ATLANTA -- Atlanta police say a bad lead was behind their delay in releasing information on a fake cop who may be connected to two sexual assaults.
Major Michael O'Connor with Atlanta Police Department's Major Crimes Division addressed the delay at a press conference on Monday.
"We had we believed at the time initially to be an extremely viable lead so we ran that lead to the ground before we released any information to the public," O'Connor said. "That lead hasn't turned out in the way that we hoped that it would."
O'Connor was referring to an incident that happened around 1 a.m. in Atlanta and involved a woman being pulled over by a dark-colored, unmarked vehicle with a blue light bar and sexually assaulted by a man in some sort of police-style uniform.
A very similar incident happened hours later in Cobb County prompting concerns that they might be connected – both women described the man who stopped them as a 6-foot tall white man with a slim to athletic build with an unshaven face. One victim even spotted a police belt with a gun, taser and radio.
But while Cobb County released information on their incident the same day, Atlanta police held their information until Saturday when their lead fell through.
Police described the difference between the two incidents.
Now, both departments are working to find more information on what they admit are possibly crimes by the same person – crimes that cause harm to people and their trust in law enforcement. That sentiment was shared by Cobb County Police Captain Dan Ferrell who also attended the press conference.
"The men and women who actually put the badge on every day and do their job professionally and with integrity and with honor, it tarnishes that reputation," he said. "It puts unnecessary fear and apprehension in the community."
Both O'Connor and Ferrell said investigators are looking for cameras in the area that may have caught the crimes or the suspect vehicles.
Meanwhile, both victims are scheduled to meet with a sketch artist in the coming days.
Cobb police offer the following recommendations to consider when pulling over for an officer who is conducting a traffic stop:
- Pull over in a public area.
- Find a well lit area so the officer can see you and you can see the officer. Turn on your hazard lights, slow down, and find the best location available to pull over.
- You do not have to roll your window all the way down in order to speak to an officer or give an officer your driver’s license and proof of insurance (but the license and proof of insurance are required to be handed over if an officer asks for them).
- You can call 911 and make sure you are being pulled over by an actual officer (if you are unsure due to darkness or the car not being easily recognized as a marked patrol vehicle) while driving slowly with your hazard lights on.
- If you suspect the individual is not an actual officer, call 911 immediately and give your location and a description of the suspect and suspect vehicle if visible. Stay on the phone with the 911 operator until an officer arrives to assist you.