Twice this past summer, I left business cards at the west Denver home of Joetta Bailey, asking her to call me about her 22-year-old son, Brett Allen Andrews, who'd been arrested in July at the scene of an auto accident, where he'd pretended to be a paramedic while brandishing an official Denver Health radio ("The Impersonator," August 31).
It was not the first time Andrews had played a man in uniform. Back in 2001, he'd hacked into a police radio and pretended to be a Denver cop by the name of Jerry Martinez. That stunt earned the then-sixteen-year-old several months in juvenile detention, but his most recent escapade as an EMT is likely to earn him much more. Andrews struck a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to criminal impersonation, a Class 6 felony. If it were his first offense, he might be eligible for time served and probation. But with his record of fakery, the judge could give Andrews up to ten years at his October 30 sentencing.
While Andrews's mother never called me, his paternal aunt, Freda Ardrey, contacted me after his story, "The Impersonator," ran in the August 31 issue. She took issue with her nephew's depiction of himself as a caretaker for his disabled father, charging that he'd repeatedly stolen money from her brother, who lives alone in Englewood, to buy "more police stuff." Andrews had been obsessed with official gadgets ever since he was a teenager, she said, adding that she'd often spot him walking down the street, dressed all in black, loaded up with police radios and other gear. "We really feel that he needs psychiatric help," Ardrey explained, "because he's just been whacked out since he was a teenager."
When I visited him in Denver County Jail, Andrews admitted that he needed to become more mature and grow out of his seven-year fantasy about being a cop or paramedic. But even after he came clean about his own impersonations, he stuck to the story he'd often told friends about his father being a former Navy SEAL and retired Englewood police officer who was shot in the line of duty. I found no records supporting either claim, and Ardrey calls them "ridiculous."
After Andrews's arrest, the Denver Health Paramedic Division underwent an internal review of how it accounts for radios -- which also provide access to police and fire-department channels -- and made some adjustments to existing practices, says Mike Nugent, chief paramedic for the division. While phony cops and firefighters surface on occasion, he adds, "In my ten years with the city, this is the first instance where an individual from the public impersonated a paramedic." Basic EMT certification requires roughly 200 hours of training, while working Denver paramedics undergo approximately 2,000 hours of training. Andrews had never taken so much as a first-aid class when he began frequenting strip clubs and bars in his paramedic uniform.
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But uniforms have a way of working magic. One minute you're a serial dumbass and the next -- poof! -- you're somebody of significance. Too bad the trick doesn't work as well in a prison jumpsuit.