Jason Stoddard has made a career of working behind the scenes on movies, television shows and music videos.
But the Moncks Corner man ended up playing a leading role in a bizarre drama that played out on the streets of James Island early Saturday, landing him in jail on a charge of impersonating a police officer.
Stoddard, a 32-year-old videographer and director, said the whole episode stemmed from a playful prank in which he pulled over a good friend while driving a prop car designed to look like a police cruiser. The joke backfired when his friend got scared, bolted and called police in a panic, he said.
With her help, Stoddard said, he’s now trying to clear his name and get the criminal charge dismissed.
“It was the worst misunderstanding of my entire life,” he said Monday.
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 also told officers she did not know Stoddard, police spokesman Charles Francis said.
Stoddard provided The Post and Courier with a phone number for the 26-year-old Charleston woman involved in the incident and encouraged a reporter to call her. The newspaper, however, was not able to reach her, and she did not return a message left on her phone.
Stoddard said the episode began while he was preparing a camera shot for a music video and spotted a good friend drive by who was supposed to be aware of the shoot. Stoddard 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 her over in a Ford 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 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 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 has a rather small criminal record, with just one conviction for illegal possession of controlled drugs in Richland County in 2011, according to State Law Enforcement Division records.
His online resume lists a variety of film, television, commercial and music projects on which he has worked, mainly as a sound mixer. In addition, he is listed as director/writer of an action/suspense movie called “The Afflicted.”
Stoddard said Saturday’s incident was regretful, and he spent a night in jail because of it. He said he also wanted 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 to officers that the car is a prop that has been rented to the television show to use.
“Army Wives” spokesman Chandler Hayes confirmed that Stoddard has no ties to the television show or its parent network.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.