by: Aaron Diamant Updated:DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ga. —
A former metro Atlanta police officer is facing charges for impersonating a police officer.
News of Joseph Jefferson's arrest caught people who live at the Birch Landing Apartments in Douglas County completely off guard.
"It makes me wonder am I really in a safe environment or not," resident Ruby Edwards said.
In May, Douglas County Sheriff's deputies were called to the complex for a loud fight between Jefferson and the woman living in his apartment.
"She was actually calling us to
say, 'Hey, this guys a jerk, sort this out for us,'" explained Investigator Peter Hoberg.
Investigators said they eventually let Jefferson leave when he identified himself as an Austell police officer working as the complex's "courtesy officer."
Hoberg said Jefferson was living at the complex rent-free in exchange for keeping an eye on the place.
"It worked that night, but about a week later when I started looking into it, that's when we figured it out," Hoberg said.
Investigators learned Jefferson was fired from the Austell Police Department in February for committing several policy violations, but Jefferson never told the complex or the residents.
"I saw him on several occasions, especially late at night," said Erika Wright. "I thought he was doing his job, so I really wonder what he was doing out that late at night."
Channel 2's Aaron Diamant reached Jefferson by phone on Thursday. Jefferson refused an on-camera interview but told Diamant the whole thing was a mistake.
Birch Landing managers told Diamant Jefferson no longer lives or works at the complex, which comes as a relief to many neighbors.
"There's a lot of kids that live in this neighborhood," Wright said. "If they think that he's a police officer, they would go to him for
Meanwhile, Hoberg said his investigation found Jefferson also worked as a courtesy officer at the nearby Crestmark Apartments at the same.
"I think it's ridiculous," said Wright.
Hoberg said the Sheriff's Office wants to go after Jefferson for theft for all that free rent, but so far investigators haven't been able to convince managers at either complex to press charges.