Ohio Man Shoots Gun In Air . . . Kills Amish Girl Over A Mile Away

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.

Source: Fox8

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50 thoughts on “Ohio Man Shoots Gun In Air . . . Kills Amish Girl Over A Mile Away”

  1. rcampbell, that single issue is the wedge issue the Republicans will use to keep control of congress. Keep talking about it and the NRA and the Republican noise machine will keep yelling the bad old Democrats will grab our guns. The best thing we can do is to emphasize safety, enforcement of laws on the books and dial back the emotionally laden rhetoric.

    You are 100% correct that there is a snowball chance in hell of repealing the 2nd Amendment. So to continue to talk as if you either want to repeal it or try to go around it and “Grab people’s guns” just gives the right wing propagandists free fodder. And continue to lose elections for liberals and progressives. Polls show that in largely rural states such as West Virgina and the western mountain states, that is the single biggest issue used by the GOP for keeping the sheeple in line.

    I am a pragmatist who wants to see enough people in congress with a D after their name to want to do whatever it takes to make that happen. I also live in a rural area where there are probably at least five guns for every man, woman and child. We do not have more incidents than in areas where there are draconian restrictions on gun ownership.

  2. Otteray Scribe

    You’ve proven my point. You’ve spent much of a day defending guns with legal arguments, obvious extensive gun knowledge and intellectual fervor. In the end, guns will continue to be used and therefore more innocent people will die and more discussion will take place about gun safety (each time these things happen, folks are just amazed that someone didn’t exercise the same safety measures they do) and Constitutional rights. In the end the guns will win and people will die.

    I know better than to think a Constittuional Amendment would pass on this issue. Americans are far too attached to guns for that to happen. That neither makes it right nor alters nor negates my assertion, in fact it provides support, that continuing to own guns is more important than the finality of the death of innocents. That, in itself, is excusing the the action.

    What kind of charges would be filed against this guy? Wreckless endangerment? Discharging a firearm inside the city limits? Accidental discharge? Murder? No, certainly not murder. It’s was just an accident. He’ll get a misdemeanor charge, plead it or pay a fine. The worst that’ll happen is he’ll have to think about it for the rest of his life. But the girl is still dead and he walks away with a guilt complex. That’s excusing the gun owner.

    A Constitutional Amendment wasn’t necessary to get people off cigarettes. Hopefully, the same kind of effort will ultimately get more people thinking more about the value of victims than about the guns.

  3. Terminal velocity is a function of both mass (m) and drag coefficient (Cd). A feather has a huge amount of drag and not much mass. A penny has quite a bit of drag and not much mass. A large lead slug has high mass and low drag. The aerodynamics are well understood. The other factor is the density (ρ) of the medium through which the object travels. The speed of gravity (g) remains constant, of course.

    Mass/drag ratio played a big role in the high mass, small diameter bombs developed for bunker busting during the first Gulf war. The small diameter has very low drag compared to the huge mass of the bomb. They made the bomb casing out of recycled cannon barrels.

    The Tall Boy bomb invented by Barnes Wallis during WW-II had a terminal velocity (Vt) that exceeded Mach 1 when dropped from 22,000 feet.

  4. Terminal velocity is not a function of weight/mass but of aerodynamics. A penny catches more air and falls much slower than a bullet.

  5. To you who would suggest that a constitutional amendment to alter the second amendment is what would be needed to the make it such that people could no longer have the right to bear arms, let me suggest that you ought to reconsider your position on what exactly a right is, and where it comes from. Repealing the second amendment would not delete the right of a person to keep and bear arms as if to think that it would then somehow no longer exist as a right – you need to understand the principle founding what rights are on the one hand, and understand what the first ten amendments actually do on the second.

    Your Constitution does not give anyone any rights – God does that. Your Constitution simply lists a few of those rights specifically (and not exhaustively). The right to bear arms exists as a truth as much as the sky exists. It is self-evident! That was the point your founders made on several occasions leading up to the revolution. The right to keep and bear arms is a right of individuals, which in turn is based upon a person’s right to self-defense. Governments can no more take that right away, than they can take one’s mind and thoughts away. The fact it had to be written in the first place was only because many of the day anticipated that their posterity would someday be so ignorant of their liberties and rights, that they would actually consider instead that government has the just authority to give an take away such rights, rather than them coming from God, and the government then having as its only purpose for existing being that to protect those rights – and not for protecting the government itself, as is now the case in the US political landscape. And you Americans of this generation have done just that – lost the understanding of the nature of your rights. Accordingly, lacking understanding, you no doubt will lose what little you still have protected, pretty quickly now.

