A group of teenagers and a young adult who pretended to be police officers — ordering people out of their cars and onto the ground — were arrested December 27 after a tipster informed police that a video of one of their pranks was posted online.
Three of the juvenile arrestees were girls; one of the males was identified as 18-year-old Temecula resident Mason Gonzalez, who faces felony charges in addition to the misdemeanor charge of impersonating an officer.
“He’s also charged with false imprisonment,” said Temecula police Sgt. Kevin McDonald.
The other felony charge for which Gonzalez was booked into the Southwest Detention Center was for conspiracy to commit a felony. He posted bail on December 30.
Riverside County sheriff’s deputies reported that at least two incidents occurred on December 23, when the group of suspects allegedly drove into residential areas at night and targeted motorists who were sitting in parked vehicles. The suspects were said to have shined bright flashlights into victims' eyes, then used an amplified megaphone to identify themselves as Temecula police before forcing the victims out of their vehicles and facedown onto the ground before driving away.
“We believe there may be more unreported victims,” McDonald said.
Investigators believe there are as many as five more unreported incidents that took place. One was at 6:45 p.m. in the Harveston Lake area; the other was reported about two hours later, from the 31000 block of Sonoma Lane, which is about five miles across town. Both victims in those cases believed they were being contacted by law-enforcement officers, according to police.
The same day the internet video was discovered, all six suspects were identified, located, and arrested. Authorities are not releasing the video because there are five juveniles involved in the case, McDonald said. He also said the suspects considered the crimes to be pranks and that there were no attempts to harm or rob any of the victims during these incidents.