It’s a sin to bear false witness, but that didn’t stop a Minnesota pastor from allegedly impersonating a police officer and pepper spraying a teenager.
Keith Haskell, a pastor at Bridges of Hope Community Church in Owatonna, faces numerous criminal charges for an alleged incident involving two teenagers, according to Minneapolis TV station WCCO.
One of the teens, Abraam Rodriguez, said he and his cousin were at a local grocery on Sept. 4 when his cousin shoplifted $10 worth of snacks.
Haskell later told officers he witnessed the theft and followed the teens outside to write down their license plate number. He continued to follow them after they drove off in their SUV.
Rodriguez told the news station that he quickly figured out he was being followed and pulled the vehicle into a parking lot because he didn’t want anyone to know where he lived.
Witnesses told officers they heard Haskell identify himself as a police officer while trying to pull the teens out of their SUV.
The cousin allegedly swung at Haskell, who then pepper-sprayed him before running off. Although Haskell claims he used the pepper spray in self-defense, he’s facing a felony charge for unlawfully using tear gas, according to City Pages.
Rodriguez told WCCO TV that he stayed in his seat because he believed Haskell’s claim of being a cop.
“I thought he was a police officer, that’s why I didn’t do anything,” Rodriguez said in the video above. “I’m not going to not follow orders of a cop.”
Rodriguez managed to call his mom on his cell phone, but says by the time she arrived, Haskell had pinned him against the SUV.
Haskell later told police he was attempting to perform a citizen’s arrest, according to court documents. Besides the felony tear gas charge, Haskell faces five counts of misdemeanor assault and one of impersonating a peace officer.
Haskell’s attorney, Chris Ritt, told WCCO that his client is the real victim.
“The police investigation is absurd and flawed. My client was the victim. We will fight these allegations in the courts.”
Haskell is due in court November 30.
When HuffPost reached out to Haskell’s church, the person who answered the phone declined to comment except to say, “We know the real facts. We’re going to let this play out in court, not social media.”
Correction: A previous photo caption misstated the name of Keith Haskell.