Hero or criminal? Detroit cops target videographer who thwarted arsonist with citizen’s arrest

Tune into the “Muckraker Report” on 910AM the Superstation at 11 a.m. Wednesday to hear more about this story. 

Some people would come him a hero.

Alex Haggart, a popular fire videographer and contributor to Motor City Muckraker, caught an arsonist in the act on live video on Detroit’s east side earlier this month and ordered her to wait on a sidewalk until police arrived.

But instead of thanking Haggart, arson investigators handed him a search warrant Thursday morning and raided his St. Clair Shores home, seizing his car, phone, computer, camera, drone, scanners and even his children’s electronic tablets.

Local authorities claim Haggart, who has not been charged as of Tuesday evening, broke the law for holding the woman at gunpoint, an allegation he denies. Haggart said he never left his Jeep or flashed a firearm.

The videos on Periscope show no gun, but a fire official told me that Haggart said in a now-deleted video that he held the arsonist at gunpoint.

The arrest warrant was served about a week after Haggart exposed Deputy Detroit Fire Chief Robert Shinske for violating department policy for using a city vehicle to visit a Dearborn bar.

Deputy Fire Commissioner Dave Fornell declined to comment on the search warrant, saying the Detroit Police Department is handling the case. We’re awaiting comment from police.

What’s unclear is why arson investigators conducted the search and were so involved in the case. While they were preparing to raid Haggart’s home, another suspicious fire broke out in an area where a serial arsonist has targeted dozens of houses in the past month.

Just east of that area is where Haggart captured the arsonist in the act. Oddly, the police officer who detained the arsonist declined Haggart’s offer to provide video of the woman setting fire to the front of the building.

She has yet to be charged.

Haggart said arson investigators trashed his home, and he still can’t understand why all of his electronics, including a drone he uses to capture videos of fire, were seized.

Haggart has retained an attorney.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.