Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bullet Hole Found on Crop Duster During Refueling (With Video)

HIDALGO COUNTY - Blayne Rowland never imagined his family business would come under gunfire. But today his father filed charges against a man who shot at their crop duster. 

 "My dad didn't have any knowledge of being shot at until he landed. While refueling, our man on the ground noticed there was a hole in the wing; otherwise, he wouldn't have known it," explained Rowland, a pilot with Rowland Dusters.

He's spent 23 years in the air. While he's alone in the cockpit, he knows working with people comes with the territory.

"You get noise complaints. You get people who think they've been sprayed, flying too close to the house, scaring the animals, scaring the kids. We get that. The Valley is becoming larger and larger. You have people moving out into the rural areas," said Rowland.

"We try to do the best job we can for the grower and also the people on the ground as to minimize any complaints."

He got a call when the bullet hole was found in the plane. "I was on the way out to another job, and he called me on the radio... I said, ‘Well, you need to get a hold of the Hidalgo County Sheriff, because this guy needs to be caught.'"

Shootings like this are rare. "In the 18 years I've been in the Valley, I've never heard of an aircraft being shot at or shot at and hit," said George Garret, the Weslaco Emergency Management Coordinator.

"I think this is an anomaly."

Shooting at an aircraft is a felony. Rowland said he hopes the suspect is prosecuted.

"If this guy gets away with it or has a slap on the wrist, he's able to do it again... If that's the case, someone could be seriously injured," he told us.

In this case, no one was injured, but the shooting resulted in a costly repair bill and a criminal investigation.

Hidalgo County sheriff's deputies took the suspect into custody. Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said the suspect shot at the crop duster, because low-flying crop dusters bothered him.

"This was his way of handling it. It's a dumb thing to do," said the sheriff.

It'll be up to the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office to turn the case over to the feds. They can also choose to prosecute in state courts.

While searching for the suspect, deputies also raided another home earlier today. DPS helicopters spotted some younger men with guns. Trevino said those men are not involved and will not face charges.

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