Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Unidentified Ohio Muzzleloader

A 15-year-old Amish girl is dead this afternoon thanks to a careless and lazy shooter. WCPO reports:

A man cleaning his muzzle-loading rifle shot the gun into the air, accidentally killing a 15-year-old Amish girl driving a horse-drawn buggy more than a mile away, a sheriff said Tuesday.

Rachel Yoder was shot in the head Thursday night while traveling to her home in Wayne County, between Columbus and Akron. She had attended a Christmas party for employees, most of them under 18 years old, at an Amish produce farm and was riding home alone when she was shot, Wayne County sheriff’s Capt. Douglas Hunter said.

Hunter said his department had traced a trail of blood along the road for about three-eighths of a mile into Holmes County in an area of farms and rolling hills.

I CANNOT believe that anyone is dumb enough to fire a loaded weapon in the air. Thanks to Newton we know that what goes up must come down, and in this case the coming down part ended tragically. The probability of someone being hit in the head with the round may be relatively small, but the fact that there is a chance at all means you shouldn’t do it. Ever. No matter what caliber of firearm you’re using.

Rule #4 tells us to always be aware of our target and what is beyond, and in this case our irresponsible gun owner had no idea what lay 1.5 miles downrange. If he was in a secluded enough spot where discharging his firearm wouldn’t have disturbed the neighbors then I guarantee he could have found a mound of dirt or a tree to take the shot instead of a random stranger.

Know what was the most disturbing part of the story to me?

No charges have been filed.

Reckless endangerment, involuntary manslaughter, assault, firing across a road… I could go on for ages. This is a fantastic example of a person who appears to be too irresponsible to be loose in society.

I normally hate it when blog posts get all Nancy Grace on a topic, but I really needed to vent my bile on this one.

[Story via Reddit, photo via TheCadExpert]

comments

  1. avatar CarlosT says:

    Involuntary manslaughter sounds right. It’s reckless behavior and normally reckless behavior that causes the death of another merits punishment. Firing in the air (other than bird hunting or trap shooting, that kind of thing) just by itself should be considered reckless endangerment as it causes a lot of deaths every year around the world.

  2. avatar TTACer says:

    My friend’s little sister was killed when the boat she was riding in was run over by some a-hole in a 70+mph bass boat. Because the a-hole wasn’t drunk no charges were filed. 70mph across an open lake, he hits the only thing within hundreds of yards, kills a little girl, and no consequences. Weird country.

  3. avatar Aharon says:

    RIP to the young woman and her family. This was not an accident type such as when a hunter trips and shoots someone. Even then in some cases other safety steps could have been taken. In this case, the man wasn’t chasing a boar through brush etc. He could have discharged his gun safely into the earth. A line has to be drawn otherwise too many idiots will claim that their lack of safe handling was just an accident. I agree that he should be prosecuted for a criminal act.

    1. avatar AK says:

      Criminal negligence maybe, but criminal act no. He didn’t have any intent to shoot the girl.

      1. avatar Aharon says:

        Thanks for the clarification. You are correct. I’m not much up on legal terminology and definitions even as far the layperson goes.

      2. avatar HSR47 says:

        And that distinction is where the line between manslaughter and murder lies.

  4. avatar ok says:

    Wow. Another tragic example of why you dont do certain things with firearms.

    In aviation we have this saying, “Big sky little plane theory, dis proven again” when two planes have a mid air.

    Some how I think the same mind set applies to this. The odds are huge, but then again someone, not thinking about safety, bucks the odds.

    1. avatar BLAMMO says:

      Wow. Another tragic example of why you dont do certain things with firearms.

      Yeah, apparently, the most unsafe thing you can do with a gun is clean it. Considering that it’s impossible for a gun to fire while it’s being cleaned, how do people still get away with this as their story? It’s called NEGLIGENT discharge!!

      Having no first-hand experience with muzzle-loaders, I can only assume the only way to completely “clear” the weapon is to fire it. Into a safe backstop. If you do it into the air, it’s criminal negligence, IMO.

  5. avatar zak b says:

    The Amish aren’t very fond of official law enforcement, they usually deal with matters internally.

  6. avatar freeport56 says:

    I cannot even believe how much I hate this moron who fired his weapon into the air. An innocent 15 year old girl died because of his stupidity! he will be charged with Involuntary Manslaughter and serve some time in jail. They should ban him for life from owning a gun of any kind!

    1. avatar RuffRidr says:

      Agreed. Accident or not, I hope this guy serves some jail time.

