Deputies with the Perry County Sheriff's Office have detained two people in a robbery case involving suspects allegedly impersonating officers with Operation UNITE in Perry County, and police say many more such robberies may have taken place throughout Eastern Kentucky counties.
The arrests came Friday night after the Perry County 911 center received a call reporting a home robbery in Viper. The caller stated that the perpetrators were posing as police officers and gave a description of both the subjects and the vehicle.
Deputy Danny Miller was one of the deputies dispatched to the area, where he said he observed a white 1991 GMC Jimmy matching the description of the vehicle reported to have been used during the robbery. Upon performing a traffic stop, Miller detained 43-year-old James Bowling and 30-year-old Jeremy Brashear, both of Leslie County.
Deputy Jay VanVranken is investigating the case, and said a bottle of prescription medication found in the vehicle and the vehicle itself were positively identified by the alleged victims through photos taken at the scene. “The victims positively identified the vehicle and the property,” VanVranken said.
This robbery was the second such incident in Perry County in the past week, police said, and there are most likely more that have happened in the same way. “We have no idea how many more robberies there have been,” VanVranken said. “Undoubtedly, there have been more.” According to a press release from the sheriff's office, one of the suspects said the robberies have covered several Eastern Kentucky counties, while the other suspect said "his accomplices were actually ridding the area of illegal drugs by conducting these home invasion robberies."
VanVranken said that when the perpetrators enter a residence, they are armed with firearms and dressed in black shirts and caps with the word “Police” inscribed on them, and that when the robberies are complete, the stolen items and firearms used are loaded into another vehicle. He further remarked that when the subjects enter the home, they handcuff or tie the hands of the victims together, and that each robbery is conducted at gunpoint. He noted that “several other subjects are suspected of being involved” besides the two men arrested.
Dan Smoot, law enforcement director with Operation UNITE, said the robberies are targeting illicit drugs such as prescription medication. Several pills were allegedly taken during Friday's robbery. "They're stealing narcotics. That's the purpose of these robberies," Smoot said.
In a similar case in Floyd County last month, 30-year-old Evelyn Delynn Hall was arrested and charged with impersonating a UNITE officer when she allegedly handcuffed and robbed a man on July 16, and three days later executed a fake search warrant on a couple while at their home. According to a report in the Floyd County Times, Hall was alleged to have taken firearms and prescription medication during the robberies.
Deputy VanVranken noted that the Kentucky State Police are also currently investigating similar cases in Leslie County.
The Perry County Sheriff's Office urges any Perry County resident who may have been a victim in a similar crime to contact the sheriff's office, while residents of other counties should contact the Kentucky State Police.