 30 miles  northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The sheriff’s office says a male suspect in black clothing was seen at the school. AP
    At least seven people were injured — one critically — in a shooting at Saugus High School when a gunman opened fire on the Santa Clarita campus early Thursday, authorities said.
  2. Hillsborough Community College solicited "non-binding letters of interest or intent” last month from developers interested in purchasing the Dr. Gwendolyn W. Stephenson District Administration Center on Davis Islands. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Developers have eyed the 3.7 acre waterfront parcel for years, but recent interest has prompted the college’s trustees to finally start the conversation.
  3. Cotee River Elementary student Darrell Jones waves his American flag during the school's Veterans Day program.
    The School Board is scheduled to vote on the calendar next week.
  4. Maintainers prepare KC-135s refueling planes to be evacuated from MacDill Air Force Base in August. A new study predicts MacDill and other Florida bases will experience a sharp rise in the number of days when the heat index tops 100 degrees Fahrenheit, making it unsafe to be outside for extended periods. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    MacDill Air Force Base is predicted to see big increases in days the heat index tops 100 degrees.
  5. Left: Janis Joplin performs (AP Photo). Right: Joplin's booking photo (Courtesy of Tampa History Center). Tampa Bay Times
    Police let Joplin finish her set at Curtis Hixon Hall before arresting the singer in her dressing room.
  6. Tampa International Airport looking north. The Wall Street Journal ranked it the best midsize airport in America. [Times files]
    TPA took first place in the Wall Street Journal’s annual survey of U.S. airports.
  7. 3 hours ago• Arts & Entertainment
    A visitor feeds the pelicans at the Pier Bait House in St. Petersburg in 2010. Tampa Bay Times (2010)
    Plus, an expert explains how their pouches work, what to do if you catch one on a fishing hook and more.
  8. Pelicans sit on a pier along Boca Ciega Bay in Pass-a-Grille. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    An old limerick ignites a quest for recognition for the big-billed friends of the city.
  9. Celina Okpaleke conducts a choir singing traditional African songs during an African Mass at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Tampa on Nov. 10. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    November is Black Catholic History Month, a time to learn and share stories about the intrepid and devout.
  10. Pasco eSchool principal JoAnne Glenn is surprised by school district officials who announced she is their 2020 Principal of the Year. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    A discussion with Pasco County Principal of the Year JoAnne Glenn.