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Thread: Meramec float trip - fatal shooting after dispute over property rights along waterway

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    Meramec float trip - fatal shooting after dispute over property rights along waterway

    STEELVILLE, Mo. • It was just supposed to be a pit stop.

    A group of family and friends on an annual float trip stopped at a gravel bar in the Meramec on Saturday afternoon to refresh drinks and answer the call of nature, according to Loretta Dart, who was on the trip. Her cousin went into the woods to urinate.


    In doing so, he apparently ignited the ire of a property owner along the river fed up with people traipsing on his property. James Robert Crocker, 59, confronted the group with a 9 mm handgun, and in an altercation over property rights that rapidly escalated to gunfire, fatally shot Dart’s husband in the head from a few feet away, authorities say.

    http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/c...4dbe7c9c3.html
    As a property owner myself, in South Carolina, with water courses similar to Huzzah Creek, I would have not confronted the floaters and simply called the sheriff.

    This is in reply to your request for an official opinion from this office concerning the question whether individuals are authorized to float or fish in the Little St. Francis River or from the bank of such stream, or camp on the bank of the river or on a sand or gravel bar of the river, and also asking whether a land owner of real estate adjacent to the river can stretch barbed wire across the river in order to keep his cattle from going onto adjoining land.

    http://ago.mo.gov/opinions/1971/264-71.htm
    Please take note of the listing of rivers, not "creeks" at the bottom of the opinion letter.

    Elder v. Delcour (Mo. 1954)The current basis for the law regarding floating and private property rights.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare View Post
    Waiter! Another round of popcorn and Pinot Noir! This is going to be interesting. Thanks for the notice of Castle Doctrine/SYG/personal and public property rights all tangled up with self-defense.

    As I recall from South Carolina law, from during the development of The Law Abiding Citizens Self-Defense Act of 1996, if it is wet enough to float upon the state owns the rights.
    That may be true in South Carolina, but in Missouri, Elder v. Delcour seems to state otherwise. I would not test this legal scenario on my land in SC. If it ain't a direct threat against me, my family, or my livestock, I'll just call the sheriff. Insurance and a civil judgement will replace damaged timber and crops. the courts seem to favor the property owner when family and livestock are threatened. Trees and shrubs, not so much in my view.

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    Campaign Veteran marshaul's Avatar
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    What a bunch of morons.

    First, the property owner fires warning shots:

    Loretta Dart said they stopped at the gravel bar before 2 p.m. but weren’t there long before Crocker confronted them with a gun, starting with her cousin who went to urinate. The man said they were on private property and to get out. He waved his gun around and fired it in the air and into the ground near Paul Dart and her cousin, Loretta Dart said.
    He could have been legally shot by the trespassers in self-defense at this point.

    But then, we get these gems:

    Kling said, “Put that gun down and we’ll see who has the power,” according to Loretta Dart. Kling, 24, of Robertsville, said he and his stepfather were trying to reason with the man.

    Then, Loretta Dart said, her cousin picked up a rock. (Crocker told police the man had a rock in each hand.) Her husband stood between her cousin and the gunman.

    “My husband tried to calm the guy down,” Loretta Dart said. “He went to the guy’s arm to try to stop him, but the guy jerked back and popped him in the face.”
    I've got some advice for folks: when a guy with a gun tells you to get off his property, leave. Do not argue with him. Do not pick up weapons. And DO NOT grab for his gun arm. You will be shot.

    I gotta say, the trespassers sound like real lowlifes.

    If I were on the jury, I'd acquit him.
    Last edited by marshaul; 07-23-2013 at 10:24 AM.

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    Meramec float trip - fatal shooting after dispute over property rights along wa

    Definitely idiots, their lowness or highness in life is debatable.

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    Campaign Veteran marshaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ComradeV View Post
    Definitely idiots, their lowness or highness in life is debatable.
    True, we're only getting a snippet here.

    But I gotta say, I started off sympathetic to them until I read that account. They come across as the sort to expect to be able to show up on posted private property, urinating everywhere and drinking away, and then get argumentative when told to leave.
    Last edited by marshaul; 07-23-2013 at 10:38 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marshaul View Post
    What a bunch of morons.

    First, the property owner fires warning shots:

    He could have been legally shot by the trespassers in self-defense at this point.

    But then, we get these gems:

    I've got some advice for folks: when a guy with a gun tells you to get off his property, leave. Do not argue with him. Do not pick up weapons. And DO NOT grab for his gun arm. You will be shot.

    I gotta say, the trespassers sound like real lowlifes.

    If I were on the jury, I'd acquit him.
    Trespassers will likely be the first thing to be determined. based on current Missouri law, and it is not clear even then, those folks may not have been trespassing even though the property owner's property line extends to the center of the waterway. The MO Supreme court case did not address a SD situation, only a trespass claim. This is new territory in Missouri. The resultant court case could set a dangerous precedent for the recreational use of Missouri waterways if it is determined that the floaters were trespassing. If they were trespassing then the SD claim will be further strengthened.

    This case bears watching by all in Missouri and other states that use Missouri waterways for recreational purposes.

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    Campaign Veteran marshaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC for ME View Post
    Trespassers will likely be the first thing to be determined. based on current Missouri law, and it is not clear even then, those folks may not have been trespassing even though the property owner's property line extends to the center of the waterway. The MO Supreme court case did not address a SD situation, only a trespass claim. This is new territory in Missouri. The resultant court case could set a dangerous precedent for the recreational use of Missouri waterways if it is determined that the floaters were trespassing. If they were trespassing then the SD claim will be further strengthened.

