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Pastor Assaults Teenagers while Posing as Police Officer

A pastor from Bridges of Hope Community Church in Minnesota witnessed a couple of teenagers shoplifting snacks from a local grocery store. The way in which he attempt to intervene has earmed him accusations of impersonating a police officer, using pepper spray and becoming physically aggressive with the victims.

Abraam Rodriguez and his cousin went to the store on September 4, and his cousin was seen stealing cereal and fruit snacks worth approximately $10. The man who witnessed them leave the store without paying for the items was identified as Keith Douglas Haskell, the pastor of a church in Owatonna, MN.

Haskell decided to follow the teens to the parking lot and tried to record their license plate number unsuccessfully. He then allegedly continued to pursue them after they pulled away in their SUV.

It wasn’t long before Rodriguez realized he was being followed. Concerned that Haskell would learn where he lived he pulled into the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex instead of driving all the way home.

Rodriguez claimed that as Haskell approached them he said, “Put your hands up, put your hands up, I’m a cop. I need you to get out the vehicle.” It was reported in statements from onlookers that Haskell told the teenagers that he was an officer and then tried to pull them out of their vehicle.

When Haskell grabbed at Rodriguez’s cousin trying to force him out of the SUV the teen attempted to hit him. Haskell responded by using pepper spray on the teen causing him to run away while he had the chance.

Rodriguez stated that he stayed seated because he did not want to disobey an officer of the law, and during the alleged scuffle between Haskell and his cousin he tried to call his mother to help them. The teen also reported that the accused tried to take away his cell phone and keys.

By the time his mother arrived she stated that she saw her son being held against the SUV by Haskell.

Officers arrived and found a can of pepper spray and a baton in the pastor’s possession and they held it as evidence. Haskell explained that he told the teens he was trying to make a citizen’s arrest. He also told police that he was holding a baton at the time.

55-year-old Haskell has been charged with five counts of assault and impersonating a peace officer, both misdemeanors, and a felony charge for use of tear gas to immobilize. He has a scheduled court date of November 30.

Bridges of Hope Community Church were approached for comments and a representative said, “We know the real facts. We’re going to let this play out in court, not social media.”

Haskell’s lawyer stated, “The police investigation is absurd and flawed. My client was the victim. We will fight these allegations in the courts.”

If you or someone you love is suspected of assault, contact Orange County criminal defense lawyer Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 for a consultation now.