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View Diary: Gun-totin' property owner kills a guy trying to defend his cousin, who urinated on a gravel bar (374 comments)

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  •  So tresspassers in Missouri can be shot on sight? (14+ / 0-)

    Notice: This Comment © 2013 ROGNM UID 2547

    by ROGNM on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 12:19:20 PM PDT

    •  Growing up in MO (10+ / 0-)

      that's what I always understood, if its posted, that may happen ;-)  

      Seriously, its a common courtesy to try to contact a landowner if you really need to trespass, especially if there are no-trespassing signs posted in clear sight.  If you have to trespass and encounter the owner, be courteous and explain your situation. If he says leave, leave.

      No, the landowner isn't justified in killing the man, he should be tried for manslaughter.   But if you're out in the woods or on a river and you see a no-trespassing sign, obey it, because you don't know how crazy or well armed the owner is.  If the owner comes out with a gun in his hand and tells me to get off his property, I would get back in my canoe or inner tube and find another spot along the Meramec to pee.  

      I spent a lot of time growing up along that river, I own property in Crawford County, a little way downriver.

      In the last 20 years or so, a lot of businesses offering float trips have sprung up around Steeleville, Meramec Springs, Blue Springs, etc.  The area is inundated with thousands of people floating down the river during summer months.  Heavy drinking, drugging, partying, nudity (eek!) littering (beer cans, bottles, coolers) and property destruction  have been the result. Sometimes the floaters are armed as well and do some shooting at the bank.  It's been a growing problem for property owners and local police.

      Crocker's property has a huge gravel bar on a riverbend that is probably a frequent stopping point for floaters.  (check the google map at the Post Dispatch link). He probably has gotten fed up with lots of noise, trespassing, littering, etc and is a cranky person to begin with.  He doesn't sound like the kind of guy who should be down there waving  gun around.

      From the photos at the link, it looks like he had his "no trespassing signs" about 100 ft inland from the riverbank. He's probably had encounters with obnoxious floaters before.  If he calls the sheriff, its going to take them 30 minutes or more to get there, so he probably thinks its his right to handle things himself - bad idea.

      This incident has probably been a long time coming. There was an article last summer, IIRC in the Post Dispatch about how the floating parties on the Meramec were getting out of control and dangerous.   I hope this spurs LE and county officials to crack down on the float trip companies and make them regulate their businesses better.  

      Shooting the guy in the head was completely uncalled for.  Crocker isn't the kind of guy who should have a gun and it sounds like he won't for the future.

      "The international world is wondering what happened to America's great heart and soul." Helen Thomas

      by Betty Pinson on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 03:18:15 PM PDT

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      •  Why on earth is this manslaughter and not (7+ / 0-)

        murder?  You don't get to shoot people in the head because you put up a "no trespassing" sign.  It doesn't somehow become the victim's fault because he failed to anticipate that the landowner was a nutjob.  

        •  Charge is second degree murder (6+ / 0-)

          Link

          Authorities on Sunday charged Crocker with second-degree murder. He was being held Monday in lieu of $650,000 bail at the Crawford County Jail.
          IANAL, but its probably second degree instead of first because the perp made his presence known, told them to get off the property and fired two warning shots.
          Loretta Dart said they stopped at the gravel bar before 2 p.m. but weren’t there long before Crocker confronted them with a gun, starting with her cousin who went to urinate. The man said they were on private property and to get out. He waved his gun around and fired it in the air and into the ground near Paul Dart and her cousin, Loretta Dart said.

          Crocker told a detective that men were yelling at him “stating that they weren’t going to leave and that the gravel bar was public property,” court records say.

          At one point, Crocker told Kling, “I have the power here. I have the power,” Kling said.

          Kling said, “Put that gun down and we’ll see who has the power,” according to Loretta Dart. Kling, 24, of Robertsville, said he and his stepfather were trying to reason with the man.

