California

Fake cop’s badge and gun didn’t fool mom — so she quietly hatched a plan, LA deputies say

A mother's quick thinking at a taco truck in Industry, California, on Sunday saved her family from an intimidating fake cop with a gun, according to Los Angeles County deputies.
A mother's quick thinking at a taco truck in Industry, California, on Sunday saved her family from an intimidating fake cop with a gun, according to Los Angeles County deputies. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office

A Southern California mother knew not to trust a suspicious armed man claiming to be an undercover cop — and her quick thinking saved her family, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

After spending a hot Sunday cooling off at a local waterpark, the family stopped for street tacos in Industry, California, just after 6 p.m., deputies said. But as the parents and their four children enjoyed food and sodas in their minivan, a man rode up to them on a bicycle and said he was an undercover police officer.

The man showed them a gun in his waistband and whipped out what he said was a police badge, according to deputies.

That wasn’t fooling the mother, though. Even as the man began to “intimidate and terrorize” the parents and their kids, the mother began hatching a plan — knowing she had to act quickly to keep the armed man from hurting her toddler, three older daughters and husband.

She quickly settled on using one of the only tools at her disposal: a taco.

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Juan Rodriguez, 38 Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office

The mother kindly offered a carne asada taco to the fake cop (identified by police as Juan Rodriguez, 38), according to the sheriff’s office. But she needed to get him some napkins, she said, and excused herself to go up to the taco truck.

Once she reached the taco truck, the mother calmly told the customers in line not to look back at her family. That’s when she asked them to call 911 for help immediately, because a man was terrorizing her husband and kids with a gun. The entire family was worried they would end up dead, the mother said.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez was rifling through the mother’s bag and continuing to intimidate the rest of the family members, deputies said. By this point, though, the taco truck workers and customers had called 911. Authorities were soon on their way.

Deputies pulled up and spotted the fake cop near the family’s van minutes later.

Rodriguez spotted deputies, too — so as squad cars got nearer, he tried clambering into the family’s van and throwing his gun into the vehicle, according to the sheriff’s office.

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The family stopped for carne asada tacos and soda on their way home from a waterpark, deputies said. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office

Before he could do anything to hurt the family, though, police arrested Rodriguez, according to the sheriff’s office. Authorities also seized his gun.

Rodriguez faces felony charges of child endangerment and impersonating police, according to the sheriff’s office. He also had outstanding warrants.

Deputies said they’re investigating to see if the crime is related to other incidents in the area.

The sheriff’s office commended the mother and her “momma bear instincts” for handling the fake cop so smoothly and preventing the tense, armed situation from escalating.

Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

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