Tony Soto calls himself a “worldwide and internationally known leader for equal rights and equal justice for all” on his Facebook page, which is followed by nearly 33,000.
But law enforcement is calling him a felon after Philadelphia cops arrested him last week on charges of aggravated assault and illegally carrying a gun for allegedly threatening neighbors with a gun while claiming to be a police officer.
Soto, 29, was arrested May 18 after allegedly telling neighbors in Oxford Circle who he was arguing with over a parking spot that he was a cop, then pointing a handgun at them, police said.
The incident occurred some time after 10 p.m., when neighbors on the 6200 block of Castor Avenue asked Soto to move his vehicle, which blocked their car in.
“He refused and stated ‘I’m taking that s—‘ and said he was apolice officer,” the police report states. “An argument ensued and the male continued to identify himself as a police officer; however, he never displayed credentials.”
The neighbors, the fiancee and brother-in-law of a police officer, went a few doors down to get the officer, who was off-duty at the time, according to police. As the off-duty cop came over, a female exited Soto’s home with a firearm and handed it to Soto, who “who held it at his waist and pointed it at the three, as the female provoked him by saying pop them, shoot their a–,” according to the police report.
The off-duty cop allegedly told Soto he was a police officer, at which point Soto brought his gun back inside and returned without it. When the off-duty officer told Soto he was going to arrest him, Soto fled, before being chased down, at which point he punched the officer, before being pinned down and detained until uniformed officers arrived, according to the report.
Soto and Isabel Mota, 18, the female residing at the home who brought him the gun, were both arrested and charged with aggravated assault.
In the days since, while Soto remains in police custody, family members started a Gofundme account for Soto’s legal fees, which was shut down by the site (Gofundme does not allow campaigns for people charged with ‘heinous’ crimes) and have posted messages, purportedly from his mother, claiming Soto’s bail was set unfairly high.
“The police are trying to do Everything in their power to Hold My Son and NOT LET ANYONE FIND OUT THE TRUTH!” a message posted Sunday reads. “They also have had his GOFUNDME page removed….smh…Five days after the fact and I still hve no phones….What is this world comin to when the police can just do anythg they want!! [sic]”
Court records show bail listed at $300,000, requiring 10 percent posted for his release. His mother claimed on Facebook his actual bail is $900,000. Police could not comment on Soto’s bail. His mother did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But it’s a similar complaint to that made by Soto in the past, who has repeatedly posted videos of himself interacting with police officers and claimed that he is stalked by members of law enforcement.
Soto went viral in March 2015 after posting video of himself arguing with 15th District officers who pulled him over for driving with tinted windows. Entitled ” Fire Marshall Shuts Down Officer Who Attempts To Violate His Rights,” the video has nearly 5 million views on Youtube.
In the video he flashed a fake badge at officers and claimed to be a “fire marshall” from a suburban fire department. A Norristown fire chief later confirmed the badge was fake.
Meanwhile, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 issued warnings to its members about Soto.
” Please be aware of any interactions with Tony Soto,” read a warning posted on their website in April 2015. “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.”
Soto continued posting videos of his interactions with police in the weeks and months afterwards, claiming he was being harassed and stalked by police officers. One video purportedly shows a bike cop watching him from outside a shop. Another is described as showing officers “set up” Soto.
Soto was previously convicted in 2006 by federal authorities of straw purchasing four guns and served 33 months in federal prison, before being arrested again for impersonating an officer in 2008, NBC10 reported.
Soto’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 3.