Posing as a cop, pastor pepper sprays teen shoplifting suspect

Charges have been filed against 55-year-old Keith Haskell.

By day, Keith Haskell is a pastor at the Bridges of Hope Community Church in Owatonna – but by night, he's an alleged vigilante who uses pepper spray to "arrest" two teenagers he suspects of shoplifting.

That's according to charges filed this week against the 55-year-old pastor, who is accused of posing as a police officer while trying to apprehend the two boys he saw stealing $9.48 worth of cereal and fruit rollups from a Cash Wise.

Haskell allegedly followed the 16- and 17-year-old boys as they drove away from the store, with the teens stopping in a parking lot when they realized he was after them.

According to the charges, Haskell approached the car and pulled the 16-year-old out of the passenger's seat, telling him he was under citizen's arrest.

The boy took a swing at him, at which point Haskell proceeded to hit and pepper sprayed the boy, who then ran off, the charges say. 

The pastor then turned his attention to the 17-year-old behind the wheel, who was attempting to call his mom as he sat in the driver's seat

Prosecutors allege Haskell threatened the teen with a baton and told him to get out of the car, saying he was a police officer – and that the boy would get pepper-sprayed if he didn't comply. 

The boy's mother turned up a short time later to find Haskell had her son up against the car. She told police she smelled alcohol on Haskell's breath.

Witness heard him saying he was a cop

When questioned by police, Haskell denied posing as a police officer, saying he only asked for the driver's ID as they waited for police to arrive.

But a statement by a witness living nearby, Bruce Hackensmith, backed up the boys' claims, saying he heard Haskell identify himself as a police officer. He yelled at Haskell to turn his lights on and wait for his partner if that was the case.

"He kept saying that he was a cop and that he arrested him before,” Hackensmith said. "And I’m like, no way. I don’t buy this."

Haskell told people he'd only used pepper spray because the 16-year-old ran at him and took a swing at him.

He accepted he tried to make a citizen's arrest and did admit he had his baton brandished.

Haskell is facing four assault charges and charges of impersonating a police officer and using tear gas.

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