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Carl Macgowan

Oct. 21--The young man wore a bulletproof vest and had a police shield on a chain dangling from his neck. He said he was a federal police officer, and produced an identification badge to try to prove it.
But something didn't seem right to Suffolk police Lt. John McGarvey when he met John Downey, 28, early Sunday morning after responding with other officers to a landlord-tenant dispute in Medford.
It wasn't just the fishy-looking ID card and the air-propelled starter's pistol, but the SWAT team gear that Downey was wearing, said Suffolk Sgt. Frank Stewart.
"First off, any police officer would not show up at a scene after hours dressed the way he was," Stewart said yesterday.
Downey, of 377 Amsterdam Ave., West Babylon, was arrested Sunday and charged with second-degree criminal impersonation, possession of a forged instrument and unlawfully dealing with fireworks, the latter for the starter's pistol. He pleaded not guilty yesterday in First District Court in Central Islip and was released on $2,500 bail.
Police believe Downey was called to the scene of the dispute, at 475 Long Island Ave., Medford, by one of the participants. He wore a holster and handcuffs and drove an unmarked 2002 Ford Explorer outfitted with an emergency light bar in the rear window and a laptop computer embedded in the dashboard, police said.
Downey approached McGarvey and showed him a card identifying him as a Department of Veterans Affairs police officer, Suffolk police said. Suspicious, McGarvey took Downey into custody and called VA police, who said Downey was not a member of the agency, Stewart said.
Downey claimed he was a retired federal officer, which McGarvey doubted because of Downey's age, Stewart said. Downey then said he attended a police academy and resigned; Suffolk police could not confirm that claim, Stewart said.
At Downey's home, Suffolk police found an automatic rifle and a semi-automatic rifle, which he had legally, Stewart said. Police found pictures of Downey wearing SWAT gear and brandishing the automatic rifle while wearing a commando-style mask, Stewart said.
Downey had no prior arrests, but police were trying to determine whether he had previously portrayed himself falsely as a police officer, Stewart said. Anyone who made contact with Downey was asked to call the 6th squad at 631-854-8652.
Downey is due back in court Friday. He and his Suffolk Legal Aid Society lawyer could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Story From: Newsday
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