Man helping deer cross a street shot, killed by ‘frightened’ motorist
A man in western Washington state who was just trying to help deer cross a street in his neighbourhood was shot and killed by a passing motorist, who said he felt threatened.
Mr Dan Spaeth, 37, was with his wife, Alissa, alerting passing cars to deer crossing the road on Sept 7 when he was shot by a man driving by.
Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Detective Kendra Conley said police later detained and charged Dylan Picard, 22, with second-degree murder.
The Washington Post reported that Picard told investigators he shot Mr Spaeth because he was scared when he saw him and his wife blocking the road, and that he wanted to drive them away.
But a court filing by the detective on the case said Picard fired his gun “in response to a routine situation with no reasonable indications that he was in danger”.
According to an affidavit seen by the Post, Picard said he was driving on the road past Mr Spaeth’s house when the Jeep in front of him slowed down.
He said he saw a man and a woman on the street, and that the man appeared to yell at the Jeep and hit the car with his hands.
Picard said he got “scared” and grabbed the loaded gun he had in his car.
When the Jeep drove on and Mr Spaeth approached his car, he said he thought he saw Mr Spaeth’s wife reach into a bag.
He said he fired one shot out of the open passenger window “to scare the male and female”, and said he did not know whether he hit someone. He then drove away.
There was no indication in body-camera footage or in interviews with Mr Spaeth’s wife that she had a bag with her, the authorities said.
Picard was said to have acknowledged he could have driven around the couple instead of firing his gun.
Mr Spaeth was a correctional officer with the State Department of Corrections, said spokesman Chris Wright.
He had a seven-year-old son and was married to his teenage sweetheart Alissa, the Post reported.
“Everybody loved Dan like a brother,” Mr Jeff Perkins, a friend, told the Post. “If you needed money, he’d help you. If you needed a ride, if you needed anything, he was there, and a lot of times you didn’t even have to ask.”
Mr Spaeth’s death came after a spate of killings by Americans who have shot people in unexpected and uncalled-for situations. In August, a nine-year-old was killed by a neighbour while riding her scooter in Chicago. In April, a 20-year-old woman was fatally shot by a homeowner when she and her friends accidentally pulled into the wrong driveway.
“Dan has been described as someone always willing to do whatever it took to get the job done in what can often be a challenging work environment,” Mr Wright said. “He was killed in what appears to be a senseless act of violence. It’s tough to make sense of it.”