According to Sheriffs press release, on Monday, December 23 2013 the Temecula Police Department responded to two separate calls for service regarding unknown individuals accosting citizens who were seated in their parked vehicles. The first incident occurred at 6:45 PM, at the intersection of Lakehouse Road and Harveston Drive, and the second occurred at 8:40 PM, in the 31000 block of Sonoma Lane. During each incident, unknown persons contacted the victims under cover of darkness by parking their vehicle behind the victims’ vehicle and using a loudspeaker to order the victim out of their vehicle.
The Temecula Police Department investigated two cases where unknown suspects claiming to be Temecula Police officers detained victims who were parked in their cars in residential neighborhoods. The suspects used high powered flashlights and electronic megaphones to order the victims out of their cars and to lie face down on the pavement. The suspects then drove away after the victims complied with their orders.
On 12/27/13, Temecula Police Investigators received a tip that video of one of these incidents had been posted on a social media website. They investigated and were able to identify, locate, and arrest all six of the suspects involved in these cases. Three of the suspects were female juveniles, two of the suspects were male juveniles, and one suspect was a male adult.
Three of the juvenile suspects were released to their parents and charges will be sought against them while they remain out of custody. The other two juvenile suspects were booked into the Southwest Juvenile Hall on the above charges. The adult, Mason Gonzalez, 18, of Temecula, was booked into the Southwest Detention Center.
Investigators learned the suspects committed these crimes while playing what they considered to be pranks. There were no attempts to harm or rob any of the victims during these incidents. Investigators also developed evidence that indicates there are at least another four to five similar cases committed by these suspects that have not been reported to the police.
Anyone with additional information regarding these incidents are encouraged to contact Investigator James Dickey or Investigator Rachael Frost at the Temecula Police Department at 951 696 3000.
Based on the nature of these incidents, specifically, the likelihood that the suspects were attempting to gain compliance from their victims by appearing to be law enforcement officers, the Temecula Police Department would like to offer the following safety tips:
- Emergency lighting equipment is generally permanently affixed to police vehicles.
- Law enforcement officers are required by law to wear identifying insignia, such as a uniform, badge, or other clear markings identifying which agency they represent.
- If you are stopped by law enforcement, remain in your vehicle and wait for the officer to approach.
- Try to avoid loitering in dark, isolated areas during night hours.
- If you must remain in your parked vehicle for an extended period of time, try to find a lighted and populated area.
- Report any suspicious persons or suspicious activity to local law enforcement.
If anyone has any further information regarding this incident, or any similar incidents, please contact the Temecula Police Department at 951-696-3000.