A quick-thinking California woman outwitted an alleged fake cop who was attempting to terrorize her family, KTLA-TV (Los Angeles) is reporting.
The woman, whose name has not been released, says she and her family – another adult, plus four children – were headed home from an L.A.-area water park when they decided to stop by the Super Tacos taco truck in City of Industry to get some snacks.
The family was sitting in their parked minivan when a man, later identified as 38-year-old Juan Rodriguez, approached them. Rodriguez, who was on a bicycle according to a statement from the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department, allegedly showed the family a fake police badge and a concealed weapon in the waistband of his pants. Rodriguez, who said he was an “undercover cop,” allegedly began “terrorizing” the family.
At this point, it’s not clear what he said to the family or what he wanted from the family, although a statement from the LASD suggests he was looking for either money, valuables, or drugs, as the police say he tried to look through the woman’s purse.
Realizing the situation was a dire one as an armed stranger was just inches away from her toddler buckled into his car seat. Thinking on her feet, the mom devised an escape plan: She offered the “cop” her tacos, then said she needed to go back to the taco truck to get napkins.
As luck would have it, the perp bought the ruse. Although it’s not clear what he did while the mother put her plan into action, what is clear is that her plan worked. She approached the taco truck and surreptitiously told the other customers not to look back at her van, for fear of being given away. She then told everyone within earshot to call 911 – which they all did.
Before long, real police were on the scene, and as cruisers closed in on the suspect, he allegedly threw his gun into the family’s minivan and tried to jump in. However, officers were able to pull him out.
In a statement, the LASD praised the woman for her quick thinking and thanked the bystanders who were able to avert what could have been a much worse situation.
“We want to thank the community members who immediately called law enforcement to report the suspicious activity. We want to give a shout out to the brave mother whose momma bear instincts kicked in and she was able to deescalate the situation, plan a distraction and found a way to get deputies to her location immediately.”
The alleged fake cop was taken downtown and charged with suspicion of felony child endangerment, impersonating a peace officer, and several outstanding warrants.