Florida Keys

A boat captain was arrested at gunpoint. Now he’s suing the feds for false imprisonment.

Three years ago, Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, two college-educated engineers with a history of drug addiction and paranoid theories about the government, took their two young sons, boarded their sailboat and headed out of a Tampa marina.

They told the slip master before leaving on April, 3, 2013, they were taking the 25-foot vessel to Key West, and maybe to South America. What wasn’t known to the slip owner was that the Hakkens had just lost custody of the children and kidnapped them from their grandmother’s house the day before. The State Attorney’s Office in Hillsborough County issued a warrant for their arrest.

When it was discovered they fled on their boat, the FBI got involved in the manhunt.

Three days later in Key West, charter boat captain Tim Curtis took his wife and their young daughter out on the water in their sailboat for an afternoon swim. He anchored his 34-foot vessel right outside the Stock Island Marina, swam with his family and returned to the marina.

As the family was leaving the marina in their car, they were approached by “at least four men armed with machine guns,” according to documents filed in federal court this week.

“These men, with their guns pointed at Tim, forced Tim out of his car and forced him to lay flat on the ground with their guns pointed at his head. During this time, one of the men told Tim that if he (Tim) moved, that they would shoot him,” Curtis’ lawyer Andrew Moss wrote in a complaint against the federal government filed Oct. 18 in the U.S. Southern District Court.

The men, it turned out, were officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission helping an FBI agent who was in Key West looking for the Hakkens. They cuffed Curtis and held him for questioning before determining he was not Joshua Hakken.

Curtis is suing the government on civil charges of battery, inflicting emotional distress and false imprisonment on behalf of himself, his wife and his daughter.

He declined to comment on the case. Moss said the government did offer Curtis money but it was “a pittance” compared to what he was put through. Moss did not specify how much his client is seeking. He has requested a jury trial. FBI spokesman Christopher M. Allen said he could not comment on “matters pending litigation.”

Moss said that had the FBI done proper surveillance, the agent and FWC officers would have no reason to mistake Curtis for Joshua Hakken. Curtis was 47 at the time and had long hair. Joshua Hakken was 35 and wore his hair short. The men’s wives also did not look similar to one another, Moss wrote in the complaint.

But most importantly, authorities were looking for a couple with two boys — ages 2 and 4. The Curtis’ daughter was 7, had long hair and was wearing a girls swimsuit when her father was detained.

“They obviously never surveilled because the only child there was a 7-year-old girl,” Moss said.

The Hakkens made it to Cuba, but did not evade the law for long. Cuban authorities arrested on April 10, 2013, and sent them back to the states to face federal and state kidnapping and child neglect charges. The couple accepted plea deals in October 2014 in exchange for the federal charges to be dropped, according to a Tampa Bay Times article.

A Hillsborough County Circuit Court judge sentenced Joshua Hakken to 15 years in prison and 15 years of probation. Sharyn Hakken was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by 10 years of probation.

The Times reported that Joshua Hakken gave a bizarre statement during his sentencing about being a prophet and uniting people of varying faiths.

“I am Icarus,” he told the judge. “I am Muhammad to the Shia Muslims. I am the … Joshua to the tribe of Judah. I am the Pahana, or the true white friend of the Hopi.”

The Times reported that Joshua Hakken apologized to his wife for not letting her know that he was all of those things.

David Goodhue: 305-440-3204