“According to investigators, officers with the Lower Township [NJ] Police Department were called to a home in the 1000 block of Seashore Road on September 26th to investigate the report by a resident that his remote control helicopter (drone) was shot down,” philadelphia.cbs.com reports. “Investigators say the resident was taking aerial photographs of his friend’s home, which is under construction.” And then . . .
While doing so, the resident told police he heard several gunshots as he simultaneously lost control of the drone.
After retrieving the drone, the resident observed multiple holes in it that were consistent with a shotgun blast.
The resident called the Lower Township Police Department and when officers arrived, he directed them to the area where he heard the shots coming from.
After an investigation, police say they determined 32-year-old Russell J. Percenti allegedly fired the shots that brought down the drone.
I called the Lower Township Police Department to find out whether it’s generally illegal to discharge a firearm within the Township. The officer at the end of the line told me residents can’t discharge a firearm within 450 feet from an occupied building, school or playground. Or in the direction of same. Or after sunset and before sunrise.
Note: getting advice from the police is always a bit dodgy. Anyway, perp Percenti wasn’t charged with unlawfully discharging a firearm. Yet. The Township po-po arrested the homeowner and charged him with possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal mischief.
The first charge comes under New Jersey statute 2C:39-4 which states “Any person who has in his possession any firearm with a purpose to use it unlawfully against the person or property of another is guilty of a crime of the second degree.” Were the drone flights a regular occurrence? Did Percenti buy the scattergun to down the drone? No se.
The second charge comes under New Jersey statute 2C:17-3 which punishes folks for “Purposely or knowingly damag(ing) tangible property of another or damag(ing) tangible property of another recklessly or negligently in the employment of fire, explosives or other dangerous means listed in subsection a. of N.J.S. 2C:17-2.” A list which does NOT include firearms.
Again, what do I know? But let’s throw this into the mix: according to dlmp.org, “In New Jersey, it is unlawful to intrude upon one’s privacy in a manner that would be ‘highly offensive to a reasonable person.’ See Hennessey v. Coastal Eagle Point Co., 609 A.2d 11 (N.J. 1992).” Drone flights over your property – probably to find building code violations – strike me as offensive. Do you own the airspace above your property?
One thing’s for sure: this will not be the last drone downing case. Watch this space. Oh, and the NJ police confiscated Percenti’s shotgun. Of course. [h/t PetitionforRedress]