    If any of you Americans actually understood what you have in the Declaration of Independence, and the main body of the Constitution (even without the Bill of Rights), you would be doing all you could to protect the extent of which those individual rights are recognized as to exist by your governments, instead of debating how your governments (federal and local) should be able to restrict the liberty of those rights. The road most of you are arguing to proceed down is the same one that several others have traveled in the past: 1930’s Germany; 1913 Russia, 27BC Roma, and several other nations.

    The saddest thing in watching your transition from a Constitutional Republic to a Dictatorship, is that whereas before (in Roma for example), it was done by a few select government officials, in the US, there are so many people who could stop it, yet all have refused to do so – the attraction to your red vs blue flags running so far stronger than your understanding of the only just purpose of government, and your ignorance of the blessings your forefathers bequeathed you – liberty.

  6. Bob, I refer you to my comment earlier today. A local guy shot his .45 Colt ACP into the air at some kind of celebration. A few seconds after he fired it, he dropped dead with a bullet hole in the exact top of his head. His bullet had gone up and come straight down, striking him on top of his skull. It killed him.

    As for the Mythbusters penny episode, a penny weighs 2.5 grams. A .45 Colt bullet weighs 255 grams. The round in that black powder rifle weighed about 435 grams if it were a standard .54 caliber Hawken rifle round. That is right at one ounce. Traveling at a terminal velocity of a typical spent round, it would have still been traveling at about 200 feet per second, at least, probably more.

    You are absolutely correct that it was not only a stupid act, and IMHO, a criminally negligent one at that.

  7. Technically speaking, to say that the gun was fired ‘into the air’ is incorrect if the bullet traveled nearly a mile.

    Firing a gun ‘into the air’ normally means straight up. That which is fired straight up comes straight down at terminal velocity; i.e. not sufficient to penetrate a skull. Consider the penny falling from the building myth; i.e. that it will lodge in a person’s head. It’s ridiculous.

    The guy who fired the shot didn’t fire the gun ‘into the air’; he had to fire it at a trajectory between something like 20-45 degrees above the horizon. With such a large bullet, i.e. around 50 caliber, any reasonable gun owner would have known that such a shot could be lethal at the very long range made possible by the trajectory.

    If the gun owner INTENTIONALLY shot that gun at such a low trajectory into a populated area then you bet your ass he’s criminally liable.

  8. Perhaps I’m unfairly characterizing the points of view of several posters here, but I’m seeing the same generalized gun outrage that is directed at modern firearms. Attempts to restrict them are always followed by assurances that they don’t want to take everyone’s guns away, that they aren’t in favor of banning them.

    Yet here we see the 2nd being demonized because a guy with 18th century technology acted negligently. So if the 2A is to blame over this, then is *any* firearm acceptable?

  9. Andy, a .54 caliber lead Minié ball weighs 435 grains more or less. That is just a tiny bit under one ounce. A one ounce spent slug will fall at a terminal velocity of about 125 to 150 miles per hour. That is more than enough to kill someone if hit in the head. Like our hapless KKK guy who fired his .45 ACP straight up and the falling slug hit him square on the top of his skull, killing him.

    I repeat, the guy was an accident looking for a place to happen. I agree with Mike that the fellow needs to be prosecuted, since the Amish are a forgiving people who are not at all likely to sue him. I am not as forgiving.

  10. OS, I was thinking about in-lines and other such mutants. If I remember correctly, the muzzle velocity and effective range you state is correct, although my knowledge of physics does not extend to the extreme range. In any case, the various factors that had to come together to allow this tragedy are a chance in a . . . . Then this is being reported by a FOX affiliate.

    I lived very close to Fredricksburg up to about 10 years ago and not all that far now. It is a heavely wooded area with moderate hills. That a round would have traveled that distance without hitting something else is strange.

    About 15 years ago, probably longer, a group of Amish kids were hit by a car near this town. Quite a few were killed. The parents were forgiving.

    We who live in the area bitch about being caught behind a buggy on the hilly roads, that the Amish are sometime hard to deal with, or other concerns. Yet, when stuff like this happens you have to take note. Also, if more stories about the Mullet Clan and their beard-cutting assaults on otherwise peaceful people appear, I hope the world can resist finding “humor” in the crimes

  11. Guns don’t kill people, idiots who have easy access to guns kill people.

    If that poor Amish girl had exercised her 2nd Amendment rights, and packed heat, why…

    …she’d still be dead. But she’d be armed, and that’s that’s the most important point!

