As the sun set over River Oaks last Saturday, the scene on the road in front of Alejandro Fernandez and his family was anything but picturesque.
This family watched in horror and recorded on their cell phone as a white mustang careened out of control while trying to drive down West Alabama Street.
They tell us they were worried that the driver was going to kill someone, so they took matters into their own hands by making a citizen’s arrest.
Fernandez said he started following the driver because, “I saw the right side of his car was gone and he was going everywhere. He almost hit me. I was actually going the other way.”
He said he was headed to dinner with his family, but said he felt compelled to call 911 and tail the alleged drunk driver all the way to Central Market.
In the video you can see Fernandez bang on the driver’s door to try and get him out before hauling him out by the neck. He felt he had to use physical force to prevent the suspected intoxicated driver from speeding away.
He and others held the driver—who Houston Police have identified as 28-year-old Sirkon Ash—until the authorities arrived.
“His car was a weapon—so anything we did was justified I think,” Fernandez said. “He could’ve killed anybody."
Investigators charged Ash with DWI. It was his third offense, so now it’s a felony charge.
He’s currently out of jail on bond. He didn't respond to our requests to speak with him.
About citizens arrests
The laws around citizens arrests vary by state. In Florida, the statue states, "The arrest of a person may be lawfully made also by any peace officer or a private person, without a warrant upon reasonable information that the accused stands charged in the courts of a state with a crime punishable by death or imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year, but when so arrested the accused must be taken before a judge with all practicable speed and complaint must be made against the accused under oath setting forth the ground for the arrest as in the preceding section; and thereafter his or her answer shall be heard as if the accused had been arrested on a warrant.'
According to FindLaw.com, citizens can arrest other people in certain circumstances, but they do so at their own risk. It may not only be dangerous, but it could put the arresting person risk of legal action.
It goes on to say that a person can arrest someone if they reasonably suspect that person of committing a felony, even if they didn't see it happen. In general, people can't use citizens arrests for misdemeanors, unless the misdemeanor involves a breach of the peace.
he arresting person is also subject to fewer constitutional requirements than an arrest by an officer, but rules still have to be followed. If the rules aren't followed, the arresting person can face civil or criminal repercussions.