BROWN COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - A Switzerland County, Indiana fireman is facing a weapons charge in Brown County following a Nov. 14 traffic stop in Sardinia.
Sardinia police said what they found during a search of the fireman's Crown Victoria caused them to initiate a police impersonation investigation.
Police stopped Brandon Taylor's white Ford around 9:34 p.m. on Saturday Nov. 14 after investigators said they saw him parked in the Tractor Supply store's parking lot in town, with his lights turned off. When Taylor left the parking lot, Sardinia Police Officer Tim Hubbard told FOX19, he spotted lights mounted inside Taylor's car that he initially thought were police lights.
Taylor's car is an old police car he said he purchased for $1,000 to use to answer calls for volunteer fire departments in Gallatin County, KY and Switzerland County, IN.
When police pulled Taylor, they went straight for the lights, "He comes up, the first thing he says—didn't give me a chance to talk to him, didn't ask me how I was doing, nothing like that—told me to just flip on my lights," Taylor told FOX19 in an interview before a court hearing last Thursday.
Taylor told police on scene he installed the lights because he worked as a volunteer fireman at the Jeff Craig Volunteer Fire Department in Vevay, Indiana and the volunteer department in Gallatin County, Ky.
That's the same thing Taylor told FOX19 during a Jan. 7 interview.
Taylor said the officer, Tim Hubbard, asked to search the car after seeing the fireman wearing a loaded 9 millimeter on his side, held inside a holster.
Taylor said he gave Hubbard and the other officer on scene permission to search the car.
"There were more items in the vehicle than what a fireman should have," Hubbard told FOX19 following the Jan. 7 court hearing. "I believe he was attempting to act as a police officer," Hubbard said.
During the search, Hubbard confirmed finding a pair of handcuffs, a police scanning radio mounted inside and a bulletproof vest.
When police questioned Taylor about the items, police said, he explained the cuffs were issued to him by the Jennings County, Indiana Sheriff's Office.
Taylor said he worked at the county jail there as a reserve deputy and the cuffs were from there.
The bulletproof vest, Taylor claimed, was standard issued equipment from his firefighting job in Indiana.
CONFIRMING THE STORIES
Sardinia Police said they called the Jennings County Sheriff's Office to confirm Taylor's story, but said they were never able to confirm he ever worked in the jail there.
"The sheriff's office said they were familiar with him, but not as a corrections officer," Hubbard said.
We placed a call to the Jennings County Sheriff's Office on Jan. 8 and spoke to an administrator who told FOX19, the county did not have a Brandon Taylor on staff there before or after the Nov. 10 traffic stop.
Hubbard said investigators also tried confirming Taylor's employment with the Gallatin County fire department, but could not confirm he ever worked for that department.
FOX19 confirmed through the Gallatin County Fire Chief in a phone call Jan. 8 that Brandon Taylor had never worked as a fireman there. Chief Barry Alexander, who has served as chief there for more than three decades, told FOX19, "I've never heard of that young man."
Taylor contends he does make volunteer fire runs with Gallatin County.
Taylor was also not employed as an Indiana fireman when he was charged in November. Taylor told FOX19 he was asked to "step down" from the Jeff Craig Volunteer Fire Department by Chief Chris See in September, two months before the Sardinia traffic stop.
"We checked with the local fire department that he claimed he would run with. We also checked with the local sheriff's office with the jail he said he was a corrections officer with. We could never get any information back," Hubbard said.
A search of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security's fire certification database shows Taylor is a certified fire fighter through the state of Indiana. The database does not show whether a credentialed fire fighter is employed with a department or dates of previous employment with a fire service.
Taylor's fire credentials are current, the database shows.
"I BELIEVE HE WAS ATTEMPTING TO ACT AS A POLICE OFFICER"
Sardinia Police still have Brandon Taylor's gun locked inside an evidence locker at the police department and plan to ask a judge to allow the department to take the gun from Taylor, permanently. Taylor wants the gun back.
"I believe he was carrying it with the intentions of being a police officer," Sardinia Police Officer Tim Hubbard told FOX19.
Hubbard admitted he searched Taylor's car, looking for a badge. "Had I found a badge, I would have charged him with that," Hubbard said.
Police did not have any evidence Taylor actually impersonated an officer or any complaints to support a charge, Hubbard said. That charge was never brought against Brandon Taylor.
Taylor told FOX19, Sardinia Police's allegations are false.
"That's not at all what I was trying to do," Taylor said, "I wasn't wearing it (bulletproof vest), it wasn't in my reach. That wasn't at all what I was trying to do."
The vest, Taylor said, was stored in the trunk of his car, along with the handcuffs.
"What was the purpose of the cuffs and the bulletproof vest," FOX19's Jody Barr asked Taylor following the Jan. 7 hearing. "They were in my trunk. The cuffs were actually a friend of mine's, she left them in my trunk so, I mean, I didn't clean the car out in forever. The vest, I take hunting. I have it in case. You never know when you're going to need it," Taylor said.
Taylor denied ever making a traffic stop or ever pretending he was a cop.
"I feel like they're targeting me because I had out of state plates," Taylor said.
Taylor admitted to FOX19, he did violate Ohio's concealed carry law by wearing a loaded firearm inside his car. "I was guilty of not knowing," Taylor said, acknowledging he was not aware of the differences between Indiana and Ohio's gun laws.
During the Jan. 7 hearing, the Sardinia Mayor's Court sent Taylor's case to the Brown County Municipal court for prosecution. That court, police said, will also determine whether Taylor gets the gun back.
There is no date set for a trial or the next court hearing in this case.