Hate-Crime Arrest in Road-Rage Incident

    East Hampton Town police have reported the arrest of a Springs man who they said was involved in a hate-crime confrontation with a Latino resident during which he allegedly impersonated a police officer.
    Police said that Jefferson D. Eames, 44, of Neck Path confronted Jorge Garcia of East Hampton in a prolonged road-rage incident on Sept. 25. He was charged with aggravated harassment as a hate crime and impersonating an officer, both misdemeanors.
    According to a statement given to police by Mr. Garcia, the incident began at about 10:30 a.m. as he was driving his Mercedes-Benz van on Hildreth Place in Springs and a Chevrolet pickup truck passed him, with the driver giving Mr. Garcia the middle finger as he went by.
    The pickup turned left onto Accabonac Road, the same direction Mr. Garcia was headed. When Mr. Garcia made the turn, the truck was not in sight, until he approached the intersection of Accabonac and Old Stone Highway, where the truck was sitting at a stop sign, Mr. Garcia told police.
    He pulled up behind the pickup and waited, but it did not move. As Mr. Garcia pulled out to pass on the left, Mr. Eames opened the driver’s-side door of the truck, making a fist, police said.
    Mr. Garcia hit the brakes, went into reverse, and drove around the pickup by going onto the grassy shoulder. Because he was on his way to work and was nervous about the pickup’s driver, the report said, Mr. Garcia took an alternate route, driving down Old Stone Highway.
    Mr. Eames began pursuing Mr. Garcia, flashing his headlights on and off. Mr. Garcia came to a stop on the side of the road, with Mr. Eames getting out of his truck and walking up to Mr. Garcia’s window. Though the police report provided to the press blacked out the conversation between the men, the report does say that Mr. Eames yelled at Mr. Garcia for about 10 minutes.
    Police said that at one point during the exchange, Mr. Eames pulled a “small silver badge from his pants pocket,” which led Mr. Garcia to believe that he was a police officer. According to police, Mr. Eames tried to tear an American flag patch from Mr. Garcia’s shirt.
    Mr. Eames then walked back to his truck, saying something that was redacted from the report but which apparently frightened Mr. Garcia. Mr. Garcia told police that because he believed Mr. Eames was an officer and had a gun, he drove away. Mr. Eames followed in his pickup.
    In his effort to elude the truck, Mr. Garcia turned onto Louse Point Road and then ended up back on Old Stone Highway, with the pickup still in pursuit. Mr. Garcia stopped his car, locked his doors, and waited for what Mr. Eames would do next, according to the report. After about five minutes, Mr. Eames drove away.
    Mr. Garcia continued on his way to work on Neck Path. Later, he stopped by police headquarters, and after hearing his story, an officer went out to try to find the truck in question, described as a black Chevrolet four-door with red lettering.
    Spotting what might be the vehicle on Montauk Highway in Wainscott, the officer switched on her lights and pulled the truck over. She asked for a driver’s license and ran it through the system.
    Returning to the pickup, she asked for the silver-colored badge Mr. Eames had allegedly shown Mr. Garcia. At first, the report said, Mr. Eames refused, but then did take it out. The officer asked Mr. Eames for the name and phone number of the officer who had given him what turned out to be a Suffolk Policemen’s Benevolent Association badge, the report said, when Mr. Eames threw the badge at the officer, then got out of the truck and handed it to her before driving off.
    On Sept. 26, Mr. Garcia was interviewed by the officer, and he identified Mr. Eames as well as the badge Mr. Eames had shown him.
    The following day, Mr. Eames was interviewed at headquarters, where he gave a statement. Last Thursday, he was arrested and charged with criminal impersonation and second-degree harassment based on race or ethnicity, both class A misdemeanors.
    East Hampton Town Justice Catherine A. Cahill released him on $250 bail.