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.