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Fake cop also spider man?
Tarantula in suspect's car takes sheriff's deputies by surprise

By Seth Burkett 340-2355

DANVILLE — A Lawrence County man who pretended to be a police officer was working with a partner, Morgan County sheriff's investigators learned upon opening the armrest console of his car during a search Friday.

Investigator Terry Kelly said Tom Ethan Wiley's hairy, eight-legged accomplice, a tarantula, nearly gave him a heart attack.

"I left it right where I found it. I swore to protect the people of Morgan County, not the arachnids," Kelly said. "The guy from the wrecker service said he would take it home to his kids. That was OK with me."

Kelly said a man Wiley pulled over Thursday afternoon told police Wiley had a tarantula on his shoulder during the shakedown.

Kelley said the search of Wiley's car turned up nothing else unusual, including no law enforcement gear or flashing lights.

Wiley, 30, of 6490 Lawrence County 205, Danville, faces a charge of impersonating a peace officer, a Class C Felony.

Kelly said Wiley pulled over at least two different drivers and accused them of having just left a drug house.

The drivers were naturally suspicious of Wiley, who wore a sleeveless shirt and presented no badge or identification other than a visor with "Sheriff" embroidered on the bill.

Wiley, driving a white Cadillac, got drivers to stop by rapidly flashing the headlights to bright and raising the visor so the drivers could read it, Kelly said.

"If he was just living out a fantasy or shaking down people looking for free drugs, I don't know," Kelly said.

Police hauled Wiley in for questioning after he showed Deputy Joel Thomas the visor and told him he was "... working for Lawrence County," but failed to produce a badge, Kelly said.

It turned out Wiley was already wanted on a felony theft warrant issued by Decatur police.

The investigation into Wiley's activities isn't over. Investigators said he could have stopped other cars in Lawrence County and Danville.

Wiley remained in Morgan County Jail on Friday in lieu of $1,500 bond, with a hold placed on his release by Decatur police.

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