          Then, Loretta Dart said, her cousin picked up a rock. (Crocker told police the man had a rock in each hand.) Her husband stood between her cousin and the gunman.

          It wasn't pre-meditated, he didn't stalk and kill them without warning, etc. so no first-degree charge.

          "The international world is wondering what happened to America's great heart and soul." Helen Thomas

          by Betty Pinson on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 04:05:54 PM PDT

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        •  Exactly - angry man shoots trespasser in the (5+ / 0-)

          face in broad daylight, after menacing the trespassers by firing into the air and into the ground near one person's feet.

          The gun toter created the public menace with a deadly weapon, and then when the effect he desired was not immediately achieved he shot someone in the face in broad daylight.

          The stones don't matter, because everyone has a right to self defense.

          "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

          by LilithGardener on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 05:12:46 PM PDT

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          •  Interesting that you know what happened (0+ / 0-)

            Were you there?

            I didn't think so.

            So where is your information coming from?  Ah... apparently the family and friends of the dead man.

            Ever occur to you that they might be slightly biased?

            I suggest reserving judgement until we hear a bit more about what happened.

            I picked up three things from the article:

            1. It is not clear whether Crocker displayed his gun first or if the cousin picked up the rocks first

            2. Dart (the dead man) was grabbing for Crocker's gun or gun arm when Crocker shot him.  So Dart seems to have started the physical part of this incident.

            3. Members of the Dart party were drunk and aggressive.  (Whether the man who got killed was drunk is not clear.)

            •  Obviously I'm stating what I what I think (0+ / 0-)

              I'm not on the jury, and have no duty to give either party the benefit of any doubt.

              I certainly agree with you that the floaters sound like arrogant foolish jerks.

              Suppose Crocker testifies that they were throwing rocks from the gravel bar onto his property, or throwing even rocks at him. There is no evidence that any of them were committing a felony when he approached them with a gun.

              There is no evidence that he was in a vehicle when aggressive drunk floaters accosted him.

              If I understand MO law, he had a duty to retreat.

              "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

              by LilithGardener on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 05:59:25 AM PDT

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              •  You really have gone through the looking glass (0+ / 0-)
                Suppose Crocker testifies that they were throwing rocks from the gravel bar onto his property, or throwing even rocks at him. There is no evidence that any of them were committing a felony when he approached them with a gun.
                Throwing rocks at someone is assault with a deadly weapon - definitely a felony.

                However, there is no requirement for someone to be committing a felony, a crime, or even a simple tort like trespass before you can approach him with a gun.

                It would have been perfectly legal for Crocker to put down his jug of whiskey, pick up his gun in his hand, and walk over to the Dart party as soon as they entered is land.  Whether he could have done so if they were on public property might be more complicated depending on MO gun laws, whether Crocker had a permit, etc.  The rules if they were on Crocker's property but on a public easement are probably less clear.

                If I understand MO law, he had a duty to retreat.
                Missouri has a Stand Your Ground law.
                •  You're just pulling that out of your ass. (0+ / 0-)

                  A rock isn't a deadly weapon.  Normally, "deadly weapon" is statutorily defined.  I've never seen a rock within the definition of a deadly weapon—normally you're talking things like a gun, a knife > a certain size, or a knife with a spring mechanism in it.  

                  •  556.061 of the Missouri Code: (0+ / 0-)

                    “Deadly weapon” means any firearm, loaded or unloaded, or any weapon from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or serious physical injury, may be discharged, or a switchblade knife, dagger, billy, blackjack or metal knuckles;

                    •  I can see why you didn't post a link (0+ / 0-)

                      From the previous clause: http://www.moga.mo.gov/...

                      (9) "Dangerous instrument" means any instrument, article or substance, which, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury;
                      In short, dangerous instruments are also deadly weapons, in common parlance.   The definition of "deadly weapon" is frankly bizarre.  Apparently if I attack you with brass knuckles that's a deadly weapon, but a sword, a baseball bat, or a crossbow would not be deadly weapons.

