Mississippi authorities are urging drivers to be wary when being pulled over by a police officer after two people were shot and killed by someone police think could be posing as a cop to get motorists to stop.
"We urge everyone to be cautious while driving, especially at night," the Tate County Sheriff's Office posted on their Facebook page. "If someone attempts to pull you over with flashing lights and you feel unsure of stopping, DON'T PULL OVER. Use your cell phone and dial 911 and if it's a real officer then the dispatcher will confirm it for you and if it's not a real officer they will send help to you."
"Our deputies have been told not to overreact if someone does not immediately pull over," the sheriff's office wrote. "Your safety is our primary concern."
Two drivers were killed on northern Mississippi highways within days of each other and investigators in multiple counties and federal officials are working to find out who may be behind the killings.
One driver, Tom Schlender, 74, from Nebraska, was found in his car on Interstate 55 in Panola County on May 8 about 1:30 a.m. Three days later, Lori Carswell, 48, from Mississippi, was found near her car on Mississippi Highway 713 in nearby Tunica County about 2:15 a.m.
Authorities suspect the shooter may be pretending to be a cop because the perpetrator may have been driving a gold unmarked Crown Victoria sedan, which can resemble a police car.
Tate County Sheriff Brad Lance said the search for the gold car stems from an incident in Tate County on April 2 when a woman was pulled over during the day by a gold sedan, with flashing lights. The car did not have blue lights, but had alternating headlamps and other lights.
The man who approached her car was dressed in pants and an untucked plaid shirt, according to the sheriff. The woman was suspicious and only lowered her window a crack. She told the man her license was in the truck and she was not getting out of the car. When the woman demanded to see his badge and ID, he became agitated and fled.
Schlender was driving from Nebraska to Florida to pick up his grandson from college when he was killed.
"He was a really good man and he didn't deserve what happened, whatever that was," Schlender's daughter Tracy Anderson told ABCNews.com. "Our minds go crazy with the possibilities and the theories."
"What we understand is that based upon the press conferences yesterday, both vehicles were stopped by what [authorities] believe was somebody possibly impersonating a police officer," Schlender's son-in-law Matthew Anderson told ABCNews.com. "What transpired then is kind of a mystery."
From what the family has been told by authorities, they believe that Schlender was shot through the door of his car and that his car swerved along the road for a bit before crashing into a median. When authorities arrived, the car's engine was still running and Schlender's wallet was missing.
Schlender has three daughters, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He worked for Lincoln Electric System for about 40 years before retiring.
"He was very much a family man. He was always there for us kids. He was a hard worker," a choked up Tracy Anderson said. "He's been retired since 2000 and as soon as the grandkids started happening, he was a great grandfather."
Schlender was also a caretaker for his wife who suffered a stroke about seven years ago.
"The emotional rollercoaster has been pretty terrible," she said. "I want to see whoever did this get caught and justice for my dad and for this second lady and hopefully no more [killings]."
The family of Carswell declined to comment and said that police had asked them not to make any statements. Carswell lived in nearby Hernando, Miss., and worked at a casino.
The shootings appear to be random and there is no known connection between the victims. Police are analyzing shell casings discovered at both scenes.
Authorities have launched a dragnet, saturating the area, looking for clues and a possible suspect.
"We do not have any witnesses at this point," DeSoto County District Attorney John Champion told the Associated Press. "We're asking the community for help."