    The authorities could have fulfilled the NRA fantasy, and pried the gun from her cold, dead fingers.

  12. Andy, a modern Hawkin reproduction is capable of a muzzle velocity in excess of 2,300 fps and an effective range of up to about 400 yards. If muzzle elevation is at an optimum 45 degrees, the round should have no trouble at all flying a mile, especially if there is a tailwind.

    It is people like that who give the rest of us a bad name.

  13. OS,


    “If he had hit her with his car, we would not be having this conversation.” Exactly

    If I get into my car, back it out of the driveway, then put it in Drive but before accelerating forward, put on a blindfold … what are the chances that I will hit, maybe even kill someone once I apply the gas (or electric)?

    Knowing that I had purposely applied the blindfold before accelerating, who, in their right mind, would claim the death of the person I hit was accidental? A car lover?

    rcampbell wasn’t putting up a strawman … he was pointing directly at something gun lovers do everyday … blindfolded.

  14. I’m not a gun owner and yet I believe the Second Amendment is in force until it is in turn amended. That really isn’t the issue here. The issue is whether there is criminal liability for discharging a weapon recklessly. To me that answer is yes. If you are going to use a deadly weapon for your own sport, than you must bear the consequences if someone is harmed through your action. If the facts are correct, which we don’t know at this point, than the man should be prosecuted for reckless endangerment or manslaughter and do real time for it.

  15. To follow up after giving this some further thought. If the rifle had an extra heavy load, although overloads are disipated and contribute little to the range, and if the weapon was elevated at the precise angle for maximum range, it is still difficult to believe the one mile figure. My experience is with historical reproductions and some original arms. Due to the addition of muzzleloading hunting seasons there has been an avalanche of very modern and very ugly weapons to take advantage of regular hunters that want to extend their season. The capability of the modern designs is something about which I know nothing. It does seem very possible that the individual may have been using a modern type gun as most traditionalists would never discharge the weapon into the air.

  16. Blouise, I thought you were talking about the values as a national policy decision. I did not read carefully enough.

    At any rate, you cannot fix stupid. To paraphrase Flip Wilson, it goes clear to the bone. The guy was stupid…..and careless.

    If he had hit her with his car, we would not be having this conversation. There are almost as many people killed in motor vehicle crashes every year as were killed in the Vietnam war. Numbers vary from year to year, but the approximation is there. The difference is that almost everyone owns or uses automobile transportation.

    Most gunshot deaths (approximately 56%) are due to suicide. You can pretty well take it to the bank that a serious suicide will use the means at hand. Suicide numbers will not jiggle much in total numbers if firearms were removed entirely.

    A study done by Gary Kleck, a criminologist, compared various survey and proxy measures and found no statistical correlation between firearm ownership and gun violence. His study was published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. Here is the abstract:

    Valid measures of macro-level gun levels are essential to assessing the impact of gun levels on crime and violence rates, yet almost all prior research on this topic uses proxies that are either invalid or whose validity has been assumed rather than demonstrated. The present study uses city, state, cross-national, and time series data to assess the criterion validity of over two dozen gun indicators. The criterion measures used are primarily direct survey measures of household gun prevalence. The results indicate that (1) most measures used in past research have poor validity, making past findings uninterpretable, (2) the best measure for cross-sectional research is the percentage of suicides committed with guns, and (3) there are no known measures that are valid indicators of trends in gun levels, making credible longitudinal research on the subject impossible at present.


  17. ““Police traced the blood marks back toward the man’s home…”

    Perhaps the dead girl, returning from her Christmas party, hung outside the carriage for a while leaving a trail of blood until she finally bounced out into the ditch at the side of the road.

    Stupid reporters. Three cheers for the Second Amendment!!!

  18. Otteray Scribe

    Blouise, if one wants to clarify those values, the way to do it is to propose a new Constitutional amendment repealing the Second Amendment. Otherwise the argument is just arguing for the sake of argument. It will go nowhere in the face of the Heller and McDonald decisions. Stare decisis.


    No, OS, values clarification is a personal exercise in determining that which you, as an individual, value. Nice try though.

  19. Rick, I caught that but did not comment on it because it was so outlandish. I think they found him because somebody heard the report of the rifle when he fired it.

    The reporter needs to take a remedial course at journalism school.

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