A soldier went AWOL from a Kentucky Army base and boarded a flight earlier this year with a gun while impersonating a law enforcement officer, federal prosecutors said.
He is charged with carrying a weapon or explosive on an aircraft and false personation of an officer or employee of the United States.
Higueros, a private first class assigned to the 561st Military Police Company at Fort Campbell, was spotted by federal air marshals onboard flight 1284 “acting suspiciously,” the complaint said.
“The [marshals] determined that Higueros was carrying a loaded firearm inside a duffle bag in the passenger compartment of the aircraft,” the complaint states.
Messages to Fort Campbell officials were not returned.
When a marshal confronted him, Higueros claimed to be a law enforcement officer who was transporting a firearm related to a case. He gave him consent to search his bag, where the marshall found an unloaded Glock 43 pistol, a magazine with six rounds and an empty magazine, the complaint said.
Higueros was taken into custody upon landing in Nashville. His military commander told authorities that Higueros was AWOL because he had left the 250-mile radius surrounding Fort Campbell without approval.
He also said Higueros was not serving in any government or law enforcement capacity.
Prosecutors said he traveled to Chicago on Feb. 11 with his personal pistol in his checked luggage. Prior to the flight, he contacted American Airlines about check-in procedures when flying with a firearm.
On Feb. 15, he missed his scheduled flight back to Nashville and booked a United Airlines flight instead. The customer service agent told Higueros he would miss the flight because check-in procedures for his firearm would take too long, authorities said.
Higueros replied that he was a law enforcement officer and was allowed to fly armed, the complaint said. He showed a military identification card and told security screeners that he had evidence from a crime in his bag.
Once onboard, he spoke with the pilot and said he was law enforcement and was carrying a firearm. He “reassured him that there was no reason for concern,” prosecutors said.
During an interview with authorities, Higueros said the motivation was “to get home, and that he had no malicious intent for his actions.”