  7. avatar Mr. Lion says:

    The problem isn’t so much firing into the air, which when done in an open, isolated area poses less of a risk of killing someone than a lightning strike. The problem is with firing into the air at an angle, which will cause Mr. Bullet to maintain a ballistic trajectory and speed for quite a while. This is unfortunately most likely to happen with a muzzle loader firing a relatively heavy round ball that is tumble-proof.

    Any way you cut it, it’s a freak accident. Avoidable, yes. Unfortunate, very. If he is charged, it’ll be with involuntary manslaughter, which in PA is a misdemeanor in this instance.

  8. avatar Tom says:

    When I was a kid we lived on the edge of town and a forest was about a quarter to half mile away. Hunters used to hunt squirrels with the tube up and I had bullets whistle by me and thuck into the backyard. I had bullets crack into the shingle covered plywood roof above my bedroom.

  9. avatar Tom says:

    I used to own a T/C Renegade and I painted the ram rod with red rings so I would know if the gun was loaded or not. I really never stored it loaded anyway. If I hunted and was done, I would discharge the rifle into a mud bank.

  10. avatar Tom says:

    So here is a question for TTAG staff and readers. What would be the best weapon for hunting squirrels in trees with the tube up. I at one time recommended to a friend that a .410 or smaller gauge shotgun with fine shot would carry less and have less or a punch coming down than a .22 LR or .22 Magnum round. The guy jumped down my throat and stated he always could pick the squirrel out of the tree and the shotgun was more dangerous. I shoot squirrel and sometimes miss, and I am pretty good with a 39A. I don’t think he would be any better. So, what is your input on shooting shotgun ( light shells and fine shot) or small caliber rifle or pistol rounds when the tube is up?

    1. avatar Data says:

      Your question reminded me of When I was 13. I was quail hunting with my Dad, my older brother and his friend.
      This “friend” was obviously not raised to have the respect for firearms that myself and many here would have. He once fired 3 to 4 successive 12 guage shots quickly into the air ( almost straight up) he then laughed as they would land & plink all around us( this was bird shot, probably 6 or 7 size). My dad took the boys gun away in seconds and we were forbidden from seeing him ever again.
      We all got hit with many pellets. Granted This was not a ballistic trajectory, but I would have to say a .410 bird shot would have less punch for the following 2 reasons:
      1) Any single shot pellet will have significantly less mass than any bullet, 2) I have been hit with falling bird shot and was not injured.

  11. avatar Ron says:

    Several years ago I was living in a city of slightly less than a million people.
    On the evening of July 4th someone fired a .22 caliber bullet into the air.
    A five year old child was standing on her front poarch watching fireworks with her family. The bullet struck her in the head, killing her.
    No one came forward.

    I know nothing about muzzle-loading guns.
    Does anyone have an idea (other than stupidity) why this man would discharge this firearm while cleaning it?
    Is it necessary or advisable to fire one before, during or after the cleaning process?
    Surely this cannot be the case.

    1. avatar Gossven says:

      He probably fired it because its the most expedient way to unload a muzzle loader. Why he didn’t fire it into the ground or a tree is the real issue, since the whole tragedy would have been avoided if he had obeyed the rules of firearm safety and known what was beyond his target.

      1. avatar Ron says:

        Hi,Gossven,
        Thank’s for your reply.
        From what little I know about the loading procedure of a muzzle-loader and Aharon’s 3:35 pm comments, this is exactly the response I was expecting.

        Since humans are creatures of habit, it seems probable that someone who routinely discharges his firearm into the ground or other backstop would be unlikely to do so by firing into the air. The fact that he chooses to use a solid backstop also suggest that he is aware of the potential danger associated with firing into the air.

        This leads me to believe that this is not the first time the gentleman in question fired into the air. In all probability it is (was) his chosen way to clear his muzzle- loader.
        Only this time the result was tragic.
        Of course it may have been the first use.

  12. avatar Kirk says:

    Has it been conclusively established that the bullet which hit the young lady was even from the guy who fired the muzzleloader? Every news story I’ve seen on this incident neglects to make the connection between the two. An idiot firing into the air in one location, and someone being hit by a bullet are not necessarily connected–Although, there is enough there to make you want to investigate.

