Theoretically, being in the immediate presence of police officers should make general citizens feel safe no matter what the scenario. Hopefully, law and order will prevail over any criminal activity, so long as those officers do their job. Unfortunately, not all cops are necessarily great people, and some of them might even be outright evil. The fact is, all throughout history, a frightening number of police officers have harbored secret second lives as criminals, terrorizing the very people they were supposed to serve and protect.
Without a doubt, the scariest thing about this trend is how easy it is for rogue and/or renegade cops to trick the public into thinking they’re still trustworthy, upstanding individuals. Quite frankly, it’s pretty terrifying to hear that even one police officer has committed murder or a comparable crime in cold blood. Matters are made significantly worse by the fact that most cops who kill do it more than once, flagrantly spreading chaos and disorder in favor of the concepts they were supposed to uphold.
For most people, all a cop needs to do in order to prove he or she is in charge of a given situation is flash a badge. Once police establish who they are, onlookers will pretty much do whatever they say, even if it could cause great physical or mental distress. It’s hard to blame anyone who haphazardly listens to the police either since in the moment, it probably feels like the only other option would be facing arrest or some other kind of legal trouble. Unfortunately, in these cases, the reality was significantly more morbid than life behind bars. To find out about the specifics, keep reading to learn 15 terrifying tales about cops who were convicted of committing shocking crimes.
15. Andre Stander – Robbed Banks On His Lunch Breaks
In contrast to those on this list who specifically became cops to abuse their power, Andre Stander never even wanted to get into law enforcement at all. This was too bad, considering Andre’s father was a legendary former officer named Major-General Franz Stander, who would accept nothing less than his son following in his footsteps. Andre Stander ended up excelling at police work, at least technically, yet he had absolutely no passion for the job and hated most of his coworkers. Trying to annoy his irritating associates, piss off the old man, wreck a little havoc, and make insane amounts of money along the way, Stander started robbing banks on his lunch breaks. In the span of four years, he stole nearly 100,000 South African rand, only failing when his ego got the best of him and he blabbed to the wrong person. Though he was soon caught, Stander wasted no time escaping from prison, going on a second crime spree, this time, with a criminal gang in tow. Stander evaded re-arrest until 1984 when he died in a police shootout.
14. Mikhail Popkov – The Werewolf
Most serial killer nicknames are worthy of horror films, and still, Mikhail Popkov’s reputation as “The Werewolf” feels particularly frightening. With an alleged 82 victims to his name, if not more, the terror evoked by Popkov was truly supernatural and entirely dichotomous to the life he presented in public. The whole time Popkov was sexually assaulting and murdering young women, he was also described as a dedicated police officer, husband, and father, all things he apparently still brags about in prison to this day. Popkov also seems to show no remorse for his actions, castigating most of the women he killed as deserving of their fate for promiscuous behavior. Once Russian technology allowed police to utilize DNA evidence, the jig was up almost immediately, and Popkov slowly began confessing his crimes. He’s currently serving a life sentence, but should he continue confessing to more murders, there’s no telling how authorities may react.
13. Stephanie Lazarus – Killed Former Lover’s Wife Out Of Jealousy
Take away the fact she was an LAPD officer, and the story of Stephanie Lazarus is almost cliché. Before becoming a cop, Lazarus dated a man named John Ruetten while she was in college. Ruetten took things far less seriously than Lazarus, who mistook his affections and fell madly in love with him. Never even seeing her as an actual “girlfriend,” Ruetten basically forgot about Lazarus and moved on to another woman named Sherri Rasmussen. This time around, Ruetten was actually ready to settle down, and the two were soon married. Lazarus kept an eye on the couple, though, slowly growing jealous and attempting to terrify Rasmussen by stalking her. When that didn’t scare Rasmussen, Lazarus took things a step further and murdered her in 1986. For many years, the crime was unsolved, with Lazarus using her status in the LAPD to avoid suspicion. Finally, in 2009, the case was reopened, and three years later, Lazarus was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 27 years in prison.
12. Manuel Pardo – His Holy War
Plenty of cops, good or bad, have probably felt the impulse to take matters into their own hands when the law wasn’t quite satisfactory enough punishment for a vicious criminal. However, there’s a huge leap between wanting to get revenge on a suspect and actually executing them, the crime Michael Pardo was accused of committing against six men and three women. Pardo had been fired from active duty and felt the only way to achieve justice was to take the lives of anyone he deemed a criminal. Though he argued there were no women at the scene, Pardo openly admitted to killing the men, referring to it as the final mission of his holy war. If any of this sounds even a little bit noble, let’s pause for a second and point out Pardo was also described as “Hitler-obsessed” and callously had a swastika tattooed on his dog. Taking all of this into consideration, a Florida jury sentenced Pardo to death.
