By JIM SALTER
ST. LOUIS (AP) - The dark-colored SUV pulled up, emergency red and blue lights flashing from the dashboard. The driver pulled over - and was robbed, not by real police officers, but by fake ones.
The real St. Louis police on Thursday were searching for the fakes - two men who pulled off three robberies, each time while posing as officers.
All three robberies happened Tuesday, and two of them occurred five minutes apart. In each case, a sport utility vehicle that looked like an undercover police vehicle pulled behind cars and turned on flashing lights from the dashboard. Motorists, believing they were being stopped by police, pulled to the curb.
No one was hurt.
At 12:15 a.m., two women ages 31 and 39 were in a car on West Florissant Avenue when they were stopped by the phony officers. The suspects, dressed in dark clothing, approached with guns and demanded property from the victims, police said. One woman gave them her wallet, the other a ring. One of the suspects gave the ring back, then told the women to leave.
Five minutes later, the men pulled over a 24-year-old woman. One of the suspects asked for her identification and registration, while the other reached in to unlock the car doors. The victim relocked the doors and asked the suspects for identification. They then told her to leave, and drove away.
The third incident happened at 11:45 p.m. on Kingshighway, when the suspects pulled over a car driven by a 47-year-old man who was leaving the fast food restaurant where he worked. The suspects approached, this time wear ski masks and with guns, and demanded to know the whereabouts of a deposit bag from the restaurant, then took a cell phone and keys.
Police said the victim later returned to the restaurant and found it unlocked, perhaps with the keys that had been stolen. But police said it did not appear that anything was taken from the restaurant.
Maj. Lawrence O'Toole, deputy commander of the Bureau of Community Policing, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that police usually stop vehicles using marked police cars. If the car is not marked, detectives wear clothing that says "police" on it, he said. He urged people to ask for identification or for a supervisor to come to the scene if they have any concerns about the validity of those who stopped them.