52-year-old Sarasota resident charged with impersonating law enforcement officer

Suspect told deputy he was trying to scare a driver who allegedly ran a red light

Edward Joseph Correll. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

A 52-year-old Sarasota man has been charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer and Driving While License Suspended or Revoked for the second time this year, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has reported.

Edward Joseph Correll, of 4635 Busti Drive, remained in custody on $2,000 bond as of the afternoon of Sept. 1, The Sarasota News Leader learned from the Sheriff’s Office’s Corrections Division webpages.

The Division record lists him as a construction worker.

Correll’s arraignment on both charges is set for Oct. 8, the arrest record says.

At 4:14 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 29, a 911 call reported a suspicious traffic stop, the release noted. The incident occurred near the intersection of Bee Ridge Road and McIntosh Road, the formal report added.

Mckinley P. Epling told officers that he was driving northbound on McIntosh Road after traveling through the Bee Ridge Road intersection; Aubrey M. Rife was a front-seat passenger with him. Both said they heard a “chirp” from what they believed to be a law enforcement vehicle, so they looked behind them and saw that they were being followed by a black Chevrolet Suburban, the report explained.

This is a still from a Sheriff’s Office video, showing the lights activated on the suspect’s Suburban, which made the victims believe a law enforcement officer was driving the vehicle, according to the formal report. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Epling told the investigating officer that he continued north on McIntosh and drove through the intersection of Lindwood Street “at a high rate of speed,” but the Suburban kept following him.

The driver of the SUV “activated noticeable white and red strobe lights and an audible siren,” the report continued. Rife then observed the driver signaling her and Epling to pull over, it added. “Believing that the Suburban was a police vehicle,” the report pointed out, “Epling subsequently pulled over to the side of the roadway near Oak View [Drive].”

The Suburban initially pulled in behind his vehicle, Epling said, and then it “immediately sped off at a high rate of speed, northbound on McIntosh,” the report continued.

The driver’s actions made him suspicious, Epling told the officer, so he began to follow the Suburban while calling 911 Dispatch. As he remained in pursuit, Epling said, he updated the dispatcher on his location.

Epling also was able to give Dispatch the license tag number for the Suburban, the report noted.

“At one point, Epling advised that the defendant pulled into the parking lot of a [doctor’s office on Tuttle Avenue] and that he demanded the defendant show him his badge,” the report said.

After the Suburban driver refused to do so, the report added, the driver headed off, northbound on Tuttle “until he eventually turned into Hidden Lake Village located at 2700 Hidden Lake Blvd.,” the report said. “The vehicle continued westbound towards the dead end of Hidden Lake [Drive North],” the report noted. Finally, it stopped in front of Apartment 2612, the report added.

This map shows the location of Hidden Lake Drive in Sarasota. Image from Google Maps

A deputy who had arrived on the scene pulled in behind the Suburban and was able to talk with Correll, the report said; Correll was the sole occupant of the SUV.

The deputy confirmed that Correll’s license had been suspended six times, most recently on June 14 for Failure to Pay Court Financial Obligation, the report pointed out.

This map shows Busti Drive, where the suspect was living. Image from Google Maps

The deputy read Correll the Miranda warning, the report continued, but Correll told the officer “that he wished to speak about the incident,” adding, “‘I’ll talk about whatever you want.’”

When the officer asked about what had transpired with Epling and Rife, Correll responded that “he ‘made a mistake.’ The defendant stated that he observed Epling’s vehicle run a red light at [the intersection of McIntosh Road and Webber Street],” the officer wrote. Correll “was apologetic and continued to reiterate that he was trying to ‘scare’ Epling,” the report noted.

When the officer asked for clarification of the latter statement, the report said, Correll responded that “he has kids and that Epling was driving dangerously. The defendant advised that he knew it was wrong and stated that he made a stupid mistake,” the report added.
Correll also denied having activated a siren in his vehicle, the report said.

“Epling and Rife were adamant that the defendant impersonated a police officer by activating red and white lights as well as a siren,” the report noted. They also maintained that Correll had signaled to them to pull over, “simulating a law enforcement traffic stop,” the report said.

When the officer searched the Suburban, the report continued, the officer found a “functioning white and red strobe …”

Correll was transported to the county jail without incident, the report added.

“Citizens are encouraged to always stay aware of their surroundings and if approached by someone who seems suspicious and claims to be an officer or deputy, they should dial 911 immediately,” the Sheriff’s Office news release points out. If a person dials 911 in Sarasota County, the release adds, the dispatcher “will be able to provide verification for the caller.”

Previous charges against Correll

A News Leader search of 12th Judicial Circuit Court records found that Correll was charged in one March 2018 case with having no driver’s license and, in a second case that month, with failing to display his vehicle registration.

Most recently, prior to the Aug. 29 incident, he was charged with a speeding violation, a count of Unknowingly Operating Vehicle While Driver’s License Suspended/Canceled/Revoked, and a count of No Proof of Insurance.

The speeding citation said he was traveling at 57 mph in a 35 mph zone on Feb. 4 of this year when he was stopped. The penalty for the speeding violation was $281, that citation noted; for the driver’s license charge, $160; and for the lack of proof of insurance, $116.

That incident was reported at the intersection of McIntosh Road and Oak View Drive, the citation added. At the time, Correll was driving a 2006 Jeep, the document said.

This map shows the location of the intersection of McIntosh Road and Oak View Drive. Image from Google Maps

Court records also show that Correll did not pay the fines in a timely fashion, so, in March, he was charged a late fee of $23 for each citation.

On June 21, the cases were sent to a collections agency, court records note.

Among other subsequent cases, Correll was charged in June 2018 with falsely identifying himself as a contractor. A Bradenton woman was identified as the complainant in that case; she had contacted the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, court records indicate.

“A copy of [department] records indicate [Correll] holds no license with our agency and Corporate records indicate no listing for Correll Construction LLC in the State of Florida,” that document added.

Ultimately, on May 21, 2019, the State Attorney’s Office for the 12th District filed a nolle prosequi document. That Latin phrase means “unwilling to pursue,” the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa explains. “Under common law in the United States, the term was used by the prosecutor to declare voluntarily ending a criminal case after the filing of formal charges but before the case could be dismissed by the court or a verdict could be rendered at trial,” the law firm adds.

A jury trial in that Correll case had been scheduled to begin on June 10, court records show.