Mississippi authorities are questioning a man suspected of impersonating a police officer to determine whether he is involved in the killings of two motorists on highways in the state, a sheriff's investigator said Thursday.
James Lucas, 45, of Yazoo City was picked up after stopping two drivers Wednesday night, Humphreys County Sheriff Investigator Sam Dobbins told CNN. He was driving a blue Mercury Marquis that used to be a police car and still had flashing blue lights behind its grille, Dobbins said.
Investigators have raised the possibility that someone posing as a police officer is to blame for the shooting deaths of 74-year-old Tom Schlender and 48-year-old Lori Anne Carswell, which happened 55 miles apart in northwest Mississippi. Ballistics tests have connected the killings, a source who has been briefed on the investigation said Thursday.
One man stopped Wednesday night became suspicious after seeing the suspect getting out of the Marquis on the passenger side with a gun, Dobbins said. He drove off, firing a shot at the supposed police officer when he attempted to pursue him, then called police when he got home.
Later, a woman who was stopped also became suspicious and took off, driving to the Yazoo City police department to report the incident, Dobbins said.
Both the drivers told police the car had a Confederate flag vanity plate up front, Dobbins said. Police spotted the Mercury on Thursday morning in Yazoo City and hauled in Lucas, the car's owner.
Dobbins said investigators searched Lucas' home and found handcuffs and fake badges.
No charges had been filed late Thursday. Lucas had been free on bond after his arrest on a cocaine possession charge and has a long history of arrests in Mississippi and other Southern states, Yazoo City Police Chief Eric Snow said.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the interrogation, and profilers from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been asked to assist in the investigation.
Schendler was found dead in his car, stopped in the median of Interstate 55, early on May 8. Three days later, Carswell was found dead outside her car on the shoulder of a state highway in Tunica County. John Champion, the district attorney in the area, said both shootings occurred in "very remote areas."
Monday, state police warned that the killer may be posing as a police officer, and urged drivers being pulled over to call 911 and verify that an actual officer or deputy was trying to stop them.
Authorities say the victims did not know each other. Schlender had been traveling from Nebraska, his son-in-law, Matthew Anderson, told CNN; his wallet was gone when he was found, Anderson said.
Carswell's family declined to comment.
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