Accused police impersonator says arrest stemmed from misunderstanding over prank

Jason Stoddard. Provided.

A man arrested over the weekend for impersonating a police officer said the whole episode was a big misunderstanding stemming from a joke he tried to play on a good friend on James Island.

Videographer Jason Stoddard said his prank backfired when his friend bolted after he pulled her over early Saturday while driving a prop car designed to look like a police cruiser. With her help, he said, he’s now trying to clear up the mess and get the criminal charge dismissed.

“It was the worst misunderstanding of my entire life,” he said.

A Charleston police report, however, indicates that the woman positively identified Stoddard and the car as being involved in the traffic stop that frightened her. The woman told officers she did not know Stoddard, police spokesman Charles Francis said.

Stoddard provided The Post and Courier with a phone number for the woman involved in the incident and encouraged a reporter to call her. The newspaper, however, was not able to immediately reach the woman.

Stoddard said the episode began while he was preparing for a nighttime shoot for a music video and spotted a good friend of his drive by. Stoddard, 32, said he was driving a fake police cruiser at the time that was being used as a prop in the music video.

Stoddard said he pulled behind his friend’s car as a joke with lights flashing and approached her car when she pulled over at Yale Drive near Mohawk Avenue about 3:50 a.m.

“But at the time, she didn’t realize it was me and she drove off,” Stoddard said. “I tried to catch up with her to let her know it was only me and to not freak out.”

Before he could reach her, however, the woman called Charleston police and told them she was being followed by a man who had pulled he over in a Crown Victoria with red and blue flashing lights, according to a police report,

An officer saw a vehicle matching the description of Stoddard’s car heading north on Folly Road toward Wambaw Avenue.

The officer stopped Stoddard at Wambaw, near Yale Drive, and saw a cage in the backseat, along with a rear LED light bar and several antennas. The officer also saw a black mag-lite flashlight on the front seat, like police officers use, in addition to an orange and yellow traffic vest, a police scanner and radio under the dash and Velcro pads in the front, Francis said.

Once Stoddard gave officers consent to search the car, they located a black night stick, an LED light bar that can be attached to the Velcro strips on top of the dash, two mag-lite flashlights, a seat organizer that attaches to the passenger seat, a map, handcuffs and a box of gloves, Francis said.

Stoddard said he tried to explain to police what happened but they weren’t interested in his story.

Stoddard said the incident was regretful and he spent a night in jail because of it. He said he also wants to clear up a misunderstanding in the police report indicating that he told officers he worked on the set of “Army Wives” and had borrowed the prop car from the Lifetime television show.

Stoddard said he has no affiliation with “Army Wives.” He said he merely explained that the car is prop that is sometimes rented to the television show to use.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.

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