An unnamed Ohio man was cleaning his muzzle-loading rifle and decided to fire one round in the air. The round traveled over one mile and reportedly killed Rachel Yoder, 18, an Amish girl driving her horse-drawn buggy home after a Christmas party.
Yoder fell out of the buggy near her home after the horse continued on its path. Police traced the blood marks back toward the man’s home and neighbors recalled hearing a shot.
The police are clearly inclined to treat the matter as non-criminal, which would include a simple manslaughter charge. Yet, there is considerable fault in someone randomly shooting in the air, even in a rural area. It often drives me to distraction to watch idiots in Middle Eastern countries firing machine guns in the air as the favorite form of celebration without a thought to the danger to others. We have seen such tragedies in this country, including cases where officers ended up shooting people using guns to celebrate their birthdays or the Fourth of July.
There is obviously ample room for a negligence case, though (we have discussed on this blog and in my torts class), juries vary considerably in what they consider unreasonable in hunting accidents between rural and non-rural areas.
Firing into the air simply leaves any danger to others to chance — the very definition of externalizing risk. A wrongful death action would be merited in such a circumstances.
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50 thoughts on “Ohio Man Shoots Gun In Air . . . Kills Amish Girl Over A Mile Away”
CP7, there was an interesting article on Daily Kos last night on this very subject. It was written by a colleague who uses the pen name, “Theatre Goon”
Otteray Scribe, thanks for your response, sorry for being so late in getting back to it, but note that those court decisions interpreting the individual rights version are all from the past 10 years., meaning the interpretations of one of the most conservative SCOTUS groups in US history [esp Scalia, Alito, and Thomas]. I’m saying the interpretation of the 2nd Amendmant if read in full by most reasonable people would be right to bear arms for a militia and if you’re part of a militia. Not the right for any person of age to wield a weapon that can instantly kill from afar with limited training and oversight. Granted hunting game was big at the time, but handguns and machine guns were not. Its hard to imagine how they would have written it today, but Canada has cities with similar demographics yet limited violence, I don’t think our gun laws would be too similar to theirs but probably closer. You can talk about DC and Chicago banning guns despite high violence all you want, but the fact is both border states where there are no such laws.
Ted, by heavy, I assume you mean mass. Terminal velocity is determined by a formula that involves mass, coefficient of drag and the density (viscosity) of the medium through which it travels. Mass is not dependent on gravity. Weight is often (mistakenly) used interchangeably. An object that weighs a ton on earth will weigh nothing if in space, but the one ton of mass will remain, and thanks to Newton’s laws, if it were moving and you got caught between it and an object stationary to the moving mass, such as the space station, it would still crush you.
Here is a tool to make it simple.
Re terminal velocity, heavier objects don’t fall faster. Two objects of equal weight i.e. mass can have different terminal velocities depending on their drag which is a function of surface area/shape/angle of attack. Compare skydiver spread-eagled vs. body straight headfirst. That said, a faster moving but lighter object can inflict more damage than a slower moving heavier object. But no matter how you slice it, firing a gun in the air is stupid.
“WHAT??? How? If the girl was wounded “over a mile away” and then fell out of her buggy, what blood was there to be traced anywhere? Who the H3LL reports this stuff?”
I wondered that also. The blood would lead to the point of falling from the buggy.
Bob, I think we are on the same page here. I think there should be some legal sanction against the fellow, but that is a judgement call by the prosecutor. The Amish family is not at all likely to pursue a legal remedy. Their way is to forgive and move on.
As for the ballistics, it was an interesting academic exercise and I had to dust off some of the rust from when I took physics, which was a long time ago.
As for getting hit in the head by a spent 9mm or .38 round, you may be right, but I do not want test the theory. I have an aversion to being the first one to the scene of an accident.
I honestly never heard of someone dying from a falling bullet before you mentioned it. Having briefly researched the topic online, while it seems highly improbable it does seem possible with a sufficiently heavy and aerodynamic bullet finding an incredibly small target area. For your average 9mm or 38 cal, it doesn’t seem likely. But with the larger calibers and higher grains….
Anyway, I found this article particularly informative.
That aside, as I stated earlier, I believe the legal issue comes down to the nexus between intended trajectory and duty of care violated. The article clearly states that the man INTENDED to discharge the firearm as part of the cleaning process; since it was a muzzle loader. Accordingly, it’s not as if he can claim the gun accidentally went off while pointed in an unintended manner. I’m sure the ballistics will confirm that this guy most likely aimed the gun between 20-45 degrees above the horizon — perhaps casually above some nearby tree tops, without a thought or care about the ultimate path of that bullet. He had all the time in the world to consider the shot; but he didn’t.
Reality check: It doesn’t look like the prosecutor will be charging him with anything and I don’t see an Amish family pursuing any remedy in civil court.
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