ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Authorities have charged a former Marine marksman with shooting down a sheriff's helicopter, alleging that he bragged to investigators that it would be no problem for him to "make that shot."
Jason Kerns, 29, was arrested late Monday in the Aug. 6 shooting, and faces charges including assault with intent to commit a violent felony upon an officer.
Along with the boast about his marksmanship, Kerns told investigators he watched from his neighborhood as the chopper went down, according to sheriff's records released Tuesday. The records, however, contained no admission of responsibility.
Kerns was being held on $1.8 million bond. Police said they did not know whether he had obtained an attorney.
Authorities said they recovered several firearms from the suspect's home, including a rifle they believe was involved in the shooting, along with boxes of ammunition.
Pilot Chris Holland and sheriff's deputy Ward Pfefferle were in the copter when it went down and suffered injuries. Pfefferle reported hearing a gun shot.
Kerns is a former lance corporal honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2001, authorities said. He was a helicopter airframe mechanic who also worked as a marksmanship instructor, according to the sheriff's records.
Kerns told investigators the night the copter went down that he had been watching it hover low above a nearby golf course.
"I hate to say this but I was getting annoyed by the sound of the chopper because it was there so long," Kerns told investigators, according to the records.
He said he watched for a few more minutes then heard a "pop noise" and saw the copter crash.
Investigators questioned several people in the neighborhood and later went to Kerns' residence.
In an Aug. 8 interview, Kerns allegedly told an investigator who remarked that it would be difficult to shoot down a copter from a certain distance that he would be able "'to make that shot' at that distance with 'no problem.'"
Trajectory tests determined a bullet struck the helicopter's left pedal, one of the pedals that controls the craft. Had the bullet not hit the pedal, authorities have said it would have struck the pilot in the chest.
Holland, 43, suffered shrapnel wounds while Pfefferle, 51, suffered minor injuries. They were helping deputies on the ground who were investigating a burglary call when the chopper went down.
In an Aug. 8 interview, Kerns allegedly told an investigator who remarked that it would be difficult to shoot down a copter from a certain distance that he would be able "'to make that shot' at that distance with 'no problem.'
This was a dumb thing to say but heck any Marine should be able to hit a hovering helo at 400 meters, I can't say one way or the other if this guy did it or not but that would not be an unusual statment for a Marine to make. Marines are by nature confident about their abilities with a rife.
If this guy did it he deserves no special treatement but given the evidence they have, he may have just been an easy mark to pin it on.
I call BS on being to tell if the fragments came from his rifle, I am sure that they could tell that it was a .30 by the entry hole but after penetrating the airframe and striking the pedal I doubt that there would be usefull marks