                      Anyway, my original point remains - rocks can definitely kill you and throwing them at people is a felony.  If you don't believe me, let me throw a two or three pound rock at your head from a few feet away as hard as I can.  If you're alive and capable of pulling a trigger afterwards you can shoot me with a gun.  

                      See http://www.moga.mo.gov/...

                      565.060. 1. A person commits the crime of assault in the second degree if he:

                      (1) Attempts to kill or knowingly causes or attempts to cause serious physical injury to another person under the influence of sudden passion arising out of adequate cause; or

                      (2) Attempts to cause or knowingly causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument; or
                      ....

                      3. Assault in the second degree is a class C felony.

      •  It's not just a matter of beer cans and trash. (12+ / 0-)

        Some of these float trips are beyond partying.  People within the parties sometimes have guns and other crap, like fireworks, that they do real damage with.  They leave the stream and commit property damage on the farms themselves, scare cattle, catch crops and woodlands on fire, there have been incidents of farm pets being killed.  And this isn't a new thing, rowdy float trips have been going on for decades, I took a few myself in my youth.  But the number of people who are floating has become unbelievable, and they're not all just peeing on a gravel bar.

        And yes, in Missouri if you wander onto someone's property, particularly if it's posted, you're likely to be met with a gun.  That landowner with a gun is going to consider you the aggressor, he'll be considering you armed and dangerous whether you are or not.  If he shoots at you and doesn't kill you then chances are nobody's gonna bat an eye.  The farther into the hills you go the more likely this is.  Being respectful and apologetic and backing away might just save your life.

        I'm not at all defending the guy with the gun.  I'm just saying that there's more to this than a nut with a gun getting crazy on some poor water lover.  I lived the majority of my life amongst the hillbillies of Missouri, and I know what I grew up with and what I've seen since.  This particular guy is probably gonna go to jail for his crime.  But the dynamics at play along the Meramec and other popular float streams will not.

        "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." Ernest Hemingway

        by Got a Grip on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 04:58:44 PM PDT

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        •  Thanks (7+ / 0-)

          I've read in the news that the Meramec float season had grown way out of control and had a lot of problems.   Our property is about 4 or 5 miles from the Meramec, so we don't have to deal with it.  Deer season can still be a problem, though, with people coming, getting loaded and hunting on some local farms where owners charge them a daily fee.  They cross over onto our property all the time with ATV's.  My uncle and cousins deal with it, but the risk of the drunk hunters shooting each other is always a concern.  It's not like the old days, haha.

          "The international world is wondering what happened to America's great heart and soul." Helen Thomas

          by Betty Pinson on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 05:59:10 PM PDT

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      •  Thank you for the background on this area of (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nzanne, congenitalefty, 6412093, surfermom

        the river.

        If it's that much of a problem why can't local or state law prohibit drinking on the river?

        Why can't police simply start citing people for public drunkenness or public nudity or for disturbing the peace?

        Or are these property owners those who think the market can solve all problems and there is no need to raise taxes so the state police can put some State Police patrol boats on the river, and spend some time going around to the businesses instructing the floater businesses what behavior on the river is subject to citation/a fine.

        It might be very reasonable for local ordinance to say you can pee in the river, but you can't stop to shit in the woods.

        "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

        by LilithGardener on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 05:10:45 PM PDT

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        •  If there were cops stationed along the river (8+ / 0-)

          They likely would be citing people for a lot of things.

          There aren't. Which is part of the reason the floaters are so rowdy, because nobody is going to catch them.

          Not everybody, of course. But enough.

          There is wrong on both sides here. But really, if you stop along the river and somebody tells you to leave, and has a GUN, you LEAVE. Immediately. You don't argue with him.

          •  Agreed that it was beyond arrogance to (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            surfermom, a2nite

            argue with the man with a gun yelling at you to get off the "lawn."

