A member of the department’s Explorer program stole a patrol car, a badge and a Taser and masqueraded as an officer on the Navy base in May, according to Oak Harbor Police Chief Ed Green.
Josue A. Capellan, a 20-year-old Oak Harbor resident, allegedly told a detective that he wanted to know what it would feel like to pull someone over by himself. He denied actually doing so, but investigators are downloading video feed from the car to check what he did on the alleged joyride.
Detectives arrested Capellan July 4 on suspicion of impersonating an officer, taking a motor vehicle without permission, unlawful possession of a firearm and several theft charges.
A judge ordered Capellan held on $15,000 bail July 5.
Chief Green said the allegations are a little embarrassing for the department, but he also sees the case as a learning experience.
“It gives us a reason to evaluate our systems,” he said. “Are there things we could have done differently? It’s really a self-audit.”
Green described the allegations as very unusual and stressed that the young man’s actions should not reflect on the program.
“This absolutely is not a representation of what these kids are like,” he said, describing them as young men and women of integrity and commitment.
The purpose of the Explorer program, Green explained, is to educate young people who are interested in careers in public safety. The Oak Harbor police program is for people in their late teen years to 21 years old.
The Explorers don’t have any law enforcement powers, but often help with things like special events.
Green said Capellan was the longest-tenured member of the Explorer program and appeared to be doing a good job up until the alleged incident. Green said investigators have since discovered that Capellan received a couple of traffic tickets while he was an Explorer and failed to tell the department, as required.
Capellan’s Facebook page features a photo of an Oak Harbor police car and guns.
Green said the allegations, if true, will likely spell the end to the young man’s aspirations to become an officer.
“That’s the really heartbreaking part,” he said.
The investigation started last week after an officer received a tip that Capellan drove a fully-marked patrol car on Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and identified himself as a police officer to several military police officers on or around May 10.
Capellan was dressed in full uniform with a stolen Taser and badge; he was allegedly armed with a handgun but claimed it wasn’t loaded at the time, according to the report by Detective Carl Seim.
Capellan allegedly admitted taking the “key fob” for the department’s Dodge Charger from an officer’s desk and then driving it around the Navy’s Ault Field Base, Rocky Point and the Seaplane Base. He said he activated the lights and sirens while on the base, the report states.
Capellan said he took a badge from a uniform hanging outside a locker and the Taser from a “radio closet,” Seim wrote. The items were later found in a roommate’s room.
Detectives also found a couple of police uniforms, two bullet-proof vests and a canister of pepper spray in Capellan’s room. A police radio, police officer business cards and a loaded handgun were discovered in Capellan’s car, the report indicates.
Green said the Taser is being tested to figure out if Capellan may have discharged it.
In the meantime, Green said officers will start taking extra steps to ensure everything is locked up securely while he examines procedures related to the building and equipment. The department conducted a complete audit of inventory and nothing else appears to be missing, Green said.