Citizen’s Arrest

It didn’t end well when a citizen’s arrest involved a roll of toilet paper and a flamethrower. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

During homecoming week in Baraboo, Wisconsin, high schoolers typically play pranks including toilet papering trees. A group of boys drove up to TP the house of a friend, when several of the neighbors, including the high school’s athletic director, who was holding a flamethrower, stepped in front of the teens’ car and ordered the boys to the ground while shooting enough flame to light the night sky, and told them they were making a citizen’s arrest. 

It is now the neighbors, not the teens, who are under arrest for reckless endangerment and false imprisonment, and the athletic director may lose his job. While it’s certainly advisable to call an actual police officer, state laws generally allow citizen’s arrests, where a private person detains someone for a crime they’ve personally witnessed, but the arresting citizen must use reasonable force; bringing a flamethrower to a TP fight is not only unreasonable, it’s likely to set your lawn and your career on fire.

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