AUSTELL, Ga. — Police in Cobb County arrested a 17-year-old who they say has a history of impersonating a police officer after the teen tried to pull the ruse on a group of July 4th revelers.
A group of neighbors were shooting off fireworks in an Austell neighborhood during the holiday on Wednesday when a "police man" told them to stop.
Witnesses said the suspect was wearing a Cobb police jacket when he pulled up in an unmarked Nissan Altima and told the group to stop setting off fireworks where they were and instead move to a city park.
The only thing that tipped the group off that they weren't dealing with a real cop? Moments before, a real Austell police officer had told the group that setting off fireworks in the park was prohibited and that they could be ticketed.
One man who didn't want to be identified turned a cellphone camera on the "cop.'"
Channel 2's Matt Johnson spoke with the man who filmed the encounter, who said that if it wasn't for the video, no one would have believed they encountered someone impersonating a police officer.
On camera, the man asked for the "cop's" badge number and name. The teen rattled off both -- which they would later learn were both fake.
"He gave us his badge number, but he was like, his badge is in the car," a neighbor told Johnson.
When the real Austell police came back ready to write the group a citation, the group played the video of the person telling them to ignore what the real police had said. They said without that video, they would have been in trouble.
"We showed Austell police the video of the officer that we recorded, and Austell police were looking at him like 'Hold on man," the neighbor said.
Police immediately identified the "cop" as 17-year-old Samuel Mallard and said the teen has been arrested for impersonating a police officer before.
They said this is the fourth time Mallard has pulled the stunt and charged him with a felony.
"Unfortunately our detective knew this individual. He had been our system multiple times for related incidents," Sarah O'Hara, with the Cobb County Police Department, told Johnson. "It creates a lot of confusion and distrust within our community and that's not something that we want."
Police say Mallard likely had a fake gun but had a real -- but unauthorized -- Cobb County police vest he likely got through a family member who did some work for Cobb police as a vendor.
"There was a misprint of the jacket. Unfortunately the jacket got into the wrong hands," O'Harra said.
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