GRANTVILLE, Ga. — A woman and her 83-year-old mother called 911 to report what they thought was a police impersonator on Interstate 85, only to find out the man that ended up screaming at them was a local police chief.
Karen Tatro told Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray that a man driving a truck with mulch in the back blocked her car in along the interstate and got out wearing dirty clothes.
She said he never showed his badge or said who he was.
“Hey, stay in the car. Stay in the car,” a Grantville police officer told Tatro as seen on body camera video.
By this point, Tatro had already called 911 to report what she says she thought was a police impersonator with road rage on I-85.
“I don’t appreciate somebody trying to act like they’re a police officer,” Tatro told the 911 operator in a call obtained by Channel 2 Action News.
“He’s in a T-shirt and jeans, you know, looking like somebody’s been working in the yard. There’s mulch in his truck and he just starts, you know, raging,” Tatro said.
Tatro admits that during a traffic jam on I-85, she moved into the emergency lane to try to get off at the exit and get her sick 83-year-old mother to a bathroom.
“This black truck, who is now in the far-right wing, but not the emergency lane, does this maneuver and blocks me in,” Tatro said.
The man who was in the truck is the Grantville Chief of Police Steve Whitlock.
Whitlock and Grantville police won’t talk about the incident saying it’s an open case.
But by the time a uniformed officer was on the scene at the gas station, Whitlock had on his badge and talked to the officer about what happened.
“I just told her, her road rage will get you killed this day and time,” Whitlock said on the police body camera video.
Tatro said Whitlock was yelling, demanded she stop the car there on the highway and that she was so concerned about the behavior she called 911.
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“It looked like road rage, to be honest with you,” Tatro said.
“Well, I don’t understand. Your lights were on, and I know you introduced yourself,” the officer told Whitlock, with a laugh.
“I did,” Whitlock said.
“Did this person ever identify themselves as a police officer?” Gray asked Tatro.
“They never identified themselves. You’re positive?” Gray asked Tatro.
“100%,” she said.
This isn’t the first controversy Channel 2 Action News has investigated with Whitlock and Grantville police. It’s not even the first relating to police impersonation.
Last year, we told you how Whitlock gave a police cruiser for an entire day to his pastor, a convicted felon, who was spotted with blue lights on, stopping traffic with a badge and a gun.
“The man knows he’s not a police officer. At no time…” Whitlock said at the time.
“The problem is the public doesn’t know. He looks like a police officer there,” Gray told Whitlock.
“Yeah, your right sir,” Whitlock answered.
The problem this time, Tatro said, is Whitlock did not look like a police officer.
“He’s the chief of police and he was stopping you,” the officer told Tatro on the body cam video.
“He didn’t identify himself or anything else,” Tatro told the officer.
“He didn’t identify himself?” the officer asked Tatro.
“No,” she responded.
“At all?” the officer asked.
“No,” Tatro answered.
“I think it’s important that law enforcement be professionals,” Tatro’s attorney Jason Black said.
Black was a police officer himself for more than a decade and told Gray that he believes Whitlock’s actions put the public, Whitlock himself, and even his wife who was allegedly in the truck with the mulch that day, all at risk.
“You know, there’s a reason why police officers radio those things in so other police officers know where they’re at, what cars being stopped, you know, so if something does happen, they can get help to that police officer,” Black said.
“I’m at an age where I’ve certainly been around enough to see how police officers act. And I’ve never had anybody jump out of a vehicle and start raging at me,” Tatro said.
Tatro told Whitlock that she probably would have just accepted the ticket and moved on if not for how this happened.
She’s now trying to take this to a jury trial.
Gray did call and talk to Whitlock who said he cannot and will not talk about the incident because of that pending case.
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