Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Suspect pleads to opening fire on airplane

WICHITA FALLS — An Olney man pleaded guilty in Wichita Falls Tuesday to charges of shooting up an airplane.

Stephen Paul Riley, 41, appeared in federal court before U.S. District Judge Reed C. O’Connor, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Dallas.

Riley, who will remain on bond, faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the release. Sentencing is set for May 21.

According to documents filed in the case the incident occurred Feb. 22, 2008. A pilot flew his crop-dusting aircraft over property adjacent to the Flying Lead Ranch owned and occupied by Riley. The documents claimed Riley shot the aircraft with a firearm, striking it with multiple bullets. One bullet struck the rudder cable and nearly severed it. A bullet or bullet fragment also struck the V-strut bar, approximately one and one-half inches from the connector bolt. Bullets, or bullet fragments, caused a hole in the aircraft’s left rear wing and indentations on the plane’s left side. The bullet holes and other damage indicated that the aircraft had been shot by someone on the ground discharging a firearm upward into the air. The aircraft was leased by Keeter Aerial Spraying of Olney.

Documents also claimed that prior to the incident, Riley threatened Keeter’s owner, both in person and by phone, that he would shoot down any crop-duster that flew over his hunting ranch.

In August 2010, officials with Texas Parks and Wildlife, seeking evidence of illegal hunting, executed a search warrant at the Riley's property and discovered a disc that contained video footage of Riley firing approximately 23 shots at another Keeter aircraft spraying the same field in July 2007. In September 2010, when questioned by a Texas Ranger, Riley admitted to shooting at Keeter aircraft on more than one occasion.

The case is being investigated by the Texas Rangers and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Miller is in charge of the prosecution.

Riley's ranch specialized in offering a place for hunting of deer, turkey and other game. When authorities searched his property, they reportedly found video showing Riley shooting at cropduster planes. The search also produced theft charges against Riley. Attempted murder charges were filed against him by Palo Pinto County authorities in connection with the airplane shootings.

Story:  http://www.timesrecordnews.com

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