Sheriff & state police refuse to investigate
ALTUS, Oklahoma––An alleged participant in the 11th annual fundraising pigeon shoot hosted by U.S. Senator James Inhofe marked September 11, 2015 by shooting one of the engine covers off of an eight-engine drone helicopter operated by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi.
“Senator Inhofe was participating in the pigeon shoot when the drone was shot,” Hindi said.
Drone videotaped suspect
Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7 that SHARK had recovered video from the drone which appears to identify the shooter.
Coming as the rest of the world solemnly commemorated the deadliest act involving aviation outside of wartime, the 9/11 shooting caused the drone to lose stability, but Hindi was able to keep it away from a trafficked highway and limp it back to a crash landing in a roadside ditch. The shooting came as the drone completed its third videography mission of the day.
“Pushing the limits”
Inhofe, 80, a Republican U.S. Senator since 1994, has quietly hosted pigeon shoots since 1995 at the Quartz Mountain Lodge in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, near Altus. SHARK became aware of the pigeon shoots and began collecting drone video documentation of them after receiving an August 2014 letter from a person claiming to be an Oklahoma Republican, who wrote:
“Someone, including Senator Inhofe, has apparently decided to push the limits beyond what is reasonable in most anyone’s mind and I believe it has been done just to provide shock value and show the public that Senator Inhofe is such a hard-core conservative that he will go as far as killing animals for no other reason than shooting practice, which is simply animal cruelty.”
“We let people do quite a bit here”
SHARK contends that the pigeon shoot violates the Oklahoma state anti-cruelty law. Captain Tony Woodruff of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation law enforcement division has told media that live pigeon shoots are legal in Oklahoma on private property.
“Pigeons are one of the animals that are not really protected by federal law since they’re non-migratory,” Woodruff told Sean Murphy of Associated Press in 2014. “We’re pretty liberal on our laws. We let people do quite a bit here.”
SHARK posted video of the drone taking off, of the pigeon shoot underway, and of Hindi crash-landing the drone at https://youtu.be/kLYmfx6h0SQ.
“Let’s be clear. This was no accident,” Hindi said. “Our analysis of the damage to the Angel,” as the SHARK drones are named, “reveals a rifle was used to bring it down. Shotguns were used for the pigeon shoot. The Angel flew above and well beyond shotgun range. The shoot-down is a premeditated criminal act,” Hindi alleged, “that would not have occurred without Inhofe’s full knowledge and consent.”
Hindi said he would “hand deliver a bill to Senator Inhofe’s Washington D.C. office and file an amendment to SHARK’s ethics complaint,” filed previously because of Inhofe’s sponsorship of the pigeon shoot itself, including alleged misuse of public resources.
“The complaint will be delivered to the offices of all the members of the Senate Ethics Committee,” Hindi pledged.
“We e-mailed Oklahoma Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson after the shoot down to demand an investigation,” Hindi added, “including interviewing Senator Inhofe and his donors to find out who committed the crime and what culpability the Senator has for allowing it to happen at his event. Earlier, we asked Thompson to provide state police for the event because we couldn’t trust local law enforcement,” said Hindi.
“Legal to shoot a drone”
After the drone was damaged, Hindi said, “SHARK called 911 to the Greer County Sheriff’s department to report the crime. SHARK was told that by the 911 operator that it was legal to shoot a drone. The department refused to come out to the crime scene or even acknowledge an e-mail SHARK sent the following day asking to meet with them.
“The sheriff either doesn’t know the law,” Hindi charged, “or he is corrupt and deliberately lying to protect a U.S. Senator.”
SHARK in 2014 videotaped Inhofe himself in the act of shooting at pigeons. Other participants were shown throwing banded captive-raised pigeons into the air to be shot, kicking wounded birds, and throwing them up to be shot again. Similar scenes were captured in 2015.
A former mayor of Tulsa and Oklahoma member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Inhofe has held a U.S. Senate seat since 1994. Chairing the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works from 2003 through 2007, and still the senior member of the committee, Inhofe may be best known for blocking legislation meant to slow climate change, arguing that global warming is a hoax, pushing for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and to expand offshore oil and gas drilling.
Inhofe’s most prominent campaign funders are associated with the oil and gas industries, but he has also reportedly accepted at least $51,000 in campaign financing from the National Rifle Association during his long career.
Polar bears, prairie dogs, sage grouse, wolves
Frequently Inhofe has opposed introducing or expanding protection for endangered and threatened species, including polar bears, prairie dogs, sage grouse, and wolves.
Inhofe has backed numerous Republican attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, and in 2008 assailed what he termed use of the Endangered Species Act on behalf of polar bears to “achieve global warming policy that special interest groups cannot otherwise achieve through the legislative process.”
In 2006 Inhofe won passage of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, extending to animal industry workers the provisions of the 1982 Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which covered only property.
In January 2014 Inhofe tried to amend the Farm Bill to repeal a provision prohibiting the USDA from inspecting horses slaughtered for human consumption.
Shooting drones is not legal in Oklahoma
Contrary to the statements allegedly made to SHARK by the Greer County sheriff’s department, shooting at drones is not legal in Oklahoma, but a widely publicized bill introduced in February 2015 by state senator Ralph Shortey, a Republican from Oklahoma City, would have made it legal.
“The criminal element. Drug smugglers are using these,” Shortey told media. “You know, cattle thefts, cattle thieves are using these things to track the movements of cattle.”
The Shortey bill cleared the Oklahoma Senate Judiciary Committee by a 6-4 vote on February 10, 2015, but died in the full Senate.
In March 2015, while the bill was pending, Oklahoma City anti-pimping and prostitution “video vigilante” Brian Bates captured high-quality drone video of a suspect. Bates first turned the video over to the Oklahoma City Police Department, who referred it to the Oklahoma City district attorney’s office. Bates then posted the video to his JohnTV web site on August 6, 2015.
Bates, 45, who works as a licensed private investigator, told Andrew Knittle of the The Oklahoman that he “recognized the ‘john,’ a man in his 80s whom Bates claims to have ‘busted’ before.”
Bates used the drone, he told Knittle, “to avoid a potentially violent confrontation with the pimp.”
Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control spokesperson Mark Woodward meanwhile explained to Tim Lalley of Associated Press the potential use of drones in drug investigations.
“We run a lot of high risk search warrants,” Woodward said.
Summarized Lalley, “Many cases involve open fields in parts of the state where agents suspect marijuana is being grown illegally. Piloting a drone over the sight instead of sending a team of agents to serve a search warrant could put eyes on the target without risking a person’s safety.”
On May 14, 2015, reported Melissa Hawkes of KOTV News On Six in Norman, Oklahoma, the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office used a drone to track and help apprehend carjacking suspect Billy Todd Simpson, 40, after a standoff at the Forest Ridge Golf Course near Broken Arrow.