Photo by Michael Buckelew
DULUTH -- Police have arrested a Cumming man on felony charges who held himself out as a bounty hunter for the military at a local night club last week, officials said.
Security at Wild Bill's in Duluth questioned James Foster Smiley, 18, on Saturday night after patrons had complained that he was threatening to arrest them as a member of law enforcement, police said.
Witnesses told security on Friday that Smiley was carrying zip-ties that could be used like handcuffs around the club and claiming to be a federal agent.
On Saturday, Smiley donned military garb that included boots, tactical pants and a T-shirt with "Air Force" on the front and "Federal Agent" on the back, according to a police report.
Smiley told an off-duty Gwinnett police officer working at the club that he had been sent by the U.S. Air Force to detain AWOL soldiers. He claimed to be part of security forces awaiting deployment to Iraq, the report says.
The officer, J.P. Wilbanks, found Smiley's account to be "peculiar" but allowed him the benefit of the doubt and did not detain him. Wilbanks warned Smiley that if his story didn't check out, he would face at least felony false statements charges.
Police issued warrants for Smiley after contacting his recruiter and finding his account was false, Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. Brian Kelly said.
"Anytime we encounter an incident such as this, we'll always do a thorough investigation," he said. "Instances of impersonation can dilute public confidence."
Smiley is charged with felony impersonating an officer and false statements. He is free on $5,900 bond following his Monday arrest.
An Air Force representative said Tuesday that Smiley is a recruit who qualified for a delayed entry program with the branch, but he was not instructed to search for service members in any way. His claims of pending deployment to Iraq were also false, the representative said.
Smiley's candidacy with the Air Force is in jeopardy, pending resolution of the criminal case.
A message left on Smiley's cell phone Tuesday afternoon was not returned.
Kelly said Smiley's exact motives are not known. Police find it disconcerting anytime someone holds themselves out as an officer, federal agent or military official, whatever the reason, he said.
"It's disconcerting when the suspect's true intentions are not even known," Kelly said. "Intent could range anywhere from trying to impress women, to false imprisonment, or even worse."