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False report of shootout with illegal immigrants in Raleigh brings questions of competency

This undated file mug shot provided by the Wake City-County Bureau of Identification shows Christian Desgroux, 58, who’s accused of pretending to be a U.S. Army general when he landed a chartered helicopter at a technology company in North Carolina in November 2017. His defense attorney, Andrew McCoppin, wrote in a court filing Thursday, June 14, 2018 that his client plans to plead guilty and he won’t object to a conclusion that he was sane at the time of the crime.
This undated file mug shot provided by the Wake City-County Bureau of Identification shows Christian Desgroux, 58, who’s accused of pretending to be a U.S. Army general when he landed a chartered helicopter at a technology company in North Carolina in November 2017. His defense attorney, Andrew McCoppin, wrote in a court filing Thursday, June 14, 2018 that his client plans to plead guilty and he won’t object to a conclusion that he was sane at the time of the crime. File

A Raleigh man charged with impersonating a federal officer and falsely reporting a shootout with illegal immigrants carrying a bomb faces fresh questions about his mental competency.

Christian Desgroux, 58, has already served time in federal prison for landing a rented helicopter at the SAS campus in Cary last year, calling himself an Army general acting under orders of President Donald Trump.

At his hearing on the new charges Thursday, U.S. District Judge Robert Numbers told attorneys to be prepared to address Desgroux’s ability to stand trial at his hearing in January.

In a Dec. 19 affidavit, an agent for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Desgroux called 911 on Nov. 27 and told Raleigh police he was a federal parole officer needing help.

He described himself driving on Wake Forest Road in pursuit of a van full of 10 illegal immigrants who were driving to Washington, D.C., with a bomb.

Still on the phone with the dispatcher, Desgroux said the driver pointed a gun out the window and shot the front of his car, wrote special agent Tony Bell. Once they had reached Glenwood Avenue near Crabtree Valley Mall, Desgroux said, “He shot again. ... I’m hit. My arm is hit.”

On Thursday, a federal prosecutor said Raleigh police sent 15 units to the scene and blocked Glenwood Avenue for 45 minutes.

The van in question was stopped at the scene and its occupants were ordered out at gunpoint, the affidavit said. No bombs were found there or anywhere else, nor was there any evidence Desgroux had been shot.

A Raleigh auto mechanic, Desgroux received a six-month sentence in July for posing as a general and piloting a helicopter to the SAS campus — apparently to impress a woman.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle handed down the sentence in Raleigh after Desgroux’s guilty plea in June. The 58-year-old was also sentenced to a year of supervised release.

His next hearing is Jan. 7.

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Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.
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