The Army reservist who was jailed for holding seven illegal aliens at gunpoint until Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff’s deputies arrived will not be prosecuted as the action was determined to be a legal citizen’s arrest.
County Attorney Andrew Thomas announced his decision today that Sgt. Patrick Haab did not commit a crime. He had been charged with seven counts of aggravated assault.
“This is a unique case with a very unique set of circumstances, and after a full analysis of the issues involved and the applicable law, prosecution is not appropriate,” said Thomas.
Haab said he was acting in self-defense.
Arizona law conveys the legal right to make a citizen’s arrest if a felony is being committed in the citizen’s presence or a felony has been committed and the citizen has reasonable grounds to be believe the subject has committed it.
Thomas pointed out that one of the individuals arrested by Haab, has been charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with engaging in human smuggling. The other six engaged in felony conduct by conspiring with the alleged “coyote.”
The Mexican aliens gave differing accounts of the April 10 incident. While all seven said they were held at gunpoint and ordered facedown to the ground, their stories about what happened earlier conflict.
“They seem to be all over the place,” said David Cantor, defense attorney for Haab, who is stationed Kalamazoo, Mich.
Some said Haab, who served two tours in Iraq, took the keys from the Chevy Suburban in which they were sitting, while others said another man Haab summoned took the keys.
One of the immigrants said a second man, whom authorities are still trying to find, pointed a gun Haab gave him at the group.
Haab was released from jail Thursday night on $10,000 cash bond.
Haab told authorities that he drew a pistol to stop a group of men from rushing him at an Interstate 8 rest stop. The men later were determined to be illegal aliens from Mexico.
Haab is from New Paris, Ind., and is assigned to the Army’s 415th Civil Affairs Battalion from Kalamazoo, Mich. He currently lives in the Phoenix area suburb of Mesa.
Thomas pointed out that the force used to make a citizen’s arrest must be reasonable under the circumstances. The illegal aliens were running and had access to a vehicle, he said. Haab’s use of a firearm was determined to be in accordance with applicable Arizona law.
“This is not a green light to intimidate, threaten or detain anyone merely suspected of being in this country illegally,” said Thomas. “Mere presence in the U.S. illegally is a crime, but not in itself a felony, so other factors must be present in order to justify a citizen’s arrest. In this case, the other factor was the human smuggling.”
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