The Associated Press
PHOENIX, Ariz. - An Army reservist was arrested on charges of holding seven Mexicans at gunpoint at a rest stop in southern Arizona, where civilian efforts to watch for illegal immigrants have raised fears of vigilante violence.
Sgt. Patrick Haab, 24, was apparently acting alone and not involved with the Minuteman Project, which has organized volunteers for a monthlong effort to watch for immigrants and drug smugglers along the border.
Officials said Haab used his vehicle to stop the seven men from driving away from an interstate rest stop Sunday, then ordered them to lie on the ground or be shot.
He was being held on seven counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
"Even law enforcement has to have probable cause before taking people out of their cars and telling them to lie on the ground. ... He threatened to kill them," Sheriff Joe Arpaio said. "He did not have the right to do what he did. How did he know they were illegal aliens?"
Haab had returned from active military duty in Iraq last October and had moved to Arizona four months ago. He was being held at the Maricopa County jail and declined requests for an interview by the Arizona Republic.
Deputies said Haab ordered another driver to hold a gun on the men while he called police. The second driver left before deputies and the Border Patrol arrived, and authorities are trying to locate him.
The undocumented immigrants were being held by the Border Patrol in Yuma.
Jim Gilchrist, an organizer of the Minuteman Project, denounced Haab's alleged acts. "His weapon should have been his cellphone," he said.
The Border Patrol has said the civilian projects could interfere with its own efforts to secure the border, and the government of Mexico has said it would monitor the projects out of concern that Mexican citizens might be abused.
Arizona is considered the most vulnerable stretch of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. Of the 1.1 million illegal immigrants caught by the Border Patrol last year, more than half crossed the border into Arizona.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.