NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — An AWOL Fort Campbell soldier has been indicted on multiple charges after he carried a gun onto a flight from Chicago to Nashville earlier this year, falsely claiming to be a law enforcement officer transporting evidence to the FBI, federal court documents allege.
The paperwork filed Monday reveals that a grand jury indicted Jaidan Higueros, 19, on charges of carrying a weapon or explosive on an aircraft and false personation, officer or employee of the United States.
The charges stem from a flight on Feb. 15 in which investigators said Higueros flew from Chicago O’Hare Airport to Nashville International Airport aboard a United Airlines aircraft.
The complaint from the Federal Bureau of Investigation states a Federal Air Marshal onboard the flight noticed Higueros was “acting suspiciously” and determined he “was carrying a firearm inside a duffle bag in the passenger compartment of the aircraft.”
When the flight landed in Nashville, Higueros was taken into custody.
The complaint identifies Higueros as a Private Second Class in the U.S. Army, assigned to the 561st Military Police Company at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. At the time of his flight, his military commander explained he was “absent without leave,” or AWOL, because he had left a 250-mile radius surrounding Fort Campbell without approved leave.
His commander added that during the trip, Higueros was not serving in any government or law enforcement capacity and had not been issued any law enforcement credentials or badge, according to the federal paperwork.
Investigators said Higueros originally traveled to Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Feb. 11, taking along his personally-owned pistol — “a Glock 43 9mm” — in his checked luggage without incident. Prior to that initial flight, the complaint states Higueros had contacted American Airlines regarding the proper procedures for flying with a firearm.
On the morning of Feb. 15, Higueros reportedly missed his originally scheduled flight home, but learned the next flight to Nashville was on United Airlines. A customer service supervisor with United Airlines told investigators he informed Higueros that he would not make the flight because check-in process for his firearm would take too long.
The complaint states Higueros told the customer service supervisor that the gun was in his luggage and that he worked for the Defense Department and was transporting evidence for a court case, so he needed to get to Nashville. Higueros advised he was a law enforcement officer, who was allowed to fly armed, and showed the customer service supervisor a military identification card, according to the paperwork.
Once onboard, investigators said Higueros spoke with the pilot and explained he was a law enforcement officer and was carrying a firearm on the flight. He also reassured him that there was no reason for concern.
One of three TSA Federal Air Marshals on the flight had been told Higueros was a law enforcement officer and observed him “acting suspiciously,” then saw him “enter the aircraft lavatory with a duffel bag,” according to federal investigators.
When the marshal confronted Higueros, he said Higueros claimed to be a Military Policeman who was transporting a firearm as evidence in a crime and would be handing it over to the FBI in Nashville.
The agent said Higueros gave him verbal consent to search his bag. The federal paperwork states he found “an unloaded Glock 43 9mm, one magazine with six rounds of ammunition, and one empty magazine.”
When Higueros was asked for his law enforcement credentials, the marshal said he was unable to provide them, so he was handcuffed and detained for the remainder of the flight.
Higueros was later interviewed by agents and admitted he was traveling in his personal capacity and not on official business during his entire trip to Chicago and back to Nashville, according to the complaint. It states he explained his motivation for lying was “to get home” and that he “had no malicious intent for his actions.”
While on military-ordered restriction because of the charges against him, federal prosecutors said Higueros allegedly left quarantine and assaulted another soldier in an effort to steal $1,000.
The charge of carrying a weapon or explosive on an aircraft carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, while false personation, officer or employee of the United States carries a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment.
Both federal charges carry a maximum fine of $250,000.