Orlando Uber Driver Arrested for Impersonating Police Officer

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ORLANDO, FLORIDA — From the report of Officer Stephen Erickson, lightly edited for clarity and brevity:

On 10/15/2019, at approximately 2120 hours, Officer John Edwards and I were on proactive patrol in the area of N Mills Avenue and E Colonial Drive. While traveling southbound on N Mills Avenue, I observed a black 2016 Acura four door sedan traveling slowly in the left thru lane of E Colonial Drive. As I glanced to my right, I observed flashing blue and red lights coming from the dash area of this vehicle. Another vehicle in front of the Acura appeared to be pulling to the right and the Acura was following it. As I entered the intersection, it appeared the driver noticed my marked police vehicle and deactivated his red and blue lights.

I turned around to get behind the vehicle as it continued to travel eastbound on E Colonial Drive. It appeared the driver knew I was behind him and he accelerated, weaving between vehicles in an erratic manner. I initiated a traffic stop and made contact with the driver, Josue Santiago. As soon as I approached the driver side window, Santiago had his wallet in his hand and was displaying a gold five-point star badge. The badge had the seal of Florida and the lettering “DEPUTY SHERIFF CHARLOTTE COUNTY FLORIDA” imprinted on the front. To my knowledge, this appeared to be a real Florida sheriff's deputy badge. I asked him if he was a law enforcement officer and he replied that he was not, but that his cousin was. He stated his cousin’s name was "John Nunez," who was a "state trooper." I asked why he had the police badge in his possession, and he explained that he had bought it on eBay.

Before any further questioning, I read Santiago his Miranda warnings. He agreed to speak with me. I explained to him that I saw his lights activated on E Colonial Drive and he replied that a truck had "crossed him" and he flashed the lights to get the truck out of his way. I asked why he had a red and blue light on the front of his vehicle and Santiago explained that he was an Uber driver, and that he often used it while picking up passengers from the airport. He explained that the parking attendants at the airport require him to move, so he activates the red and blue lights, so he can wait on passengers. I again asked Santiago about the badge in his possession and he again stated he bought it on eBay. I advised him that it was illegal to possess a law enforcement officer's badge [which, it should be noted, is not quite true] and he stated that I could take it.

Santiago’s vehicle was black in color and had a “Police Athletic League” license plate with a “thin blue line” license plate cover. On the front bumper, he had a thin blue line license plate with the imprint of a five-point star and the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA LAW ENFORCEMENT POLICE OFFICER." Inside of his vehicle was a blue and red flashing light attached to the windshield, a can of OC spray in a police-style pouch in the left door, and a police-style flashlight in the center console. Santiago repeatedly told
me about his extensive volunteer work with law enforcement agencies and how he did not think that improperly using a red and blue light to gain certain traffic privileges would get him arrested.

Santiago was charged with falsely personating a law enforcement officer, prohibited use of certain lights, and unlawful use of police insignia / badge. Santiago pleaded no contest to the charges and adjudication was withheld. He was sentenced to two days in jail with credit for two days served and placed on probation for three years, during which time he must undergo a mental health examination and any treatment deemed necessary. Santiago was ordered to pay a variety of fines and fees totaling roughly $800, and the court ordered his lights and badge forfeited to Orlando Police Department.

Notably, Santiago has a bit of a record, having been convicted of theft, resisting with violence, battery, evidence tampering, possession of cocaine, paraphernalia, and possession of cocaine with intent to sell/deliver.

[Regarding the text in the video directing you here, I am fairly sure that the crazy rectangular blur mask is a failure of object tracking. And of the person whose job it is to review the video after redaction to ensure this doesn't ]

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