A Nurse with a Gun

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ricochet Lies

Wadesville, Ind. (AP) -- A woman who was fatally shot Thursday while trying to coax her dog from a neighbor's yard was hit by a bullet that ricocheted off the ground and under a plastic fence before striking her shoulder. The bullet from a .357 magnum pierced both the lungs and heart of Nicole Stroud, 29, Vanderburgh County Coroner Don Erk said. The Evansville woman was leaning down, trying to get her Shih Tzu dog out of a neighbor's yard and through a hole in the bottom of a fence when she was shot.

The neighbor accused of firing the gun, Melinda Lindauer, 41, was arrested on preliminary charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide. She was still being held in Posey County Jail on Saturday. Posey County Prosecutor Jodi Uebelhack said she believes Lindauer fired from a back window of her house at a dog that was loose from a neighboring house, where Stroud was visiting her grandmother. The Lindauers live directly behind Stroud's grandmother. Wadesville is about 15 miles northwest of Evansville.

The prosecutor said Lindauer might not have seen Stroud and probably didn't intend to kill her, but criminal charges still were warranted. Indiana law states that a person can only fire a gun at a dog if it is threatening an individual or livestock. "After we got all the statements, it was pretty clear this was a criminal act," Uebelhack said. "It's never an accident to pick up a gun and shoot it."

Uebelhack said a statement given to police by Lindauer's husband, Lonnie, indicated that there was an ongoing dispute between the neighbors over the dog. She said he told authorities the dog had previously dug up a cat that was buried in the Lindauer's backyard. Melinda Lindauer's attorney, Nick Hermann, said he could not comment on the specifics of the case. But he said that the Lindauers are distraught over what happened. "Their thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the lady who died in this incident," he said.

Bullshit. The bullet did not just hit Nicole Stroud's shoulder. It drilled into her torso, searing it's way through one lung, her heart, and then the other lung. It extinguished her life as surely as it destroyed the lives of those around her.

I have a hard time visualizing a 357 magnum bullet that could change direction underneath the fence so radically as to strike someone in the shoulder, laterally penetrating both lungs and the heart as it went through the chest. in the news stories.

357 magnum bullets do not ricochet off dirt, fly underneath fences, radically change direction to strike a person's shoulder and then penetrate through every vital organ in the chest cavity. Especially a person standing on the opposite side of the fence, as close as Nicole Stroud appears to have been standing. Bullets do skip and ricochet. They do change course or expend energy after impact. A .357 magnum bullet has a lot of energy to expend. The course this slug would have apparently been forced to travel to avoid the fence, strike the shoulder of a person standing 5-10 feet away, then change course again to laterally penetrate one lung, the heart, then the opposite lung, makes one wonder who the hell was investigating this shooting in Wadesville, Indiana. The Warren Commission? Bullets do not do magic tricks! There has been no official statement concerning whether or not a hole was present in the fence, but that is immaterial. Ricochet bullets you fired recklessly are as poor an excuse as not seeing the innocent bystander behind a plastic fence you shoot through. They do not diminish your culpability.

People who have just unwittingly shot someone, through ignorance, recklessness or carelessness, claim strange things. It is not uncommon for such a person to try to diminish their responsibility and liability, both emotionally and legally. Shooting a human being is an irreversible act. Melinda LindauerYou can not get those bullets back. They are yours, and the damage they do belongs to you as well. The sudden realization that you have a person drowning in their own sanguine stew because of you actions often causes people to squeal "It just went off!" "I didn't know it was loaded!" "I didn't see him!" or "It must have ricocheted!" These self serving squeaks in the face of unrelenting reality do not mean that law enforcement or anyone else has to believe the excuses uttered by a person who just took a life.

I don't like little decorative dogs. It's OK if other folks want walking, yapping fashion statements in a furry bag, but they ain't my style. I like them even less when they crap on my yard. That doesn't mean I have a right to shoot the vile critter. A Shit-Sue dog isn't going to rip my trachea out and take my head off like the evil rabbit guarding the cave of Caerbannog. The animal was not a threat unless you believe Shih Tzu poop to be as lethal as land mines. A dog scratching under my fence simply means I need to block the damned hole with a cinder block or something. Just because dogs crawl under fences doesn't mean bullets do too.

Rule Four: Be sure of your target and what is behind it.

