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'Spontaneous blurt' prompts felony charges

DULUTH -- The case of a College Park man arrested in Duluth this week illustrates that holding yourself out as a police officer, even in passing, can bring serious consequences.

Ozell Wright, 42, is charged with felony impersonating an officer in what started as an illegal trash dumping call Thursday evening.

A Duluth police officer found Wright in a truck parked along Pleasant Hill Road, which was dotted in garbage that had blown out of open trash bags Wright was transporting. Wright told the officer he had circled back to start picking up the garbage when the truck died.

The officer, S.J. Lee, offered to call a wrecker to jump-start the truck and agreed to search her police cruiser for an extra trash bag to help Wright retrieve the debris. But first, Lee requested to see Wright's drivers license. Wright provided his ID and mentioned that he was "an officer with DeKalb County," according to a Duluth police report.

After Lee ran a check of his license and employment status with DeKalb, Wright changed his story, claiming he was "an officer of the courts" in DeKalb. A police supervisor was called to the scene, and Wright denied the earlier statements about his employment, offering that he was "a volunteer at a juvenile court system," the report states.

Wright later blamed his initial statement on "a spontaneous blurt ... without thinking," Lee wrote.

Wright was arrested without incident, and the truck he was driving released to his friends. He was released from the Gwinnett County Jail on $5,700 bond the following day.

According to Georgia code, impersonating public officers in an effort to mislead others is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine.