Raleigh man warns drivers of 'fake' car accidents

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A Raleigh man is warning others about fake accidents.

A former law enforcement officer is sounding the alarm after he says a suspicious person tried targeting his wife by staging a fake car accident.

Leon Cooper said he was following his wife home in a separate car and had her on the phone Monday night around 9, when she pulled up to the stop sign on Willow Oak Road at Southall Road in east Raleigh.

"She was like, 'what's going on here?' " Cooper said. "I'm like, what is it? She's like 'there's a guy on the ground. I think he got hit.' "



Cooper said a dark sedan was parked to the right of Southall Road with its flashers on; a man was lying on the sidewalk in front of the car.

As he was pulling up behind his wife at the intersection, Cooper said the man, seemingly hurt, got up and started stumbling toward her car, but after seeing Cooper, stopped and turned around to walk back to his driver's side door.

"When I first pulled up, I thought the guy must be hurt, he must've had an accident," said Cooper. "And then I see him look at me and I'm like now he's not hurt. What's going on? This guy's up to something. He's up to no good. He's trying to do something."

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Cooper said they continued making their left-hand turn, but watched out of his rear view mirror as the man walked back to the front of the car to lie back down on the ground.

Cooper says he served as a Raleigh police officer for 10 years and seeing the man's behavior, his instincts kicked in. He told his wife to continue driving home while he did a U-turn to check things out. He said as he drove back toward the man he got in his car and took off.

"I think he was trying to possibly either rob us -- rob my wife, or to carjack her," Cooper said.

Cooper called police to report the incident.

An officer was sent to the Hedingham neighborhood to follow up on the suspicious person report.

Cooper then warned his neighbors in a Facebook post, telling them to beware of fake car accidents.

"Pay close attention to your surroundings," Cooper said. "If it doesn't seem right and doesn't feel right, it's probably not right."

A Raleigh Police Department spokesperson said investigators haven't received any other reports similar to Cooper's.

However, police offer these safety tips for drivers who come across a disabled vehicle on the side of the road:

- CALL 911: Emergency personnel can respond immediately and have the safety equipment, training and experience to deal with all types of emergency situations. These include but are not limited to CPR and other medical related techniques, flares, and vehicles equipped with bright warning lights to warn passing motorists that the hazard exists.

- BE A GOOD WITNESS: When calling 911 be sure to describe all the details that lead to your concern. Details such as location, directions of travel, lane of travel, type of vehicle, vehicle color and any actions seen by the driver or occupants of the vehicle. Being a good witness and relaying the information to emergency responders can save a life and prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

- DO NOT STOP: The shoulder of a roadway is a dangerous place. If you stop, the likelihood of your vehicle being involved in an accident is very high. It is best to proceed with your travel route and leave the roadway clear for emergency personnel.

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