Today the Tampa Police Department announced the arrest of 42-year-old Sonny Gonzalez, Jr. after the completion of a detailed investigation.
On July 14, 2023, the adult female victim met with detectives with the Tampa Police Department Special Victims Unit and informed them of an incident that had occurred on May 20, 2023. On that date, she met Gonzalez at the Hilton Inn, located at 2225 N. Lois Ave. Gonzalez grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into a stairway, where he proceeded to pull up his shirt and displayed a gun and what appeared to be a law enforcement badge. Gonzalez began questioning the victim, asking if she was trafficking guns or drugs, and told her he wasn’t taking her to jail. He then sexually battered the victim, and then told her to leave and not say anything to anyone. Detectives gathered evidence and developed leads, including the positive identification of Gonzalez as the suspect in the case.
Detectives also conferred with their peers regarding a similar incident from earlier in the year. They linked Gonzalez to an incident at the Ramada Inn, located at 1300 N West Shore Blvd, on the night of February 22, 2023. In that case, Gonzalez displayed a badge to the adult female victim before pulling her into a stairwell and exposing himself to her. The victim, who was not injured, pushed Gonzalez away before running to safety. Surveillance video showed Gonzalez exiting a stairwell in the lobby of the hotel immediately after the incident before walking northbound onto the property next door.
On the night of September 19, 2023, Tampa Police Detectives located Gonzalez in the parking lot of the Courtyard Marriott hotel, located at 12817 Easy St. where, with the assistance of Hillsborough County Sherriff's Office, he was taken into custody without incident. A novelty police badge with a blue star was recovered during a search of his vehicle.
“The thoughts of our entire department are with the women who survived these crimes and our Victims Advocate is available to assist with any support they may need,” said Chief Lee Bercaw. “This criminal preyed upon women by impersonating a law enforcement officer and then sexually assaulting them. Thanks to dedicated investigation by true police officers, he will now be held accountable. We will work closely with the State Attorney’s Office to ensure he will not be able to victimize any other woman ever again. We encourage any other unreported victims to reach out to our detectives so they, too, can get justice.”
Gonzalez was transported to Orient Road Jail. For the incident on July 14, 2023, he was charged with Impersonating a Police Officer (During the Commission of a Felony), Sexual Battery with a Deadly Weapon, Armed False Imprisonment, and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communications Device.
For the incident on February 22, 2023, Gonzalez was charged with Impersonating a Police Officer (During the Commission of a Felony), False Imprisonment, Exposure of Sexual Organs, and Sexual Battery.
The Tampa Police Department reiterated safety tips for community members to recognize official police officers when they are approached. While police impersonation is rare, some tips to keep you safe are as follows:
If you believe someone is impersonating a law enforcement officer:
- Ask for a name, a badge number, and to see their identification.
- Do not be afraid to advise the officer you intend to call the dispatch center (non-emergency in Tampa 813.231.6130) to verify the officer's identity.
- Call 911 if you believe the person is posing as a Law Enforcement Officer.
- Trust your instincts.
If you suspect the person pulling you over is impersonating a police officer:
- Look for a safe place to pull over
- Signal your intent and slow down (activate your hazard lights)
- Call 911 to confirm it is an officer; be sure to provide the call-taker with your location, vehicle description, and license plate
- Keep your doors locked while the dispatcher checks the information you provided
- Ask the officer for their name and badge number and confirm the information with 911.