A retired Valley police officer who thought he was witnessing fleeing bank robbers followed and detained a young couple at gunpoint, creating a chaotic situation on Mariposa Street Tuesday afternoon.
Payson police arrived in force, stopping traffic and turning away a school bus full of children who were watching the event unfold.
Rich Mack called police when he saw a young man get into the trunk of a car in a bank parking lot. As the car pulled out of the parking lot, he thought the couple had just robbed the bank.
In reality, Payson residents Josh Adkins, 27 and his girlfriend Josie Russell, 23, had been bothered by a rattling noise coming from the trunk of their car, so Adkins decided to ride in the trunk to find out what was causing the noise.
"I have been trying to find the cause of the noise for months," Adkins said. "I finally decided to get into the trunk of my car so I could pinpoint it and fix the rattle. I got into the trunk at the bank because we were running errands and after the bank we were on our way home."
"The retired police officer was with his son at the bank," Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner said. "They saw this vehicle pull up and an individual had gotten out of the trunk of the vehicle and went inside the bank and then came back out and got inside the trunk again and the vehicle left. They called us on a cell phone and followed the vehicle."
When Adkins and Russell pulled up to their home on Mariposa Street and got out of the car, they were confronted by a man with a gun.
"When I got out of the car, this guy was in the middle of the street with a gun, telling us to put our hands on the hood of the car," Adkins said. "I asked him what we were in trouble for and he said, ‘ I'm a cop -- just turn around and keep your hands on the hood.'"
Adkins said he did what he was ordered and then asked the man to show his badge.
"He said, ‘Trust me. Just turn around and shut up,'" Adkins said. "I asked again to show us his badge and he wouldn't show us one. He was waiving his gun as he yelled for us to turn around and shut up."
When police arrived, they took over the situation and handcuffed the couple. After obtaining consent, they searched the couple's car. After finding no evidence of a crime, the couple was set free.
"There was no indication that they were anything other than a young couple who had been to the bank," Gartner said. "But you can see how (Mack) thought it was suspicious. I think people need to be careful how they act when they are at a financial institution -- people are nervous right now."
"It would have been different if it had been the cops that stopped us because I know it's not normal to ride in my trunk -- but it was just this guy saying he was a cop," Adkins said. "I have never been in trouble and neither has my girlfriend and we are in our neighborhood and all our neighbors are looking at us."
Gartner said he will be submitting a report to the Gila County Attorney's Office to see if Mack did anything criminal during the incident.
"If there is evidence that (Mack) identified himself as a police officer, he could be charged with impersonating a public servant," Gartner said.
According to Gartner, a civilian can use a firearm to make a citizen's arrest if there is probable cause to believe a felony has occurred in their presence.