    If that young lady was killed by his bullet, he needs to be tried for more than just manslaughter, in my opinion. If she wasn’t, then he should be charged with reckless endangerment at a bare minimum. Too many times, these idiots doing unsafe things with guns are not called on them, and they keep doing them until someone does get killed. I have bad memories of walking down a trail one hunting season, and finding myself under fire by some idiots who were out zeroing their hunting rifles in the middle of hunting season. If they hadn’t been in front of the highway, I do believe I’d have been sorely tempted to return fire…

    1. avatar Casey1911 says:

      I suppose it was good that he came forward, but the guy probably gushed when the police questioned him. Even if there is no “ballistics match CSI magic,” they’ve got him dead to rights if they do decide to press charges assuming that he made a lengthy, verbose, guilt ridden statement without thinking about the possibility that it might not have even been him.

  13. avatar James says:

    The 1.5 mile range is exceptional for a muzzle loader. The fact that it traveled that far suggests that he didn’t fire straight into the air, but in fact fired at an angle.

  14. avatar Ralph says:

    There’s a difference between no charges filed and no charges filed yet. I don’t know if we’ve heard the last of this case.

    I also note that there was clearly a homicide (the killing of a person by another person), but not necessarily a crime. All accidents (other than the proverbial “acts of God”) are avoidable. The legal question is whether there was reckless or negligent conduct that was criminal in nature, and such a determination varies with facts and circumstances. For example, hunters shoot other hunters from time to time, but rarely is anyone charged with a crime because of such an accident. And the four rules that we live by do not appear in any statute book in this or any other country.

    In this case, the poor girl was apparently over a mile away from the shooter. A decent lawyer would argue, and I think with some degree of merit, that hitting anyone with an antique-style rifle at that distance with enough force to cause death, while tragic, was completely unforseeable.

  15. avatar JP in Tennessee says:

    When I was young, I hunted squirrels with a 16 ga., my brother, with better eyesight, used a .22. I never felt comfortable firing a rifle aimed up in the trees. This reminds me of an incident a few years ago of a lady from Brinkley, AR, who was driving South on I-55 in Mississippi when she was decapitated by a blade thrown from a tractor-pulled bushhog mowing the right-of-way. Tragic and unintended, but certainly in the case cited above, avoidable.

  16. avatar LC Judas says:

    As a child on New Year’s day I watched a news story of a lady killed at a stop light by a bullet falling through the roof of the car, killing her. To date I have not fired a gun on New Year’s Eve and refuse to.

    Anyone who fires a gun into the air at any point in time and does not think about the piece of metal coming down and finding a new home inside of an unintended target is not pardonable regardless of the astronomical odds. The person “cleaning” the gun was not ignorant of the laws of physics and thus should be charged with negligent homicide, as firing a gun into anything without a backstop is a bullet with intent to kill something. If it is not then why can you argue that it is not? A bullet that’s not meant to kill someone is fired into a safe backstop with knowledge of what’s beyond not being a vulnerable target. Firing a weapon into the air without verifying exactly where the propelled projectile will land makes the shooter totally culpable for the fate of what his projectile hits.

  17. avatar slamminsammy says:

    The whole thought that one has to shoot a muzzleloader to unload it is silly! Just use a ball/bullet puller. A bigger range rod makes the job easier. I unload mine a few times during deer season this way, keeps from making a lot of noise in the area i hunt in.

  18. avatar Rustler '77 says:

    I think it is criminal that anyone senseless enough to fire any gun into the air should be prosecuted. Don’t we hear EVERY YEAR about someone getting hurt, or killed by some idiot, whether drinking or not is irrelevant. The media warns people againt this practice. Sure as we’re all mourning this young girl and her poor family, some MORON’S will surly do it again next year, and the year after that, until, one day, they will outlaw even law abiding citizens, such as my own personal guns! When will people wake up? The law of gravity existed long before Isac Newton figured it out. Don’t they teach that in school any more? They have plenty of time, just put it in where we use to pray or say the pledge of allegiance.

  19. avatar Paul Hulme says:

    This thread leaves me with some introspect regarding the practice of new years gunfire. I live in rural area where this is common. The real problem is the folks who do no give thought to , or have an understanding of the external ballistics of what they are shooting. I would agree that firing into the air with anything other than birdshot should be banned.

  20. avatar joe says:

    The math doesn’t add up. I am not trying to justify a killing. However, if you take the heaviest bullet with the most muzzle velocity and the distance traveled it doesn’t add up. Check the load data for yourself. http://www.hodgdon.com/PDF/muzzleloading_manual_2008.pdf?CHECKBOX_1=on
    Even if aimed horizontally the bullet could only travel for .17 seconds. It could not even travel a mile before hitting the ground. Something was left out or mistaken.

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