Tony Soto, a Philadelphia man who grabbed headlines last year when he recorded video of himself pretending to be a fire marshal during a police stop, is in police custody after allegedly impersonating a cop Wednesday and threatening an off-duty officer with a gun, NBC10 has learned.
This is not his first time being accused of impersonating a public servant. In 2008, court records show, he was convicted of that crime. And in last year's video, which went viral, he flashed badge police later said was a fake. He did not face criminal charges in that incident.
In the newest incident, Soto, 29, was outside his house in Oxford Circle shortly before 11 p.m. Wednesday when he got into an argument with neighbors over a parking spot, according to police sources. During the confrontation, Soto began to tell the neighbors that he was a police officer, so the neighbors, sources said, went around the corner to get another neighbor, an off-duty Philadelphia Police officer, for help.
When the off-duty officer came to intervene, Soto allegedly threatened the officer with a gun, according to police sources. When the officer told Soto he was an off-duty cop himself and that Soto was under arrest, Soto ran away, sources said, but the off-duty officer caught up with him. Soto then punched the off-duty officer, sources said, brawling with him until the officer managed to control and hold him until backup got to the scene.
Soto was then arrested, sources said. He remained in police custody Thursday afternoon, facing potential charges including assault, illegal gun possession and impersonating a public servant. Sources said police were working on getting a search warrant for his home and continuing to investigate.
After last year's run-in with police in which he allegedly flashed a fake badge, the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 put out a warning to officers and civilians that the badge was fake, and that Soto is not a fire official.
"Please be aware of any interactions with Tony Soto," the FOP's post from March 30, 2015 read. "This individual is intent on baiting police officers and attempting to embarrass our members on video, which he then turns over to media outlets. This male also identifies himself as a fire official from Montgomery County and may flash a badge. This is untrue and Soto is a fraud."
Court records show that Soto has been arrested several times over the span of more than a decade on charges including illegal gun possession, assault and impersonating a public servant. He was convicted in 2008 of impersonating a public servant, according to court records, and sentenced to jail time the same year for theft, receiving stolen property and fleeing or attempting to elude an officer.
Soto was also convicted in federal court in 2006 of straw purchasing four guns and sentenced in 2007 to 33 months in federal lockup, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed.
Soto is a self-proclaimed civil rights activist on his Facebook page, which has more than 32,000 followers. His mother has been posting to his Facebook page since his arrest Wednesday night, saying that she is stranded inside the home she shares with him while police hold the house awaiting a search warrant.
NBC10 reached out to Soto's mother for comment early Thursday afternoon. She has not responded to that request.
No official charges had been filed as of 5 p.m. Thursday.