OREGON COUNTY -- The Howell County Sheriff's Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol are investigating two reports of females being stopped by a person posing as a police officer using a red and blue light on the dashboard of a passenger car.
Oregon County Sheriff Tim Ward said June 14 that his office had not received any calls about this happening to anyone in the Oregon County area but warned motorists to use caution.
According to an information sheet from the Howell County Sheriff's Office authorities are searching for a white male approximately 5-foot 8-inches, with a stocky build and short sandy blond-brown hair. He may be driving a light or tan colored passenger car, possibly similar to a Ford Crown Victoria.
Howell County Sheriff Robbie Crites said the first incident in Howell County occurred after 10 p.m. June 5 just off U.S. Highway 160, three miles west of West Plains. The first woman said she was stopped by a vehicle with flashing blue and red lights on the dashboard. She was sexually assaulted by a man posing as a law enforcement officer.
The second attack occurred around 10:30 p.m. on June 10 on Route CC, five miles west of West Plains. The victim said she was also stopped by a light colored vehicle with flashing blue and red lights. The second victim was able to fight off the attacker and flee the scene.
Both victims said a man wearing a blue police type uniform with a badge and firearm approached their vehicles after using the lights to stop them. After brief conversations both women were physically removed from their vehicle.
Crites said both women said the man was of medium height and had a stocky build.
"Motorists need to be aware when driving. Especially women traveling alone and at night," Sheriff Ward said.
Law enforcement officers in Missouri use only blue and red lights together to stop a vehicle. "Do not stop for a blue light," the sheriff said. Ward said in Missouri blue lights are used by fire departments.
"Motorists do not have to pull over and stop for fire department vehicles. They do need to slow down or pull to the side of the road and let the fire department vehicle pass," he said.
Ward said motorists should take the following precautions.
"If the law enforcement vehicle is not marked with red and blue lights, do not stop. If you think the law enforcement vehicle is legitimate, put your flashers on so the officer sees you recognize his presence," the sheriff said.
"If you have doubts, slowly continue driving until you reach a well-lighted area such as a parking lot or lighted driveway," Ward said.
"Again, if you have doubts, do not exit your vehicle. Roll your window down slightly. The officer should be able to show proper identification," he said.
Ward said to use common sense. "If it doesn't feel right, don't stop. As professionals, given the current situation we will understand a motorist wanting to be at a safe location before stopping."
If anyone has any information about the incidents or believe they may be able to identify the person in the composite drawing, they should contact their local sheriff's office, the Howell County Sheriff's Office tip line at 417-293-5051 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.