Warning Shot to the Head
A motorist who shot and wounded a belligerent hitchhiker Wednesday at a highway rest area acted in self-defense, police say. The shooting happened just before 7:30 p.m. at the Nason Creek rest area on U.S. Route 2 near Lake Wenatchee and just west of Leavenworth.
The man who was shot, Jay Anthony Kneer, 45, was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he was in the intensive care unit in serious condition Thursday. He is listed as a Renton resident, but Chelan County Sheriff Michael Harum said Kneer spent much of his time in Eastern Washington.
Kneer has a criminal record going back 20 years, with more than 50 arrests in that time and multiple convictions for theft, trespassing, drug violations and robbery in King, Snohomish and Chelan counties. He was released last month from the Chelan County Regional Justice Center, where he had been since his arrest in January on suspicion of second-degree robbery. He was well-known to Chelan County deputies, Harum said, and was typically combative with them. He said that when deputies had to handle a call involving Kneer, "you made sure you had a second person there."
Before the shooting, Kneer had been hanging around the rest area. Harum said volunteers who handed out coffee and cookies to passing motorists told deputies that Kneer had been harassing them. The volunteers left at about 7 p.m., shortly before the shooting, so Kneer was the only person around when Dennis Shaw, 66, of Lynnwood, and his wife pulled into the rest area.
In the restroom, Kneer asked Shaw for a ride, but Shaw refused. Kneer followed him, yelling at him and demanding a ride, police said. Kneer's demeanor and aggression began to scare the motorist, Harum said, adding that Kneer had a reputation for aggression and, at 6-foot-2, could be intimidating.
Once he was back at his pickup truck, Shaw retrieved a 9 mm handgun. This only made Kneer angrier, Harum said, and he pulled out a quart-size bottle of whisky and swung it, missing Shaw, who was able to duck behind his truck's door.
Shaw told deputies he pointed the gun at Kneer and fired when Kneer did not back off, telling them he meant it as a warning shot. But the shot struck Kneer in the head. Harum said it appeared to be a clear case of self-defense and he does not expect the motorist to be charged with any crime. "He was pretty upset, and from what the deputies tell me, remorseful," Harum said. "It's pretty sad."
By Hector Castro
It's my belief that warning shots are usually not a good idea. They deplete ammunition reserves, and often serve to escalate conflict. The shot you wasted may be shot you needed to save your life. This is one example where they stopped the threat, however. Whether Mr. Shaw will suffer civil proceedings as a result is yet to be determined.
This encounter could also be cited as an example of raw, instinctive point shooting with a focus on the threat. Godspeed Mr. Shaw.