Tacoma, WA – In 2010, the then 24-year-old Samuel Oscar Gonzalez of Lakewood and his accomplice 28-year-old Jeffrey Lundberg spent two months terrorizing fast-food workers in Pierce County. The men preyed upon night shift workers, waiting around until closing time. They would then pursue the employees with the intent of robbing them.
Gonzalez and Lundberg equipped themselves with firearms and outfitted a car with red-and-blue flashing lights, akin to those on a police vehicle. The two would then wait until the restaurants closed and victimize night managers, pulling them over and robbing them at gunpoint.
On one unfortunate occasion an unnamed female victim was repeatedly raped by one of the assailants. Her boyfriend had been ordered from the car and locked in the vehicle’s trunk, forced to listen to the assault, according to The Olympian.
DNA evidence linked Gonzalez to the assault, who had a prior record of simple assault for ejaculating on a woman aboard a flight from Seattle to Minnesota in 2007 – he was an off-duty Northwest Airlines employee at the time.
Authorities stated Gonzalez and co-perpetrator Lundberg had committed at least four robberies. Per his plea arrangement, Lundberg had to plead guilty to one count of first-degree robbery and was deal-bound to testify against Gonzalez in court. Court records indicate Lundberg received a five year prison sentence in exchange.
On Friday, Gonzalez, now 28 – who had been convicted on 10 felony counts of first-degree rape, first-degree robbery, first-degree kidnapping, and first-degree criminal impersonation by a jury – was sentenced to 60 years to life in prison by Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson.
Cuthbertson, having sat on the bench in Superior Court for 12 years, found the case particularly disturbing. Several of the victims sent letters to the judge detailing how their faith in their sense of security had been forever shaken, but none of them spoke out during Friday’s sentencing hearing.
Per the terms of the judgment, Gonzalez will be obligated to serve at least 60 years of his sentence. Thereafter it will up to the state’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board to decide whether he should be released or remanded for the rest of his life. By then he’ll be in his 80s.
In the event you ever suspect the person pulling you over might not be a legitimate officer of the law, there are a few things you can do to limit the likelihood of being victimized. Statistically women driving alone at night are often preyed upon in this manner.
- If you notice the tell-tell lights flashing in your rearview mirror, first try to assess if the vehicle appears genuine. It may be difficult as at times an unmarked vehicle may be pulling you over, but determine if the lights are the wrong color or are awkwardly attached to the vehicle.
- When in doubt, proceed to a well-lit, populated area where cameras and people are present before stopping your car. Turn on your hazards and maintain the speed limit, or even slow down a little, to alert the officer you are acknowledging his/her presence.
- Call 911 and ask the dispatcher if the car behind you belongs to a real officer. You will not be penalized for checking. If dispatch is unable to verify the vehicle they will send out a patrol to investigate and provide further instructions on how to proceed.
- In the event you are parked and the so-called officer approaches your car and you are still in doubt, request to see their badge (which will have an ID number and a division) and photo identification.
- Do not get out of the car, leave the windows rolled up, and keep the doors locked until you are satisfied the person is who they say they are.
- Pay attention to the overall detail of the uniform. Real officers have name tags, service tags, carry radios, and wear accessorized belts. A generic uniform and badge should be further scrutinized.
- Request a uniformed officer in a marked vehicle be dispatched to assist. Politely indicate you will cooperate once the other individual arrives.
- Imposters may be impatient, demanding, and unwilling to satisfy your concerns.
- Drive away. Better to face a potential evading charge than chance being assaulted or killed. In January a woman was pulled over in Wareham, Massachusetts by someone she thought was a cop. According to the unnamed woman, an SUV with blue lights flashed her over just outside of town. The man, at first glance, appeared to look like an officer, and explained her taillight was out. Little details made her realize he was not who he claimed, and the woman sped off. As she tried to roll up her window the impersonator hit her in the face with a flashlight. Thankfully, she was not badly injured and managed to escape.
- Keep in mind some criminals will use a similar tactic, pretending to be law enforcement, to gain entry into a home with the intent of assault or robbery. Again, you have the right to question the identity of the person at your door and can call dispatch to authenticate.
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