11. Christopher Dorner – Beef With The LAPD
No one likes getting fired, and thanks to modern social media, those who are fired all get to voice this opinion loudly should they ever find themselves getting laid off. Christopher Dorner was an LAPD officer from 2006 to 2008 in between stints in the US Naval Reserve. His career in law enforcement ended after he made false statements in an official report, lying about the maleficence of a superior officer. Over the next five years, Dorner intricately planned the murder of 40 LAPD officers and wrote an 11,000-word manifesto declaring war on the department, which he naturally posted to Facebook. Dorner then began his rampage, which ultimately claimed the lives of four people and wounded three others, all related to the LAPD in some way. Police finally caught Dorner in an isolated cabin, where he was killed after a brief standoff.
10. Daniel Holtzclaw – Violated African-American Women
Sometimes, a truly vicious criminal will be oddly immortalized by becoming a villain in a Hollywood movie. In other cases, life imitates art, like when Daniel Holtzclaw decided Matt Dillon’s character in Crash represented the peak of police work. Of course, movies merely create a facsimile of horror, and Holtzclaw’s real life was all too real for his many victims. Instead of being like Officer John Ryan, who molested one citizen he pulled over for no reason, Holtzclaw used his status as an Oklahoma City cop to detain African-American women aged 17-57 without cause and then intimidated them into performing sexual acts with him, often with extreme force. From beginning to end, Holtzclaw denied all accusations against him, yet it took less than a month for a jury to convict him on 18 counts of various sex crimes, sentencing him to 263 years in prison.
9. Drew Peterson – Murdered His Ex-Wives
While many of the rogue cops on this list used their position to terrorize the public, others like Drew Peterson kept the torment within their own homes. For many years, Peterson’s life was fairly typical of an Illinois police officer, the job he held for three decades. Peterson’s one quirk was having a number of ex-wives who didn’t speak too kindly of him, though this is hardly unusual for some cops. Things suddenly took a very dark turn, however, when his third wife, Kathleen Savio, was found dead in a bathtub five months after they divorced. Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Cales, originally provided his alibi, only to later confess it was a lie and that she believed her husband had murdered his ex. Three years later, Stacy herself disappeared in a mystery that is still officially unsolved. However, most people believe Peterson was somehow responsible, considering a jury eventually convicted him of causing the first death and sentenced him to 38 years in jail.
8. Gerard John Schaefer – 30 Murders
Everyone has suffered the sting of losing a job, but when someone truly seems incapable of keeping one, maybe they’re the problem. For Gerard John Schaefer, that’s at least where the issues began, as it took him two failed professions before even thinking about police work. First up, he was fired from a teaching job for “totally inappropriate behavior,” and next, a bid to become a priest was outright rejected. Surprisingly, Florida had lower standards for police officers in 1970 than it did for teachers, so Schaefer was finally able to find steady work. Unfortunately for the people of Florida, this position also aided him greatly in performing such inappropriate behavior, which included misogynist ranting and up to possibly 30 murders. The number could have been higher had his penultimate victims not escaped and reported him to the very police station where he was employed. It still took the good cops a few months to follow proper procedure and lock Schaefer up for good, convicting him to a life sentence in 1973, which he served for 22 years before getting murdered in prison.
7. Charles Becker – Bribes, Brothels, And Murder
The concept of cops turning bad is hardly a new thing, with early NYPD officer Charles Becker presenting an early example of the trend all the way back in the early 1900s. Becker joined the force in 1893, gradually rising to the rank of lieutenant over the next two decades. At the same time, Becker was earning some money on the side as a minor player in the world of illegal gambling, taking bribes from brothels and casinos to ensure police would look the other way. When a gambler named Herman Rosenthal was ready to go public with an NYPD officer’s involvement, he was gunned down by gangsters mere blocks away from Times Square. Authorities at the time were convinced the shooters were hired by Becker, and a jury agreed, sentencing him to death by electric chair.
6. Laurie “Bambi” Bembenek – Murder Boyfriend’s Wife
Long before she turned to a life of crime, Laurie Bembenek’s career as a police officer wasn’t working out particularly well. Granted, if she’s to be believed, this wasn’t entirely her fault, as she accuses the Milwaukee Police Department of 1980 of rampant misogyny and sexism. In Bembenek’s mind, the last straw was naturally her own dismissal over a minor issue while she claimed she had photographic evidence of male officers doing much worse. This didn’t stop her from marrying a fellow cop in Fred Schultz, however, even as she herself transitioned to work as a personal trainer. Unfortunately, Schultz was already married to a woman named Christine, and Wisconsin law meant he had to wait six months after his divorce to take a second wife. When Christine turned up dead, law enforcement blamed Bembenek, and juries agreed, initially sentencing her to life in prison. Upon a retrial, Bembenek’s sentence was reduced to 20 years, and she attempted to clear her name to no avail until her death in 2010.
