20-year-old steals police car and conducts traffic stop

Tahrell Johnson (Source: Louisville Metro Corrections)
Tahrell Johnson (Source: Louisville Metro Corrections)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A young man conducting a traffic stop was arrested because he's not a police officer. 20-year-old Tahrell Johnson is involved in a Louisville Metro Police youth volunteer program called police explorers, but early May 18, he wasn't upholding the law. Police say he was breaking it.

Johnson is charged with stealing a police car and impersonating an officer.

"I have received emails in the past, random emails saying, don't ever stop for an unmarked car, especially women," said Jean Passafiume who lives near Cherokee Road and Casselberry Drive, where police caught Johnson.

The car Johnson was in was marked, but it is decorated with American flags. It's a show car used for parades and fairs.

"I need to tell my girls," said Passafiume.

Passafiume said she will tell them to be cautious if they get pulled over because the driver might not be who he or she appears. In this case, it was 20-year-old police volunteer. Johnson was a leader in the police explorers program, but by no means authorized to use the vehicle or conduct traffic stops.

"At some point, in an unauthorized manner, he appropriated keys to this car," said LMPD Sgt. Robert Biven.

According to the arrest report, Johnson was wearing a police shirt with a LMPD patch, a bulletproof vest, and a BB gun resembling a Glock 22. He also had a handheld radio and MAG light, none of which is issued to explorers.

"I don't know where he obtained the gear, but it was certainly gear that if worn would represent himself to be a police officer," said Biven. "Any reasonable person would believe he would be a police officer."

Concerned callers say Johnson was driving around Cherokee Park asking people to leave because it was closed. Police say they are still trying to figure out how a 20-year-old got access to all this stuff.

"This person didn't have unlimited access. However, over the five year period, he's obviously come across keys to this specialty vehicle and that's something we need to look into to see if we need to do things differently," said Biven.

Biven said they are still investigating if this is the first time he's done this or not.

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