Arkansas Firefigher Arrested For Impersonating Cop; Made Illegal Traffic Stops

A McRae man was arrested Monday by Sheriff's detectives for using his volunteer firefighter emergency lights to make illegal traffic stops near Beebe, including a late-night attempt to pull over two young women.

Shawn J. Smith, 33, of the 100 block of Shetland Road in McRae, a diesel mechanic who works in North Little Rock, was arrested on charges of criminal impersonation after Sheriff's detectives learned the man had made one traffic stop and attempted another by using his volunteer firefighter lights to stop cars for traffic violations, Capt. Jimmy Ervin of the White County Sheriff's Department, Criminal Investigation Division (CID) said.

Smith was arrested following his voluntarily coming into the Sheriff's Department, Monday, for an interview, Ervin said.

The department learned about Smith late Friday night, May 21, after he attempted to pull over two young women on the highway near Beebe, Ervin said.

The two women, both from White County and in their early 20s, driving along Highway 67/167 at around 11:30 p.m., became frightened when a white Ford pickup truck attempted to get them to pull over by using red flashing grill lights.

One of the girls knew a Sheriff's detective and called him from a cell phone to ask what they should do.

The detective told them not to stop and he immediately called the Arkansas State Police.

Soon after, the State police pulled Smith over, who was driving a vehicle matching that of the girls' description.

Inside the vehicle the trooper observed emergency light equipment, but no arrest was made at the time due to lack of evidence, Ervin said.

The case was turned over to the Sheriff's department.

Sheriff's detectives began their investigation of the incident, and an inquiry into Smith, the following morning and learned that Smith had used his emergency lights at least once before, just one week earlier, when he successfully stopped a teenage girl with two male passengers on Highway 367 just north of Beebe.

During this stop, Smith approached the teenager's vehicle, asking for and getting her driver's license and vehicle registration and took the documents to his truck, like a police officer would, Ervin said.

Returning the documents Smith became belligerent with the girl and the two male occupants, yelling at them for speeding.

The girl never reported the incident to police, however, because she assumed the stop was legitimate, although strange, Ervin said. She did, however, file a complaint with the McRae Fire Department, whom Smith had admitted to working for.

McRae Fire Chief Mike Harmon said he had gotten a call the Sunday following Smith's stopping the teen and took immediate action to terminate Smith from his position as volunteer firefighter, though he never reported the incident to the Sheriff's department.

"I have learned the longer you let a dead dog lay in the yard the more it smells," Harmon said. "This is one of those things you have to take care of, quick."

What concerns him most is wondering what Smith's ultimate motive might have been, Harmon said.

"It's alarming," Ervin said. "I don't know that he had any motive other than stopping the vehicles, but what he did was illegal and dangerous. Furthermore, what he has done shines a bad light on all the hard working and dedicated emergency workers in the county. These guys work too hard to have someone smear their reputation like this."

"He has done twenty years worth of damage to our reputation as volunteers in two weeks," Harmon said.

Smith told Sheriff's detectives the two vehicles had "cut him off" and were speeding, so he took action, Ervin said.

The drivers of both cars, whose names were not released, said they were not speeding.

Smith was released Monday on a $7,500 bond. If convicted, he faces up to six years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.