When deputies arrived at the scene, they found Nicole Stroud in her grandmother's backyard, surrounded by onlookers as volunteer firefighters performed CPR. Blood gushed from her mouth and torso with every chest compression. Posey County deputies detained and questioned the suspected shooter and her husband, Lonnie Lindauer. Nicole Stroud was air lifted to Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Indiana. Deputies said they found a .357 magnum handgun on the bed in the Lindauer's bedroom. Nicole Stroud was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Deputies arrested Melinda Lindauer on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide. Neighbors who didn't want to talk to media, say Melinda Lindauer had fired her handgun in the neighborhood several times in the past. She is being held in the Posey County Jail Friday. Bond is set at $100,000. No court date had been set. Yet. Nicole Stroud is survived by her husband, her grandmother, and her eleven month old daughter.

You are responsible for every bullet that leaves the muzzle of your firearm. Ethically. Morally. Legally. Every bullet has a lawyer attached to it. Melinda Lindauer is responsible for her actions, her decisions, and her bullets. They are hers. She owns them. She pointed that gun. She pulled that trigger. It's a shame she was not mature and intelligent enough to manage that responsibility better. If she had, Nicole Stroud would still be alive.

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Anonymous Homer said...

I don't dispute your proclamation of criminal negligence in this case; firearms don't load, aim and fire themselves, and whomever pulls the trigger owns the consequences.

As for ricochets off the ground, however, I beg to differ. I've been an RSO at my local club for several years, and one of our biggest problems is "skips" caused by low shots hitting the ground ahead of the berms, something we are constantly reminding the membership about. One of our rules, repeatedly mentioned and prominently posted, is "position all targets so all shots fired strike an impact berm." I've sent shooters home for the day and mandated an appearance in front of the the Disciplinary Committee for positioning targets low enough that rounds will not strike the berm. Once a round "skips" there's no way to predict where it will go. Or what it will strike.

And, it happens with all calibers, from .22 rimfire .44 Magnum, .223 Remington rifle cartridges to .338 Winchester Magnum and shotgun slugs. I've even seen it happen with buckshot. And, yes, the venerable .357 Magnum will skip as well. I've seen not one, but a dozen ground-impact rounds from a .38 Special revolver and a 9MM semi-auto skip over a 30 foot berm and land in our retention pond, about 800 feet from where the shooter was firing, which really caught my attention because I was walking by the pond at the time. There's something about hearing a round buzz overhead and then seeing the splash 20 yards away that gets one pretty damn focused, right now. Our Vice-President has a nice keyholed .45-caliber hole in the RH door of his pickup from a skip that cleared the 35 foot berm on the 100 yard range and hit his truck. Which was parked on our action ranges behind that berm, along with about 60 other vehicles and about 100 shooters and spectators at the time. If a slow-moving .45 bullet bullet has enough energy left after a skip to penetrate a truck door over 250 yards away and shatter the rolled-down window glass inside it, I'm willing to believe a bullet from a .357 magnum can skip and penetrate far enough into a human to cause death.

Remember Rule 4: Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. Every time you pull a trigger.

So, yes, the woman who pulled the trigger killed someone through her irresponsible act, and must bear the consequences. But, based on my experience, and that of our other RSOs, as well as an awful lot of shooters over the years,I'm not ready to rule out that it was not a ricochet until I see further evidence. For example, was there a bullet hole in the fence?

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another bullseye for Xavier. I couldn't agree more with your assessment. The shooter took an innocent life, and now an eleven month old child will be growing up without a mother because of it. This is a crime, and I hope the punishment is both swift and severe.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Thanks Homer. Your comment helps explain a huge question in my mind, which was why nobody found a hole in the fence, or at least why such a hole has not been mentioned by the media.

Eventhough theoretically a ricochet can go anywhere, I'm still puzzled. It seems the round may have impacted almost directly underneath the fence to prevent a hole, and then laterally penetrated the torso of a person trying to coax a dog back underneath the fence. It seems odd that the bullet would take such an acute angle upwards after the trajectory was so close to being parrallel to the ground. Skipping is one thing. Changing direction is another. If the bullet had ricocheted, it seems to me the new trajectory would have been a reflection of the previous, but then I'm no expert, and I have to agree that ricochets are totally unpredictable.

I think there is a 50/50 chance of the scene still taped off with crime scene tape because there is indeed a hole, but the shooter is claiming a ricochet. The facts are still coming out.

I have altered my post to take in account what you have said.

7:50 PM  
Anonymous RickR said...

If she was parallel to the ground and more or less parallel to the fence, looking through the hole in the fence, coaxing her dog back to her yard, the path could "skip" upward into the upper chest at a shallow enough angle to pass through all those organs. Draw an imaginary line from the upper chest under the collar bone(chest entry wound) to the other side through the heart. It could happen that way.

I think...

10:31 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

They said that she was trying to coax her dog through a hole under the fence. If I were trying to coax my dog in such a situation, I would not be standing, but rather, crouching down, or even laying down to try to get the dog's attention. If she were crouched or laying down, then a ricochet could be in a low trajectory under the fence and hit her. At least a possibility.....

