Columbia County deputies offer tips for spotting fake officers

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - A 16-year-old girl and her passenger were driving down Louisville Road Thursday when they saw flashing lights in the rearview mirror.

"They thought it was a police officer and they pulled over," Columbia County Sheriff's Department Capt. Steve Morris said.

The man told the two he was with the Columbia County Fire Department and said, "You didn't use your turn signal when you passed me. You almost cut me off. Do I need to call this in or is it a lesson learned?"

"This individual displayed a portable radio that said 'Columbia County Fire," Morris said.

But the two reported to deputies that something didn't seem right.

"They thought the whole incident was strange,"  Morris said, "so they went home, told their family and then reported it."

It turns out, the officer was not an officer at all. He was Christian Lavarias and was not associated with the fire department or the police department.

Officials are now warning the public to be aware and call for help if they sense something isn't right, even though they say this is a rare incident.

"In Columbia County, an unmarked car will not be conducting routine traffic stops, " Morris said.

He said drivers can call 911 to ask dispatchers if the car behind them is legitimate, ask them to send a marked car or ask the officer for identification.

Morris also said try pulling over to a well-lit area or a sheriff's office.

One parent said she doesn't think it will always be that easy, especially for young drivers.

"I think that would be tough, because if you're 16 and getting pulled over, you're scared," Linda Lyons said. "You're not going to be thinking about if they're real or not."

Lavarias has been charged with false imprisonment and impersonating a police officer.

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