Peeved town official grabs gun, shoots drone, gets the book thrown at him

Drone gun shoot

A municipal commissioner in a small Tennessee town is facing multiple charges for grabbing a gun and shooting a drone above his property that annoyed him. Then he refused to give the blasted vehicle back to its owner. Is that nice?

Tennessee town commissioner has had enough of drones and won’t take ’em anymore

Calhoun, Tennessee town commissioner John Walker was arrested by local police earlier this month after a complaint about his behavior. That call came from an unhappy pilot. An affidavit reported by local media states Walker “started shooting a long gun at a drone flying in the sky” from the grounds of his car towing, repair, and decay dealership (see photo). Either Walker was an iffy marksman, or drone owner Charles Dover was initially successful in dodging the salvoes, because it took several blasts from the gun before buckshot met battery. The drone apparently crashed in the car lot, where Walker confiscated it and refused Dover’s demands that he return it. 

Use of the conditional is necessary, given the disparities in accounts of the Calhoun gun-shoots-drone incident. Walker’s own statements, it seems, contradicted themselves, according to the police affidavit.

“At first John made statements about he was tired of people flying drones over his property, and then started denying that he shot it down and refused to give it back,” it reads. “According to Mr. Dover, Mr. Walker made a statement about ‘If you come on my property I’ll shoot your ass, too’.”

Goodness.

Police have filed charges against Walker for reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, vandalism, and theft of property. Quoth the statement:

Walker’s actions are reckless and dangerous due to his close proximity to other houses, people, churches and the gas station… A witness was sitting on her porch about 70 yards away when the shooting started.

Shooting at (much less hitting) drones is a federal crime

Though Dover (and his drone) are pretty obviously victims in the caper, even his claims of absolute innocence draw some scrutiny.

Far from goading Walker with a resented flyover of his car lot, Dover says his uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) was actually above the (this isn’t made up) Jiffy gas station across the street. How it wound up plummeting on to commissioner’s property is anyone’s guess. (A strong gust of wind? Follow-through trajectory? A kamikaze determination to smite its assailant by the drone’s mortally wounded circuitry?)

Of course, that situational detail is immaterial to the legal factors in the case. As DroneDJ reader afficionados already know, it’s against the law to shoot at airborne UAV, much less blast them to the ground. That’s as applicable in Tennessee as it is in Florida, California, or any of the other 47 US states.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has control of airspace above virtually all land the US, including the portion extending skyward over Walker’s business. And FAA regulations prohibit shooting guns at any aircraft, drones included – meaning Town Commissioner Walker’s manner of defending his property and privacy was a federal crime. Oops.

It’s still unknown whether the Feds will slap additional litigation pain on Walker, but his case and others like it across the US provide an educational reminder: If a stalking drone stations itself above your property – or otherwise invades your privacy and cheeses you off – call the cops. If they don’t have enough to bust the pilot for harassment, they’ll at least force the craft to hover elsewhere, and you won’t be featured in snarky posts like this one for having shot it up.

Photo: Fox28 Savannah

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