5. Antoinette Frank – Fell In Love With A Drug Dealer
Lots of people pad out their resumes when looking for a first job, but it’s a little bit harder to charm your way through a psychiatric evaluation, which all police departments require of new hires. Antoinette Frank somehow made her way through both obstacles and wound up a member of the New Orleans Police Department. Unsurprisingly, coworkers described Frank as a relatively poor police officer, citing a terribly short-handed police squad as the sole reason she was hired. One part of the job she did love was interviewing suspects, specifically drug dealer Rogers Lacaze, whom Frank almost immediately fell in love with. At first, Frank merely aided Lacaze in getting away with his crimes, but this soon escalated to outright acting as his co-conspirator in a restaurant robbery. Not content with simply taking the business’s money, Frank and Lacaze also killed two people working at the establishment, including an off-duty police officer moonlighting as a security guard. Frank has been on death row since getting caught and being convicted of the murders.
4. Jon Burge – Torture
The idea of using torture as a tool of war has been debated for a long time, and it’s far from our intention to continue that discussion with this list. However, most people can agree that torture should be off limits on a smaller scale, like when a police officer interviews potential witnesses to a crime. One would hope former Chicago Police detective Jon Burge was the only cop to make this mistake, though the fact he did so with over 200 suspects is horrifying by itself. Some of Burge’s worst offenses included shooting pets, handcuffing people to objects for full days, using electrical shock, and threatening children with his service weapon. While these scare tactics led to many arrests, Burge’s methods still got him fired in 1993, not to mention, sued dozens of times. They also indirectly led to his own arrest when he was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in relation to one of the civil suits against him.
3. Craig Peyer – Abuse Of Power, Murder
In most of the stories on this list, the fellow officers of our subjects are seldom to blame, genuinely blind to the horror that their coworkers were involved in. However, even the judge presiding over Craig Peyer’s trial for the murder of Cara Knott explicitly blamed the California Highway Patrol for playing a role in what he got away with. Peyer had been on the force for 13 years at the time of Knott’s murder, and there had been at least one complaint from young women about him pulling them over for no reason and making them extremely uncomfortable before Knott was found dead. These complaints were ignored, however, due to Peyer’s tenure with the force and what the judge called a “bureaucratic pattern of dismissing complaints.” After Knott’s body was discovered, quite a few more women complained as well, and the department finally started listening. Peyer was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison and has, thus far, been denied parole twice.
2. Sidney Dorsey – Killed Man Running For Sheriff
Getting passed up for a job or a promotion can be tough, and losing one to a vote that could be considered biased is downright infuriating. Of course, most people are rational enough to understand that the proper course of action in such a scenario is not to murder the person who got the promotion over them. Despite serving as DeKalb County Georgia sheriff from 1996 to 2000, Sidney Dorsey didn’t quite seem to understand this concept. Dorsey’s tenure as sheriff ended when he was defeated in a local election by Derwin Brown, and he immediately decided to turn his back on the law and resort to serious crimes. He enlisted the help of another officer, Deputy Melvin Walker, getting Walker to kill Brown in exchange for a promised promotion. Not only was Dorsey bitter about the loss, but he apparently also had feared Brown would investigate corruption allowed under his tenure. Dorsey is now serving a life sentence for having his rival murdered.
1. Randy Comeaux – Assaulted Women
Life as a criminal changed forever in the late ‘90s when police started using DNA evidence to solve crimes that were previously total mysteries. Because of technological advances, the idea of crime scenes where the perpetrator “left without a trace” pretty much blinked out of existence. This is especially true of violent sex crimes, where bodily fluids are often part of the illegal activity. Of course, thoughts like this were virtually science fiction back in the early 1980s, when Louisiana Sheriff’s Deputy Randy Comeaux began a spree of serial rapes. Until 1995, Comeaux expanded his sphere of torture, assaulting at least six and up to 15 total women, all basically in the jurisdiction he was meant to protect. When things got so out of control the FBI had to get involved, agents soon theorized that the rapist was probably in law enforcement. After an anonymous tip named Comeaux as a potential suspect, a discarded cigarette was tested, and his DNA matched the crimes. Comeaux was sentenced to six life sentences for his actions.