Should This Accidental Shooting Land the Shooter in Jail?

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A controversial new case has been going on for over a year now. It involves two target shooters, Ryan Pellman and Matthew Rodgers, who accidentally shot a man while they were sighting in their rifles for the upcoming deer season.

The incident began in October 2016 when two men in rural New York were sighting their .308 Winchester rifles, Del-Ton AR, and pistol.

Pellman and Rodgers were shooting at paper targets without a backstop to catch their bullets and couldn’t see far enough down the lane to see if anyone was there.

That’s why they had no idea that only half a mile away was a man who was mowing his lawn, Kevin Flannery. In between Flannery and the target shooters was a lane of tall grass that prevented them from seeing Flannery.

Flannery apparently moved in and out of the target shooters’ bullet paths as he mowed his lawn, unaware of the shooters being there.

Both Flannery’s mower and Flannery himself were hit. The high-powered rifle shots left him critically wounded and it took months before for him to recover. Flannery wasn’t able to return to work until 10 months later, and he lost 40 pounds during the course of his recovery.

In April of 2017, Pellman and Rodgers were indicted by a Grand Jury.  But only a few months later the State Supreme Court overturned that indictment because the evidence didn’t meet the legal criteria for either assault or reckless endangerment.

That’s because, in New York, reckless endangerment requires showing “depraved indifference to human life”. Simply being negligent isn’t enough for a reckless endangerment charge in New York.

The prosecutor likely tried to reach too far with his case and lost because of it. However, even though the criminal court found Pellman and Rodgers innocent, the lawsuits still continue.

The Flannery’s filed a civil lawsuit and plan to continue their case for the wrongdoing done to Kevin Flannery. However, Pellman and Rogers will fight the case as much as possible, claiming that it was an accident.

Dean Weingarten at had this to say about the case:

The shooters had no intention of hitting Flannery. They did not know he was there. They thought it was impossible their shots had hit anyone. Flannery was 2,300 feet away from the shooters, a little less than 800 yards. .308 rifles are routinely fired in thousand yard matches.

This accident occurred because the shooters did not understand the ballistics of their rifles. They assumed there was no one in the direction they were shooting. They did not ensure the bullets were hitting an adequate backstop. It was a nearly fatal mistake. I suspect they have been regretting their decision for over a year.

Safety rules came about through long, hard experience. They exist for good reasons. Know your target, and what is behind your target.

2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Both parties are in a terrible position because of this accidental shooting. More caution would have prevented this unfortunate incident entirely. If Pellman and Rodgers had simply found an area with a backstop to shoot their rifles, they would still be target shooting and deer hunting worry-free.

Take this news story as a lesson not to cut corners when shooting in an open area. You never know who could be on the other end that you can’t even see.

There’s a lot of backlash against Pellman and Rodgers from gun owners for doing something so irresponsible as shooting in an open field without a backstop or even checking for people. Though others claim that it was a fluke and that Pellman and Rodgers did their due diligence.

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