BANKS CROSSING - In what could be the plot for America's Dumbest Criminals if the incident potentially hadn't been so serious, two men were arrested Saturday morning in Banks County posing as police officers.
"The men used a flashing light in an unmarked Mercury car in an attempt to stop another person," said Banks County Chief Deputy Shawn Wilson. "Unfortunately for the two men, the driver of the other vehicle was Capt. Jeff Gribble, our Uniform Patrol commander."
The incident happened around 6:17 a.m. on U.S. Highway 441 at Banks Crossing, when the unmarked white Mercury Grand Marquis approached Gribble's personal vehicle from behind at a high rate of speed.
"They came in behind me real quick going through Banks Crossing and they got in the left lane, and they kind of sat back there like they were running my tag," Gribble said. "They had a blue and red light on the inside of their vehicle. The driver started blowing the horn, flashing the headlights while the passenger held up the blue and red light and stuck his hand out the window trying to signal for me to pull over."
When the men realized Gribble was not going to pull over and had reached for his cell phone, they made an erratic turn and went into a nearby parking lot, turning off the car's lights.
"With the assistance of other deputies in marked patrol cars, the men were stopped and taken into custody on numerous felony and misdemeanor charges including felony firearm violations," Wilson said.
The firearms charge stems from a shotgun found in the vehicle's trunk. The serial number on that weapon had been completely ground off, Gribble said.
Dustin Hill, 27, of Canon and Lance Coile, 18, of Lavonia now face felony charges as a result of the incident.
Hill is charged with impersonating a police officer, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm with an altered/removed serial number, and terroristic threats, Gribble said.
Coile is charged with with impersonating a police officer, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and possession of a firearm with an altered/removed serial number, Gribble said.
A duty belt, like those worn by police officers, was found in the back seat of the car.
That duty belt, the red and blue light, the shotgun, and the white Grand Marquis have been taken into evidence.
Gribble said he is thankful the incident happened to him, rather than an unsuspecting female or other civilian, since officers are not sure the motive for the attempted traffic stop.
Coile and Hill have been uncooperative thus far in the investigation, Gribble said.
Banks County Sheriff Carlton Speed reminds motorists of steps they can take to ensure their safety in a questionable traffic stop.
"If you are being stopped and feel that it may not be a real police officer, we encourage you to dial 9-1-1," Speed said. "You may also slow your vehicle and stop at the nearest lit area."
Gribble adds that slowing down, activating hazard lights, and calling 9-1-1 are steps to let the officer know you see him or her until the officer is verified as legitimate.
Additionally, any Banks County officer that utilizes an unmarked car for a traffic stop will have more than one emergency light, will have a siren and will be in uniform, Gribble said.