MEDINA, Ohio -- A former U.S. Navy SEAL, once accused and later cleared of making false claims to police, is part of a group of former servicemen arrested on Sunday in strife-torn Haiti.
Christopher Heben made headlines in 2014, when he claimed that he was shot during an altercation with three men in the parking lot of a busy shopping center in Summit County. An investigation by Bath Township Police found there were no witnesses to the shooting and no evidence that Heben was at the shopping center at the time he claimed he was shot.
Investigators eventually concluded he fabricated the story and charged him with falsification and obstructing official business.
But, when Heben stood trial in Akron Municipal Court in April 2015, a jury deliberated for just half an hour, before finding Heben not guilty of both charges.
In the years since he was cleared, Christopher Heben changed his name to Chris McKinley, posting on Twitter:
“Fact: I’m the 1st cousin (5x’s Removed) of POTUS William McKinley.”
A report in the Miami Herald indicated that police in Haiti identified McKinley as one of eight heavily armed men stopped at a police checkpoint in Port-Au-Prince on Sunday.
The Haitian capital is the backdrop for violent anti-government protests.
A top police official told the newspaper when the men were asked what they were doing in Haiti, they said they were on a “government mission” and reportedly told police, "our boss will call your boss."
Jean-Henry Céant, the Prime Minister of Haiti, told CNN, “these men were mercenaries, they were here to attack part of the executive branch of the government. I promise you we will know every detail of why they were here.”
However, according to a State Department spokesperson for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the U.S. Government intervened and Chris McKinley, AKA Christopher Heben, and the other American members of the group were released from custody in Haiti and flown back to the U.S.
So far, no one is willing to say exactly what McKinley and the other men were doing in Haiti.