Sheriffs warn of reports of imposter stopping vehicles, falsely asking for permit to travel amid shutdown

Iowa County Sheriff's squad
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DODGEVILLE, Wis. — Officials are warning the public of reports of a person impersonating an official and stopping vehicles amid the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown.

The Iowa County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it has received reports of a person traveling around southwestern Wisconsin in a dark-colored Impala with a spotlight and emergency lights hidden in it.

The impersonator has been stopping vehicles with his emergency lights, according to a news release. An unknown white man, possibly in his 30s, was wearing a brown-style uniform and approached a stopped vehicle asking for a permit to be going to work.

Gov. Tony Evers ordered beginning Wednesday that non-essential businesses close in Wisconsin and prohibited gatherings of any size. The “Safer at Home” order also placed new restrictions on travel across the state in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but Evers said residents don’t need special permission to leave their homes.

Grant County sheriff Nate Dreckman said the department received a similar report Thursday. Sometime between 7-7:30 a.m., a Grant County citizen was pulled over by what appeared to be an unmarked squad car on Highway 80 near Sinsinawa Road in the town of Hazel Green. The person who reported the incident told officials that he was pulled over by an older-style black Chevrolet Impala that had red and blue lights mounted in the upper windshield. There was also a spotlight on the driver door. The sheriff’s office said it’s presumed that the vehicle is a decommissioned squad car.

In the Grant County incident, a man wearing a light-brown uniform shirt and black pants approached the driver. The suspect wasn’t wearing a badge or name tag. There were patches on both shoulders of the uniform shirt that said “Sheriff Department.” The imposter came up to the driver’s door and asked where he was going. When the man said he was on his way to work, the imposter said the State of Wisconsin was shut down and falsely claimed the driver needed a permit from his employer to drive. The imposter said he would let it slide and returned to his vehicle, according to the report. The citizen who reported the incident said he felt something was off about the interaction and left the area.

The suspect had a similar description to the imposter in the other incidents. Dreckman said he was described as a white man in his mid 30s or early 40s with short brown hair and some facial hair stubble. It appeared he was not armed.

Dreckman said a similar incident was repoted in Richland County two days prior with the same physical description.

The Iowa County Sheriff’s Office said a similar incident, with a person who closely matched the man’s description, was also reported in the Brown County area. It wasn’t known if it’s the same imposter traveling around the state.

The Iowa County Sheriff’s Office said officials don’t want “to cause panic, but to raise awareness that people are taking advantage of the issues we face as a nation. We need to still be aware of our surroundings, and to call 911 if something does not feel right.”

The Grant County Sheriff’s Office asked anyone with information related to the incident, or anyone who sees a vehicle matching the description of the imposter vehicle, contact authorities right away. If you are stopped by a similar vehicle and something doesn’t feel right, call 911 immediately, Dreckman said.