An alert police officer in Falfurrias tried to pull over a sport utility vehicle that was made to look like a police vehicle about a week ago.
It's another sign of just how brazen criminal organizations and traffickers are becoming. It was the first time Falfurrias police have seen a cloned police vehicle in their area.
Police said a black Chevy Tahoe had real Texas law enforcement license plates out of Harris County. The Falfurrias police officer that saw the Tahoe originally thought it was an undercover vehicle or a task force vehicle.
It wasn't until the officer got closer to it that he noticed the lettering on the Tahoe had been spray painted in black. The door handles had also been spray painted.
It was that over-spray on the Tahoe that tipped police off. When police activated their sirens and lights, the Tahoe responded by turning its lights on from within the Tahoe to indicate to the officers that they were also law enforcement and to back off; but Falfurrias police did not back off and continued to pursue the cloned SUV.
This led to a chase that ended when the Tahoe bailed near the county jail, and the driver and 15 occupants ran away.
The fact that criminal trafficking organizations could be this deceptive is very concerning to authorities and local residents.
"To actually take time to wire it up, to make sure the lights work and to make sure, if for some reason law enforcement did stop them, they could just turn the lights on and everything would be fine," said Investigator Daniel Davila of the Brooks County Sheriff's Office.
"It's a concern, because you don't know who you can trust," Falfurrias resident Maria Galindo said. "Policeman pulls you over and he's not real. What's going to happen to you?"
"What possible damage could that vehicle have done if it went undetected in our own city? There's only 5,000 people here," Falfurrias resident Homer Morales said. "For it to go unnoticed that long is kind of surprising."
Police said they have since found out that the license plates on the Tahoe were stolen from a constable's patrol unit in Harris County, and that the vehicle had also been stolen. The criminals had installed red and blue lights in the interior of the Tahoe as well as remote switches to control the lights.
This incident remains under investigation in Falfurrias and in Harris County.
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