FRANKLIN — A Greenfield man prosecutors said tried to pat down a woman at a Walgreens and then gave her a ride home was sentenced to one year probation after pleading guilty to one count of impersonating a peace officer on April 18.
Lucas VanEngen, 29, was sentenced to serve 90 days in the House of Correction with Huber release and credit for two days’ time served, but that sentence was imposed and stayed, and VanEngen was instead placed on probation for a year, with 30 days in the House of Correction imposed and stayed.
FOX6 News spoke with VanEngen shortly after this incident and he called it a big misunderstanding.
According to a criminal complaint, VanEngen made a purchase at the Walgreens on West Loomis Road in Franklin on Dec. 16, 2018. He returned shortly after with a woman, who locked her keys in her car, along with her two children.
“I didn’t see it as a big deal. I didn’t see it as a big deal at all,” said VanEngen.
Investigators said VanEngen told a manager at the store he was “with law enforcement” and needed to pat down the woman.
“No good person would want them walking all the way home,” said VanEngen. “I never said I was a Franklin police officer to anybody ever because, obviously, I’m not a Franklin police officer.”
According to a criminal complaint, a Walgreens manager told VanEngen he would “absolutely not” be patting the woman down, and the woman appeared confused. She ended up leaving the store with VanEngen and her kids. The manager called Franklin police.
“I wanted to make sure that she didn’t have weapons on her, so I figured that it would be best to call the police, have them maybe talk to her, just get her name and it came to that — pat her, make sure she doesn’t have weapons,” said VanEngen.
While VanEngen said the incident was a big misunderstanding, those who live near him said the accusations were no surprise.
“When I initially met him, he also told me that he was an officer and a field recovery agent and that I needed to keep it on the down low,” said Brad Doney, former neighbor.
Doney only knew VanEngen for a short period of time, when they both stayed at the same motel, but he said their interactions were not normal.
“I just want everybody to be very careful and be very cautious and very leery of this gentleman,” said Doney.
“This is all a very strange situation. I really hope they see that and they see this is just a big misunderstanding,” said VanEngen.
Walgreens employees told investigators VanEngen was a regular who often wore a tactical vest and carried a gun. When FOX6 News asked him about that, VanEngen said he wore it for his job in private security.
Authorities said VanEngen was not a law enforcement officer.
Online court records showed about a month before charges were filed in this incident, VanEngen was charged with misdemeanor battery, domestic abuse assessments and misdemeanor disorderly conduct, domestic abuse assessments.
A bench warrant was issued on April 30 after VanEngen failed to appear in court for a plea/sentencing hearing. His $500 signature bond was forfeited.