Crime

Deputy pulls over ex-Manatee deputy pretending to be a Sarasota deputy, cops say

A former Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy is under investigation after deputies say he pretended to be a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office deputy during a traffic stop Monday.

Omar Palencia, 21, was pulled over after he revved the engine of his truck near the deputy who was finishing another traffic stop, according to the incident report. The deputy said he could tell Palencia’s truck’s exhaust was modified and made the stop in the 5700 block of 14th Street West.

As the deputy began to explain why he pulled Palencia over, “The driver started laughing and smiling,” the report states. “Omar pulled a circle badge clip with a silver sheriff’s star badge from his driver visor and stated he works for (Sarasota Sheriff’s Office).”

Palencia went on to say he was a road deputy with the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office. He was given a verbal warning to fix his exhaust, according to the report.

As the deputy drove away, he quickly remembered that the Sarasota sheriff’s star badge is gold, not silver. He unsuccessfully tried to locate Palencia.

At about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, Palencia turned himself in at the Manatee County jail, according to Manatee sheriff’s spokesman Randy Warren.

After reporting the incident to his supervisor, the deputy learned that Palencia was not a member of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Offic, but had at one time been employed by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, according to the report.

According to public records, the Manatee Sheriff’s Office added Palencia to its deputy bond insurance list in February of this year. He completed the police academy and Palencia was employed by the agency, but he still had to undergo the mandatory 16-week Field Training & Evaluation Program.

In April, the sheriff’s office of professional standards filed a “sustained” finding for conduct unbecoming a law enforcement officer.

According to the complaint, Palencia made “untruthful” statements to his superiors regarding a photograph of him flashing gang signs taken while he was in the police academy in June of 2017.

Investigators say the gang sign Palencia flashed is that of the “Bloods” in Manatee County.

Palencia resigned April 2, just one day into the investigation, but the investigation continued.

Palencia told investigators he was instructed to flash the gang sign by his academy instructor and that his fellow classmates would corroborate his story. The instructor and classmates disputed his story, according to the report.

Palencia contacted the Manatee Sheriff’s Office on April 10 and told investigators he “was misremembering” what had happened. He admitted that the instructor did not tell him to flash the sign and that his classmates were being truthful in their testimony disputing his earlier statement, the report states.

Herald staff writer Jessica De Leon contributed to this report.

Breaking News/Real Time Reporter Mark Young began his career in 1996 and has been with the Bradenton Herald since 2014. He has won more than a dozen awards over the years, including the coveted Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting from the Florida Press Club and for beat reporting from the Society for Professional Journalists to name a few. His reporting experience is as diverse as the communities he covers.
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