Kensington man has history of playing cop

MATTHEW HALL / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER SEPTA Detective Bryan Carney met Deion Deans the day after Deans pretended to be a "Fugitive Recovery Agent" at the Allegheny El stop.
MATTHEW HALL / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER SEPTA Detective Bryan Carney met Deion Deans the day after Deans pretended to be a "Fugitive Recovery Agent" at the Allegheny El stop.
Posted: January 24, 2014

IT TAKES MORE than a badge and tactical gear to become a law-enforcement officer.

But one Kensington man doesn't seem to subscribe to that philosophy: He's spent the last four years passing himself off as a law-enforcement agent, complete with official-looking gear and an attitude to match.

And until last month, when he threatened a SEPTA transit detective, his only punishment was probation and court-ordered mental-health treatment.

Deion Deans, 31, of Lippincott Street near Jasper, faces a preliminary hearing this morning on charges of terroristic threats, impersonating a public servant and related offenses in the incident with the SEPTA detective - the latest chapter of bizarre behavior that includes making his own car stops and passing off a vicious pit bull as a K-9 dog.

"This is a guy who threatened police officers with arrest; that's just not normal behavior," SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel said. "If he's going to treat police officers this way, who else is he treating that way?"

Deans first came to Nestel's attention Dec. 15, when he caused a disturbance at the Market-Frankford Line's Allegheny Station. When SEPTA transit officers approached Deans, he identified himself as an officer and flashed a badge.

Pressed for credentials, Deans became aggressive, telling officers that he would "take them all to jail" if they tried to arrest him, according to an affidavit of probable cause from that incident.

Deans eventually produced a state ID card and a badge identifying him as a "Fugitive Recovery Agent," as well as a pair of silver handcuffs. The SEPTA officers took those items and later released him.

But Deans wasn't done with SEPTA: He showed up at the transit authority's headquarters at 13th and Market streets the next day and caused another scene.

Deans was taken into custody by SEPTA transit officers including Detective Bryan Carney, who left the encounter shaken.

'I make promises'

"He looked right at me and said, 'I hope your kids don't go to that school' [without naming a school] after mentioning AK-47s and a 'bloodbath,' " Carney said.

Deans was warned several times that he was threatening a police officer, Carney said, but that didn't faze him.

"He said, 'I don't make threats against police. I make promises. And I keep them,' " Carney said. "The whole thing was nerve-racking; it was clear he was completely serious about what he was saying."

Carney, who doesn't have kids, believes that Deans' behavior should not be ignored.

"He's an absolute threat, because he believes he's above the law," Carney said. "Again, he's saying these things to a police officer. I can't imagine what he tells people on the street."

After their encounter, Carney discovered that Deans' credentials were phony - Nestel and Carney say he has never been licensed by any law-enforcement agency - and that his outburst wasn't an isolated incident.

"This is a pattern of behavior that is getting worse," Nestel said. "Whatever his problem is, it needs to be addressed, because he's not changing."

The earliest recorded example of that pattern is from March 2010, when Capt. Michael Cram of the 26th Police District in Fishtown ran into Deans - almost literally. Cram was on his way to a community meeting when an SUV outfitted with typical law-enforcement lights and sirens sped past his unmarked vehicle. He pulled the driver over and came face-to-face with Deans, who insisted he was an active member of the Army's Military Police.

That was a mistake: Cram, a 26-year Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, saw through his claims.

"It was a weird scene," Cram said. "He couldn't have been any more pleasant, but something was off."

A search of Deans' vehicle turned up a cache of bootleg DVDs, for which he was charged.

An apology

Things kept getting weirder: A few weeks later, Deans' parents brought him to the district office on Girard Avenue near Montgomery and made him apologize to Cram.

Then, about a month after the car stop, Deans returned to the district, this time by himself and in full "uniform."

"He shows up in Army fatigues, a 'Fugitive Enforcement Agency' shirt and [with] an empty holster," Cram said. "My guys let him in; they thought he was one of the bail-enforcement officers I work with."

So Cram had quite a scare when an uninvited guest walked into his outer office in combat gear.

"I had my gun drawn in my office; I had no idea what was going on," he said.

After a quick explanation, Cram recognized Deans, who was once again "pleasant," Cram said.

He had decided to pay Cram a visit in an attempt to have the charges from the car stop "go away," Cram said.

They didn't, and stuck at a subsequent hearing, along with Deans' first charge of impersonating a public servant, thanks to Cram's testimony.

Court records show Deans was found guilty of those and related offenses, and served 18 months of probation for them.

About a year later, that charge of impersonating a public servant was withdrawn, along with three others from later, similar incidents , according to Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office.

"[We] didn't just withdraw charges; he had to complete intensive mental-health treatment with medication, along with once-a-month appearances in front of the judge, for over a year," Jamerson wrote in an email. "Once he completed that treatment, we withdrew the charges."

Cram, who hasn't had contact with Deans since 2010, wasn't surprised to hear that he was in trouble again.

"He has to be institutionalized somehow, before he hurts somebody, if he hasn't already," Cram said. "He's competent enough; he knows what he's doing."

Cram's biggest fear is that Deans has victimized people who are afraid to come forward.

"It might be people from the undercurrent - drug dealers or prostitutes - or it might be legitimate people who are afraid to speak out because they think he's a police officer."

Nestel shares that sentiment, and is hoping for a resolution of the latest incident.

"Sometimes, there's a much deeper problem than just misbehavior," he said. "Those other issues aren't as easily resolved, especially by a judge.

"But whatever the problem is, it needs to be addressed before he hurts someone."

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