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A Safety Harbor man faces several charges, including impersonating an officer.
By EILEEN SCHULTE, Times Staff Writer
Published December 13, 2007
DUNEDIN - On Monday, a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy spotted a white 1990 Mercury Cougar with dark tinted windows in the middle of Main Street with a red light flashing on the dash and blue and red lights flashing under the rear bumper.
The deputy, who happened to be driving by, thought it was an unmarked car from his own department and continued on his way.
But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that the car appeared to be too old to be used by the Sheriff's Office.
He doubled back, looking for the owner, and found 66-year-old Lawrence Hyker of Safety Harbor.
Investigators said Hyker was wearing a green baseball cap with a sheriff's star on the front and a blue windbreaker with the word "Police" on the back.
In his possession were three badges. One said "Hernando," the second said "Homeland Security" and the third said "Agency."
In addition, deputies said he had a collapsible baton and two handcuff keys, one on a chain around his neck and another in his pocket. Three police scanners were found in his car.
Also in his pocket were a variety of drugs in at least one unlabeled bottle.
The deputy arrested Hyker on charges of impersonating an officer, drug possession, possession of a concealed handcuff key and unlawful installation of radio equipment.
"It appears that he is a wannabe law enforcement officer," said Sgt. Jim Bordner, a spokesman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
Bordner said Hyker has asked several times to ride along with sheriff's deputies. His requests were denied because the agency doesn't allow citizens to accompany deputies on patrol.
Hyker was held at the Pinellas County Jail and released Tuesday after posting bond.
This was not his first arrest. In 1996, he was charged with one count of grand larceny.
On Wednesday, Hyker, a great- grandfather, told the St. Petersburg Times there were "a lot of mix-ups" in his situation.
He said he has lived in Safety Harbor for more than 55 years and was an officer on the city's police force in the 1970s.
He said his scanners and radios are legal, and that all of the medications, including Xanax and Valium, were prescribed by his physician for his severe diabetes, hypertension and dystonia, a movement disorder.
He said the light on the dash is not red, as sheriff's deputies said, but amber. He said he keeps it there because he changes tires for women who are stranded with a flat. He said he has assisted at least 15 people.
"I try to be helpful," he said.
The rear lights are not blue, he said, but red.
"They flash when I brake," he said, adding that he installed them for safety reasons.
He said he bought the lights on eBay.
As for the badges, he said he "will admit to the fact that I had the badges. I collect certain badges. I get them off eBay. One is glued to the inside of my wallet."
He said he carries the baton for protection, "like a woman carrying mace."
He insisted he has never used the baton or flashed his badges or pulled anyone over.
"I don't claim to be anybody," Hyker said, "but myself."
Eileen Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 445-4153.
Protect yourself from bogus cops
Sgt. Jim Bordner, a spokesman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, said anyone can buy a badge and a baton on the Internet, so be careful. If you have any doubt that the deputy who pulled you over is not the real deal, drive slowly to the nearest police station, police substation or a well-lighted area, such as a shopping center. The deputy will understand.
[Last modified December 12, 2007, 21:07:56]