            "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

            by LilithGardener on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 05:49:19 PM PDT

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          •  They have water patrols (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            IamGumby, LilithGardener, gerrilea

            but I'm guessing they don't have enough. The GoP legislature in MO has done a lot of budget cutting in the last several years and it's hurt the state departments quite a bit.  

            My uncle used to be a game warden in the county north of this one. He did a lot of water patrols catching poachers, etc.  He's retired now, but the stories he tells will raise your hair.  I told him he should write a book. My dad was a forest ranger in the next county to the east.

            My friends and I used to canoe on the Current, White and Courtois rivers when I was in college (mid 70's), but we usually went out before Memorial Day, when the water was higher (more rapids) and there were no other floaters. We drank a few beers, smoked a little pot and, one time, took acid (haha).  We didn't leave a mess.

            Today, a lot of people use kayaks and canoes, but a lot rent big inner tubes, tie them together and float in large flotillas with booze, drugs, music, etc.  The Meramec is big and slow in the summer. Its more for the crowd who doesn't want a rapids challenge, but wants to lay back and get loaded and sunburned.

            Back in the day, the lands bordering the river were farms that had been in families for generations.  Farmers were more tolerant.  Today, it looks like some of these farms are broken up and the riverfront areas sold cheaply to people who live there full time and are less tolerant.

            It's more like this today. Winter's Bone was filmed a few counties west and south from Crawford.

            Link

            "The international world is wondering what happened to America's great heart and soul." Helen Thomas

            by Betty Pinson on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 05:49:23 PM PDT

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          •  Some Spots Almost Need Lifeguards (0+ / 0-)

            On some rivers there are dangerous spots that drown drunks on inner tubes every couple weeks. But Darwin will have the last laugh when booze rules.

            Men are so necessarily mad that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness -Pascal

            by bernardpliers on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 11:08:21 PM PDT

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        •  So, in our area, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LilithGardener

          there's public access on a piece of annexed City property to a river that runs through private property in the County. Further, most of the private riverbanks are not accessible by road (either for law enforcement, firemen, or paramedics).

          Neither the Sheriff nor the PD want the hassle - or expense - of dealing with this.

          "Only a Vulcan mind meld will help with this congress." Leonard Nimoy, 3/1/13

          by nzanne on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 05:34:11 PM PDT

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      •  We're having similar issues in Colorado. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        IamGumby, LilithGardener, gerrilea

        Western water law is serious stuff, folks. And landowners are fed up with the rowdies.

        Just like the other river-based commenters here, I am not suggesting that Crocker was right, but I do think that local jurisdictions need to address these issues.

        In CO, the riverbanks AND river bottoms - important in a low water year - are owned privately. Now, I'm not going to say that no one should ever get out of his boat, but I will say if someone does, then gets hurt, who's liable? And what about the idiots who get out to enjoy a little bonfire or fireworks? It's a drought year, and landowners are terrified.

        It's also just not good ecology, btw. Pissing all over gravel bars at this time of year is not cool: there will be no cleaning them off. Animals and fowl who usually use these areas are scared off by human urine.

        So there are a lot of issues here and, frankly, this story makes my blood run cold. We have a lot of ranchers who could do the same darned thing. Legally.

        "Only a Vulcan mind meld will help with this congress." Leonard Nimoy, 3/1/13

        by nzanne on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 05:31:28 PM PDT

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      •  There's one major problem with your statement. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shaharazade

        The fact that the man probably didn't have a right to exclusivity over the property involved -- that is, a sandbar in a navigable waterway.  Assuming it's correctly described, the pee-er had the right to be there, and the guy's no tresspassing signs would only apply to parts of his property not considered part of the waterway.

      •  Thank You for Looking into This in Detail (0+ / 0-)

        Context is important.

        I would only add - If confronted by a disturbed person wielding a gun, why would one increase the level of conflict by arguing with him and picking up rocks? Why would one even hang around after "warning shots" were fired? It would not surprise me if alcohol were involved on both sides.

        "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

        by midnight lurker on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 10:32:01 AM PDT

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