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Vero Beach man accused of pretending to be police officer, pulling men over

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Posted at 1:19 PM, Mar 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-11 17:49:54-04

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — A Vero Beach man is under arrest, accused of impersonating a law enforcement officer and pulling three men over while wearing a bulletproof vest, badge, and firearm.

The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office said 57 year-old Linston Hensley pulled up behind a vehicle in the parking lot of the Riverwalk Shopping Center Publix where he works on March 9.

"When he stepped out of the vehicle he was wearing a bulletproof vest on the outside of his shirt. He had a gun on his hip," said Major Eric Flowers with the Indian River County Sheriff's Office.

According to his arrest report, Hensley did not make contact with the three people inside the other vehicle, but when that car left the parking lot, Hensley followed, activating red and blue lights and using a siren, eventually pulling the other vehicle over on U.S. 1.

"Lights are not illegal in and of themselves. But when they’re used to impersonate a law enforcement officer, that’s when we have serious concerns," said Major Flowers.

The arrest report said Hensley told the people in the other vehicle they were stopped due to debris falling from their vehicle and he was going to give them a warning.

Major Flowers said the victims knew right away this wasn’t a traditional law enforcement stop.

Deputies said Hensley admitted to pulling the men over because trash had fallen from their vehicle, but claimed he didn't have a badge on and didn't identify himself as an officer.

Hensley said he didn't threaten the men with a ticket, but told them how much they could be fined.

Deputies searched Hensley's vehicle and found a Hi-Point semiautomatic pistol, bulletproof vest, gold shield style badge, video recording equipment, and LED lights, according to his arrest report.

The Indian River County Sheriff's Office said Hensley has a valid concealed weapons permit.

Hensley is facing charges of impersonating a law enforcement officer, carrying an illegal firearm/electrical device, and unlawful use of a police badge.

So what should you do if you sense you may be tailed by a suspicious vehicle with lights and sirens? First, call 911.

"Let them know you see the lights. that you’ll be pulling over at a gas station or a Walmart, somewhere where there are people, and let them know you’re concerned for your safety," said Major Flowers.

Law enforcement should be able to let you know if it’s an unmarked officer or an impersonator.

If you think you may have been pulled over by Linston Hensley, contact the Indian River County Sheriff's Office at 772-569-6700.