Three teenagers suspected of impersonating officers and trying to pull motorists over in the Manteca area were arrested Tuesday night.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department received a call about 7 p.m. from the daughter of a deputy who was driving near Roth Road when a car behind her began flashing its red and blue lights, according to Rex Osborn, public affairs officer for the Manteca Police.
Before making any contact, the woman drove off and reported the incident.
A short time later, in the 400 block of Gold Street just west of North Main Street, Osborn said the sheriff's office received another report of a similar car attempting to pull over a motorist.
About 20 minutes later, a resident was pulled over on Louise Avenue.
In that instance, one of the suspects approached the driver, took the motorist's driver's license and walked back to his car. He then returned the license to the driver, allowing the motorist to go.
A short time later, officer George Crowley discovered a car matching the suspects' vehicle with three men inside. Inside the 1989 pink Buick Century was a red and blue strobe light, which Osborn said had a Department of Justice sticker on it.
Arrested were Alex Chavez, 18, of Stockton; Gregori Martinez, 18, of Stockton; and John Meza, 19, of Manteca.
They were charged with impersonating a police officer, false imprisonment and conspiracy. The false imprisonment charge was tied to the incident in which the driver was pulled over and the license taken.
"These were kids who bit off more than they can chew," Osborn said. "They will soon regret having played policeman last night."
Osborn said the strobe light was outdated, and could have been bought at a government auction or flea market.
He offered some suggestions for drivers who might be unsure of who is pulling them over.
Osborn said unmarked police cars do display lights, but they aren't the blue and red strobe lights used Tuesday night. He said police use a solid red light and a flashing blue light.
He also said that location is the key.
If you're driving down Highway 99 or Interstate 5, and lights go on and you don't feel comfortable pulling over, put your emergency flashers on, slow down and drive to a public area such as a gas station. In addition, he said if you aren't pulling over right away, there will be a second officer in no time.
He said if you're in town, and it doesn't look or feel right, go to a public place.
He also advised uncertain motorists to call 911, and dispatchers will be able to tell you what's going on.
He also cautioned that whatever you do, don't speed up.