10:42 PM  
Blogger Regolith said...

If the dog got under the fence, its reasonable to assume there's a fairly decently sized gap. And if the woman was leaning down low in order to peer under the fence and try to coax the dog out, its very plausible that the angle would be right.

Here, I even did a crappy Paint diagram: http://tinyurl.com/2yshun

Or, it could have hit a rock or something else that was in the dirt, which would have unpredictably altered the trajectory.

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Homer said...

Xavier - one thing police officers are trained in is to stay away from flat surfaces, even vertical ones. A ricocheting bullet will often stay close to the surface from which it ricocheted. Being a couple of feet off that surface reduces the chances of being hit rather substantially.

That said, at the range I've heard tumbling rounds (they have an odd buzz) on the back side of the 35 ft berm on our 100 yard range, and later discovered stripes in the grass about 25 feet in front of the berm.

There isn't enough information about this event to make a judgment; I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a secondary ricochet, perhaps from hitting a rock just under the ground surface. We have a similar problem with splatter from the berms, especially the 100 yard berm; for rifle matches the targets are always in the same place, so a substantial mass of lead is deposited in the berm directly behind each target. Striking that mass throws chunks off, and we've had bullets bounce off the solid mass of impacted lead. Which is why when we're shooting Garand matches from the 200 yard point on the 300 meter range adjacent to the 100 yard range - which puts the Garand match shooters barely beyond the 100 yard berm - we close the 8 points on the 100 yard range closest to the 300 meter range (the 100 has 24 points total). Even though the two ranges are separated with a 20 ft berm, it's no work at all to get peppered with lead chunks on the 200 yard line from shooters using the closest points on the 100.

I suspect the autopsy will reveal a lot; a tumbling bullet, which usually happens after a bullet ricochets, will cause massive tissue damage, generally a great deal more than a straight-on impact. And, based on the data you provided, if I were faced with a wound channel that changed direction dramatically, or an exit wound rather far away from the entrance wound I would suspect a tumbling bullet. The M.E.'s report should confirm or deny this.

5:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to be captain obvious here. But no pistol round'll do that damage unless being a direct shot... She probably wanted to get rid of the dog. Shot at it, missed and hit the owned ducking behind the wall. I wouldn't be surprised if onwer was despertrly trying to call the dog before madwoman execute it.


8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The woman could be lying but crazier things have happened. Either way she was totally in the wrong of course. Anyone remember many years ago there was a ricochet from a .44 magnum that went through the wall of an indoor shooting range, changed direction, then went through another wall, changed direction again and killed a young boy who was inside his home? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction....

11:58 AM  
Anonymous arcticelf said...

What homer said. I've never been near being hit with a low angle skip like that, but they are certainly scary.

The most impressive such ricochet I've ever seen was a .223 Win bouncing off _snow_ to impact the berm. We had a student jerk the trigger and pull a shot low, the bullet bounced off the snow about 10 yards in front of the berm, and up into the berm (thank goddess it stayed on the berm not over it).

We were able to duplicate that a couple of times the same afternoon. The snow in question was light powder, for what its worth.

All that said: you're absolutely right that the shooter owns her bullet and the death it caused, ricochet or no.


1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't care what the circumstances were. A person has to be vile and hateful to shoot a dog just for being in their yard. Now someone is dead because of their hatefulness. It is a shame someone had to die.
I don't care if the bullet changed directions 15 times, stopped, backed up, and took off again. The woman who did the shooting is just as guilty as if she has put the gun point blank to the victims head and pulled the trigger.
I have 3 small dogs. Dogs will be dogs. They are perpetually on the wrong side of whatever door or fence they are near. It is instinct to want to see what is on the other side.
Melinda Lindauer is a vile woman and I hope the law finds no mercy for her.

11:47 PM  
Blogger NocturnalRN said...

You have been TAGGED! Check out my post about being "it" for the rules. You have to do it, it's the rules :) You're it!

5:05 AM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

I think, of course, that this entire affair was tragic, careless and completely unnecessary. People do weird things when beloved pets are involved. Someone repeatedly allowing their little piece-of-crap dog to go into a neighbor's yard (I mean, it dug up their dead pet cat??? Jeez!) enable the makings of a wellspring of bad feeling to fester beneath the surface. I can understand how a asshole neighbor could drive one crazy. I don't understand how they could drive one crazy enough to whip out the .357. Now, a strategically placed bowl of antifreeze near the point of entry along the fence, on the other hand...

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn cops do this crap all the time and get away with it !!! Their damn bullets don't even "skip" off of something...You don't believe it, read the papers or watch the news !!!! John S. Kelly North Carolina

6:36 PM  

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