Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Metro police say speaker poses as firefighter

Nashville fire officials say they have known about Gregory K. Pillow for years

He has given safety talks at schools, day cares
By KATE HOWARD • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • May 14, 2008

Gregory K. Pillow has earned rave reviews from day cares where he has talked about fire safety, but it isn't clear where he learned so much because Pillow is not a Nashville firefighter — and never has been.

Pillow, who never even applied for a firefighting job with Metro, is being investigated by the Metro police fraud unit for claims that he has been impersonating a firefighter and entering schools and day cares to give fire safety presentations.

While Nashville fire officials said they've known about Pillow for years, he resurfaced this week when someone called the department to verify Pillow's claim of employment.
"We've actually heard he's done a good job," Nashville Fire spokeswoman Kim Lawson said. "But this person has no connection to us, and it's a little odd. If someone is approached, call us or the police department."

According to a fire department memo, Pillow, 33, has been sporadically pretending to be on the job for many years.

A few years ago, a day care called to ask where to send Pillow's thank-you card. Several other calls have come in from day cares asking for Pillow by name to give a presentation, the memo said.

He resurfaced last week when someone called to check his job status at the fire department: he claimed to have worked there since 1995.

A couple years ago, he actually showed up at a fire station asking for a pair of boots to use in a school program, according to the memo. He didn't get them.

Pillow could not be reached for comment.

He's had series of arrests

Michael Hills, who said he is Pillow's fraternity brother from college at Tennessee State University, said he and his friends are completely shocked by the accusations. He said Pillow majored in criminal justice and, as far as he knows, Pillow really is a firefighter in a small town, but he declined to identify the town.

"What I can tell you is, he did go to a training academy" Hills said. "He also worked for a fire department."

According to police records, the majority of Pillow's arrests have been on charges of domestic assault and related probation violations. Tennessee Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said Pillow was convicted of felony aggravated assault in 2003 and served some of a three-year sentence in a local jail.

Police spokeswoman Kristin Mumford said the fraud unit is investigating the impersonation reports. She said they are not aware of any other allegations against Pillow.

Metro Nashville Public Schools spokeswoman Olivia Brown said they have had no reports that Pillow was ever in their schools.

Discretion to book speakers is left up to individual principals, Brown said.
Lawson said the fire department is notifying area schools and day cares about the issue. They sent along a picture of Pillow and a number to call if anyone needs to confirm a speaker.
"It's important for schools and day cares to check credentials," Nashville Fire spokesman Charles Shannon said. "We do not solicit opportunities to go into day cares and schools for fire safety programs. If someone is calling and showing up on their doorsteps, that should be a red flag."

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