A man living in western Pennsylvania faces a detention hearing today amid charges of assaulting, resisting or impeding federal officers and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. The 21-year-old man was arrested Tuesday in New Bethlehem, about 50 miles to the northeast of Pittsburgh.
According to a complaint filed against him Wednesday, two FBI agents were conducting an undisclosed investigation of the man and found him sitting alone in a parked car in a restaurant parking lot. One of the agents opened the door to the car, when the man allegedly screamed and reached into his jacket. Both agents grabbed the man and attempted to restrain him from getting control of what they believed was a gun.
According to the criminal complaint, as the FBI agents attempted to control the man, he bit both of them, drawing blood. They later retrieved a loaded 9mm handgun from inside of his jacket with the safety off and a bullet in the chamber.
From these reports, a criminal defense attorney would have to ask some important questions about these charges and if they had probable cause to stop the man. Did the agents identify themselves as law enforcement officers before opening his car door and why were they investigating the man in the first place? As to why they were investigating the man, federal prosecutors plan to present evidence of the man's internet posts of an allegedly pro-terrorism nature. Agents and prosecutors, however, will not say if his online postings were why the agents were investigating the man or why they opened his car door.
The man lives with his family in Natrona Heights, in Allegheny County. He is listed as an online student at Penn State University.
Irrespective of whether the man was involved in making pro-terrorism statements on the internet and what we may think of his views, this story does illustrate how federal authorities will charge an individual with weapons crimes even if their original investigation may have been looking into crimes unrelated to weapons violations.
Source: Associated Press, "W. Pa. man accused of biting 2 FBI agents," 1/6/2011