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Woman’s violent arrest highlights concern about police impersonators

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SUPERIOR, Colo. -- For Lenora Olivas, what should have been a typical drive home on the night of May 28, 2010 turned into a nightmare.

“I was terrified. I didn’t know what to think,” Olivas said of her run-in with a Boulder County Sheriff's deputy.

Olivas, 59, says she was driving on McCaslin Blvd. on her way home when she noticed a parked car in a darkened area of the median with its lights off and facing on-coming traffic.

“I was startled at first, wondering if it was an accident or a stalled car or a drunk driver or something,” she told us.

After flashing her high beam lights, Olivas noticed the car had police lights on top and, inside, saw the shadow of a person. She drove on without giving it a second thought.

It wasn’t until she turned onto a much darker road that lights began to flash behind her. Her mind started racing.

“(I thought) I’m not speeding. I haven’t been drinking. There’s nothing wrong with my car as far as I know,” she recalls. “I just felt like...something’s not right. Something’s amiss here.”

Concerned that she may be the target of a police impersonator, Olivas drove to a more well-lit area and called 9-1-1.

“I’ve just been pulled over by someone who’s being very arrogant with me,” she told the police dispatcher. “The man is yelling at me and he said ‘Get out of your car.”

With her cell phone still in hand and pleading for help from the dispatcher, Olivas says she was thrown to the ground, cuffed and eventually taken to jail by a very real Sheriff's deputy who seemed insensitive to her safety concerns.

She suffered several cuts, bruises and scrapes in the incident.

She was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing a police officer, disobeying a police officer, failure to yield and a faulty tail lamp.

All the charges, including the broken tail light, were dropped.

“By law, you are to pull over when you see emergency lights behind you,” says Boulder Police Sgt. Paul Rycanbach. “Police impersonation doesn’t happen frequently here along the Front Range, but it happens enough that the public is aware of that, and that’s why people, women in particular, should be cautious at night in dark areas.”

Lenora believes she did the right thing, and wants police to be more considerate in the future.

“I certainly don’t want this to happen to someone else,” she said.

Police have the following tips if motorists are stopped by a vehicle they can't identify:

  • Turn on car flashers
  • Drive to a well lit area
  • Call 911
  • Wait until a marked police unit arrives

"Have your doors locked," adds retired officer Steve Crain, who owns Blue Star Police Supply. "Only open your window upon instruction by the police officer and even then only two or three inches."