Gerard Chasteen, 26, shot down a drone that had been searching for a missing dog on Long Island, New York, police said.
Suffolk County police said in a news release that Chasteen fired at least three shots into the air as the drone hovered near his home in St. James. The town is located on Long Island’s North Shore.
Chasteen faces felony charges and prison sentence if convicted. The dog the group had been searching for has since been found and reunited with her family.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Police: Chasteen Fired at the Drone From His Yard Using a Shotgun
A group called Missing Angels-Long Island was operating a small drone in the St. James area on Saturday, February 23, to search for a missing dog. According to a news release by the Suffolk County Police, the group lost communication with the drone around 4:45 in the afternoon.
They used the drone’s GPS system to figure out that it had last been airborne above a home on Rutherford Street. Group members Lynn Fodale told the New York Post that they thought the drone may have crashed after hitting a bird.
She and another volunteer, Teddy Henn, spoke with Chasteen who admitted that he had shot the drone out of the sky. They then called the police.
Police determined that Gerard Chasteen, who lived at the home, had used a shotgun. They said he “fired three shotgun shots into the air from the yard of his home, striking the drone.”
2. Detectives Confiscated Multiple Shotguns From Chasteen’s House & Ordered Him to Appear in Court
Gerard Chasteen was found to have multiple shotguns inside his home. Police confiscated the weapons.
He was not taken into custody. Instead, police issued him a Field Appearance Ticket for a later date.
The New York Post spoke with volunteer Lynn Fodale, who said that Chasteen admitted that he had shot the drone out of the sky. She said that when she asked him why he did it, he just responded, “you can’t fly over my house.” But Fodale said that the drone’s flight records proved that while it flew near the Chasteen’s house, it did not fly directly over the home.
3. Gerard Chasteen Faces Felony Charges For Firing at the Drone
Gerard Chasteen was charged with two felonies for shooting at the drone. Suffolk County Police said Chasteen faces charges of Third-Degree Criminal Mischief and Prohibited Use of a Weapon.
Under New York law, criminal mischief is applied when a person “intentionally damages property of another.” The degree is determined by the estimated value of the property. Criminal mischief in the third degree is a Class E felony punishable by up to four years behind bars if convicted.
The charge of Prohibited Use of a Weapon is also a felony. It’s defined in the penal code as such: “Any person who wilfully discharges a loaded firearm or any other gun, the propelling force of which is gunpowder, at an aircraft while such aircraft is in motion in the air or in motion or stationary upon the ground, or at any railway or street railroad train as defined by the public service law, or at a locomotive, car, bus or vehicle standing or moving upon such railway, railroad or public highway, is guilty of a class D felony if thereby the safety of any person is endangered, and in every other case, of a class E felony.”
Chasteen does not appear to have a prior criminal history, according to a search of online court records in New York state or federal records.
4. The Missing Angels Group Were Searching for a Dog Named Dezie, Who Has Since Been Found
The Missing Angels of Long Island were searching for a dog named Dezie when Chasteen shot down the drone. Posters of Dezie were also hung up around the neighborhood near Chasteen’s house.
The group said that Dezie had recently been adopted and they thought she may have tried to return to her old home. Luckily, they announced on Sunday, February 24, that Dezie had been found safe and reunited with her owners.
5. The Missing Angels Reportedly Purchased the Drone For About $2,000
The drone the Missing Angels were using was identified as a Mavic 2 Zoom drone. Lynn Fodale told Newsday that the group bought the drone for about $2,000 in part from donations. (The Long Island newspaper spelled her name Fozale, but a search on the Missing Angels Facebook page brings up the name Fodale instead of Fozale).
The drone retails on Amazon between about $1,300 and $2,000, depending on accessories added on.