TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Tampa Police Department (TPD) arrested a man accused of sexually battering two women while impersonating an officer.
Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw announced the arrest of Sonny Gonzalez, Jr., 42, in a news conference Wednesday.
According to a release from TPD, a woman accused Gonzalez of pulling a gun on her and flashing a police badge after he pulled her into a hotel stairway. The incident happened on May 20 at the Hilton Inn on Lois Ave.
“Gonzalez began questioning the victim, asking if she was trafficking guns or drugs, and told her he wasn’t taking her to jail,” Tampa police said.
The woman accused Gonzalez of sexually battering her and said he asked her not to tell anyone about the incident. Bercaw said he was also identified as the suspect in a similar case.
Detectives linked Gonzalez to a Feb. 22 incident at the Ramada Inn on Westshore Blvd., according to a release from Tampa police. A woman accused him of flashing a police badge and pulling her into a stairwell before exposing his genitals.
The woman said she shoved Gonzalez away and was not harmed during the incident, according to TPD. Detectives said he was caught by a hotel security camera leaving the stairwell.
Police caught up to Gonzalez on Tuesday and arrested him at the Courtyard Marriot on Easy Street. TPD said officers found a novelty police badge in his car.
For the February incident, Gonzalez was charged with impersonating a police officer (during the commission of a felony), false imprisonment, exposure of sexual organs, and sexual battery. He was charged with impersonating a police officer (during the commission of a felony), sexual battery with a deadly weapon, armed false imprisonment, and unlawful use of a two-way communications device.
“The thoughts of our entire department are with the women who survived these crimes, and our Victims Advocate is available to assist with any support they may need,” Chief Bercaw said. “This criminal preyed upon women by impersonating a law enforcement officer and then sexually assaulting them. Thanks to dedicated investigation by true police officers, he will now be held accountable.”
In the news conference, Bercaw reiterated safety tips for community members to recognize official police officers when they are approached.
If you believe someone is impersonating a law enforcement officer:
- Ask for a name, a badge number, and to see their identification.
- Do not be afraid to advise the officer you intend to call the dispatch
center (non-emergency in Tampa (813) 231.6130) to verify the officer’s identity.
- Call 911 if you believe the person is posing as a Law Enforcement Officer.
- Trust your instincts.
If you suspect the person pulling you over is impersonating a police officer:
- Look for a safe place to pull over
- Signal your intent and slow down (activate your hazard lights)
- Call 911 to confirm it is an officer; be sure to provide the call-taker with your location, vehicle description, and license plate
- Keep your doors locked while the dispatcher checks the information you provided
- Ask the officer for their name and badge number and confirm the information
The Tampa Police Department is searching for additional people who may have been victimized by Gonzalez.
“We will work closely with the State Attorney’s Office to ensure he will not be able to victimize any other woman ever again,” Bercaw said. “We encourage any other unreported victims to reach out to our detectives so they, too, can get justice.”