A rural Michigan man reported someone trespassing on his property to the Crawford County Sheriff’s office Sunday. When deputies arrived, they arrested the property owner for felonious assault with a deadly weapon — which was unloaded — on his own property.
Thomas Donald, a military veteran, and his 11-year-old son were hunting on their property. Thomas was armed with a single-shot .410 bore shotgun and his son had a crossbow when they came across a trespasser riding a bike, according to The Blaze.
Thomas and Heather Donald told reporters they have repeatedly had problems with people trespassing on their heavily wooded 10-acre parcel, so they posted “no trespassing” signs.
Thomas Donald reportedly accompanied the trespasser to the couple’s home, where he asked his wife to call the Department of Natural Resources to charge the man with trespassing.
What happened next shocked the couple. The Blaze reported:
When officers with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene, Heather says her husband held up the “open shotgun” with his left hand while holding the shell in his right hand to indicate the weapon was not loaded and assure officers he was not a threat.
The officers apparently didn’t see it that way. And while Heather later would start recording the incident, it should be noted that there is no footage available to show the moment deputies confronted Donald.
One of the deputies, identified by Heather as Shawn Schnoor, “fumbled” with his pistol and trained it on Donald, ordering him to get on the ground. Heather told TheBlaze it took her husband longer than the officer wanted because he has a badly injured back but he moved as fast as he could. Donald was handcuffed before police made their way to talk to the trespassing suspect.
When the situation deteriorated, Heather Donald began recording the scene with her cellphone. She was only able to capture 35 seconds of the activity, however, before one of the deputies made a move to grab it “as evidence.”
“No you won’t!” Heather Donald can be heard shouting on the recording.
“Yep. Ma’am you’re going to be under — .” At that point, the recording stopped.
The couple told The Blaze the deputies ordered her to delete the video, but the sheriff’s office denied the claim. The couple also said they were later able to retrieve the footage using recovery software and offered screenshots of her doing exactly that.
Section 750.234d of the Michigan Penal Code lists places where it’s prohibited to openly carry a weapon. One’s own property is not on the list, which made it perfectly legal for Thomas to openly carry a weapon on his own property.
However, Section 750.82 defines felonious assault as assaulting “another person with a gun … without intending to commit murder or to inflict great bodily harm less than murder.” The crime is punishable by “imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.
Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield told The Blaze that a felonious assault charge could be based solely on the testimony of the trespasser in this case. When asked about the empty shotgun, the sheriff said: “We don’t want to hinge this on whether or not the gun was loaded. The point is, he pointed the gun.”
Watch the brief YouTube video taken by Heather Donald.