Sex offender accused of showing up to emergency scenes pretending to be firefighter

Police in York, South Carolina, said a registered sex offender has been arrested after showing up to emergency scenes pretending to be a firefighter.

Robert Shipman, 29, was arrested Saturday after officers said he blocked the roadway at a serious accident on East Jefferson Street and had red lights on his truck.

Officials said Shipman arrived before they did and had already blocked the street with his pickup truck.

Firefighters lost time getting to the injured victims because they had to get around him first.

York Fire Chief Domenic Manera told WSOC-TV that he met Shipman face to face at another accident scene two days earlier.

Police said Shipman was on East Liberty Street where a car had run into a brick wall in front of the Lowe’s store, seriously injuring the driver.

Manera said Shipman walked up to him and started talking about setting up a landing zone for a medical chopper.

“He came right up to me and started asking questions about what we were doing. He said he was gonna take his girlfriend’s car and go set up the LZ, and when I looked at him and said, ‘What are you talking about?’ he just walked away,” Manera said.

Manera also told WSOC-TV that Shipman wore a bright jacket with reflective stripes at the scene, like first responders often wear to be more visible.

The chief said his concern is the loss of public trust.

“People don’t have to be concerned about us going into their homes, or being around their property and valuables. If that public trust is gone, I don’t know how you recover from that. It wouldn’t be overnight,” he said.

Shipman is charged with obstructing fire department operations and unlawful use of red emergency lights.

Shipman is a registered sex offender according to WSOC-TV. Court records show that in May 2019, Shipman pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a minor and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

He still has a pending charge for violating electronic monitoring after his release from prison.

Manera said he remembered seeing Shipman months ago. He said Shipman stopped in at the fire department over the summer and talked to firefighters, which they thought was unusual.

After WSOC-TV posted this story to Facebook Monday, firefighters from at least two other departments commented that they'd seen Shipman at some of their calls in York County, too.

“That’s what we know. What about the other ones, we may not even know about?” Manera said.

Firefighters said it doesn’t appear Shipman ever touched a patient or attempted any medical procedures.

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