A detention officer with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office accused of getting drunk and pointing a loaded gun at his own son has pleaded not guilty to one count each of aggravated assault and criminal damage.
Jeffery Higgins entered his plea in Maricopa County Superior Court this morning.
According to court records, the latest incident isn't the first time Higgins has pulled a gun on his son (more on that below).
Police were called to Higgins' Mesa home about 3 a.m. on January 24 after his wife called 9-1-1 to report that her husband was drunk and fighting with their 19-year-old son.
Higgins' son later told police that he'd come home a few minutes before the altercation and found his father "very" drunk. Higgins, in a drunken stupor, then started an argument with his son.
In the middle of the argument, Higgins got up and tried to walk outside to get in his truck. His son followed to make sure his father wasn't going to drive in his drunken state.
The son got in between Higgins and the truck, but Higgins grabbed him by his shirt collar and shoved him out of the way repeatedly.
When Higgins' wife and son refused to let him get into the truck, he told them he would just go in the house and "take care of [himself]" -- apparently implying that he planned to commit suicide.
Higgins then went back into the house and grabbed his MCSO detention officer badge and his MCSO-issued handgun. He then went back outside and tried to get in the truck...again.
His son, however, still refused to let his old man get behind the wheel -- he again stood between his father and the truck in an attempt to keep him from driving the vehicle.
Higgins, his wife later told police, then drew his weapon on his son and shoved it in his face -- all while telling him to move out of the way of the truck.
When his son continued to refuse to let him drive, Higgins walked back to the front of the house and kicked in the front door.
Higgins' son and wife followed him inside. As they did, Higgins ran back to the truck, got in, and sped off -- as his son was reaching in the window trying to get the keys out of the ignition.
Higgins was located by police shortly after the altercation at the Saguaro Lake Marina -- about 15 miles from his home.
Higgins told the arresting officer that he'd had an argument with his wife and son. He denied, however, that he ever pulled his gun, or threatened suicide.
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According to court records, this isn't the first time Higgins has pulled a gun on his son -- other incidents, however, were never reported to police.
Higgins has a long history of suicides in his family. His family and police suspect he may be suicidal himself.
Hegstrom says Higgins has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. He also says he's unaware of any past disciplinary problems with Higgins.