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PARIS — An armed man claiming to be a federal officer, and whose vehicle was found to contain an unloaded rifle and ammunition, was arrested at the Edgar County Sheriff's Office on Saturday morning, law enforcement said Monday.

Justin A. Hefner, 40, of Terre Haute, Indiana, came to the front window of the department at 9:51 a.m., told the dispatcher he was an officer with the “Department of Defense,” and asked to speak with someone, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Two deputies met with Hefner and saw that he was wearing an armored vest with a private investigator’s badge and an American flag covering part of it, as well as having a holster with the butt of a pistol showing, Sheriff Jeff Wood said.

Wood said Hefner told the deputies he needed help arresting people in Paris. Wood said they were aware of Hefner after an order of protection for stalking went out against him from one of the people he was targeting. The deputies also knew Hefner's history of possibly impersonating an officer, Wood said.

“The subject he was wanting to arrest, he evidently had contact with this individual earlier in the week,” Wood said.

Hefner had a list of people he deemed corrupt based off information he gathered from several websites and he believed this information backed up his claims and warranted arrests, Wood said.

“He was out to arrest anybody that they ever accused of doing anything,” Wood said. “He had a list of county officials, myself included, that he was needing to arrest.”

After the deputies convinced Hefner that they believed he was an officer, they talked him into locking his pistol in the gun vault before coming into the jail, then taking off his outer body armor, which was found to have half-inch steel plates inside, the statement said. 

Wood said the officers played along until they were sure Hefner was calm and unarmed.

“We de-escalated it a little bit at a time,” he said.

The deputies contacted the Paris Police Department for help, and once Hefner removed all the body armor, mace and handcuffs, he was taken into custody without incident, the release said.

Hefner was initially reluctant to be placed under arrest citing he “outranked” the two deputies, Wood said.

Hefner had a white Hummer that he drove to the jail, and upon searching it they found another badge, a large package of zip ties, duct tape, an unloaded AR-15 rifle equipped with optics, a bump stock, quick magazine release and a bi-pod, the news release said. Authorities found a 100-round fully loaded drum magazine with several 30-round magazines in the vehicle, which had flashing lights in it and a police dash cam.

The news release said that deputies found Hefner's Facebook page, "Constitutional Wounded Warriors," where he stated who he planned to target in Edgar County and Paris. Recent posts from the page called out local police departments.

“Paris Police Department, ANY of Your Officers that Gets in My Way of Investigation WILL BE ARRESTED With INTEREFING!!!!,” one post reads. “Two Telephone Calls after I do My Investigation Means Your Fishing!!! The Second Telephone Call Telling Me I am ‘Done and To Stay Away’, Your just making me Investigate That Much Harder!”

Wood said that the deputies handled the situation calmly leading to a peaceful resolution.

“They took what could have been a potentially bad, if not terrible, situation and got it de-escalated to a peaceful ending,” Wood said.

It was not immediately clear Monday night whether he had a lawyer.

Hefner faces preliminary charges of impersonating a public officer, unlawful use of a weapon and unlawful possession of body armor. Preliminary charges are subject to review by the state's attorney's office.

Hefner is jailed with bond set at $20,000. The sheriff's office has has notified the FBI and Homeland Security officials, the news release said.

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Digital Editor

Digital editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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