    This case bears watching by all in Missouri and other states that use Missouri waterways for recreational purposes.
    I'm not going to pretend to be an expert at Missouri law.

    As I understand it, it's generally allowed to stop on a gravel bar which is, some of the year, part of the streambed.

    But the owner's property extends to the center of the waterway. So, I suppose the question is, when can a no trespassing sign have weight?

    It was posted. And they did flagrantly ignore it. This significantly reduces my sympathy level, especially when they decided to argue the point.

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    Campaign Veteran marshaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare View Post
    Missouri Revised Statutes
    Chapter 569
    Robbery, Arson, Burglary and Related Offenses
    Section 569.140
    http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C500-599/5690000140.HTM
    Well, if it weren't by the water, it would be pretty clear-cut.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marshaul View Post
    I'm not going to pretend to be an expert at Missouri law.

    As I understand it, it's generally allowed to stop on a gravel bar which is, some of the year, part of the streambed.

    But the owner's property extends to the center of the waterway. So, I suppose the question is, when can a no trespassing sign have weight?

    It was posted. And they did flagrantly ignore it. This significantly reduces my sympathy level, especially when they decided to argue the point.
    Where the trespass occurred and where the shot was fired is the key. Based on the news report the victim was on the gravel bar. There is no specific mention that the victim was beyond the vegetation line. I suspect that someone trespassed and the victim interjected himself into a situation that resulted in his death.

    The vegetation line is generally accept as the line where a property owner can claim a trespass. It is mentioned in the MOSC case, but in that case Elder was portaging around a obstacle and not staying beyond the vegetation line or beyond the vegetation line. The problem, as it is with any waterway, is that erosion will change where the vegetation line is. Gravel bars can come and go, though not very far or very often on the waterways that are normally used for recreational purposes.

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    Again, the cited RSMo is not relevant to the cite MOSC case. Nor is it relevant to the OP. But, in the spirit that the previous was submitted, the OP falls under MO DNR and LE, not the Dept. Of Ag. The department of Ag does not regulate private property that has a waterway the DNR does.

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    Campaign Veteran marshaul's Avatar
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    I missed that "50 members" bit.

    50 people arguing and refusing to leave when legitimately trespassed... Picking up rocks and talking about "we'll see how powerful you are without the gun". My sympathy level went down some more.

    Frankly, I'm starting to think these morons handed him a valid self-defense claim on a silver platter by being incapable of behaving with propriety.
    Last edited by marshaul; 07-23-2013 at 11:57 AM.

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    Some of those 50 were children, including the victim's kids if the initial reports are correct. But, the STL Post Disgrace has been known to embellish from time to time. Not that it makes a difference. If true, it sure must be tough to watch your dad get shot in the face. Especially when your dad was attempting to diffuse the situation.

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    Thanks. I wonder if the LE and the prosecutor are being discrete given the current urge to introduce SYG wherever possible. It seems that it is a white on white crime so the media may not be as enthusiastic about this case as the media was about a different case.

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    Campaign Veteran marshaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC for ME View Post
    Some of those 50 were children, including the victim's kids if the initial reports are correct. But, the STL Post Disgrace has been known to embellish from time to time. Not that it makes a difference. If true, it sure must be tough to watch your dad get shot in the face. Especially when your dad was attempting to diffuse the situation.
    Is attempting to grab the arm of a guy holding a gun a reasonable way to defuse the situation? I mean, what do you expect is going to happen?

    Granted, that guy had apparently fired "warning shots". But don't you think leaving another's property would be the most reasonable way of "defusing" the situation? Even if that guy was threatening you?

    I think, if I was part of that group, I would have been telling that one dude to put the rocks down, and the group as a whole that we needed to be leaving. Rather than getting up in the armed dude's face and grabbing towards his gun. But then again, I like to defuse situations.

    The presence of children doesn't convey much one way or the other. But yes, they are certainly deserving of sympathy. I'm not nearly so certain about the adults, though...
    Last edited by marshaul; 07-23-2013 at 02:35 PM.

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    MO DNR water laws 300+ pages.........http://www.dnr.mo.gov/pubs/WR51.pdf

    Another shorter FAQ version..............http://www.dnr.mo.gov/pubs/pub1352.pdf
    Last edited by 9026543; 07-23-2013 at 01:47 PM.

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    I used to own river frontage very near where this happen. Once I had a group of friends camping out and I invited the Sheriff and the Local MDC Agent out to talk about tresspass law in Missouri. They gave a detailed account of Elder v. Delcour (Mo. 1954). This was a staged but real event in Crawford Co. to establish trespass law in Missouri. The parties involved worked together to execute an arrest and the next steps to take it all the way up the legal ladder.

    I heard all the details and the moral of the story is "Common sense should rule". Obviously these good olde boys lacked that..... I dealt with tresspassers frequently. It was easy when yoiu had an AR-15 on your shoulder and spoke softly and calmly. On our gravel bar I'd just ask them nicely to take their trash when they left. When a "couple" would hoof it into the woods near the river (Happened more than once) I never bothered them, just set back and let nature happen, all natural... worth the price of admission too.
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    Wow just Wow.

    IMHO, there are several circumstances involved, trespass is the least of them. Dead to right, they were taking a dump on a no trespass sign on your property, it is not escalated to deadly force, the end, it is almost 100% a moot point, almost. Why almost, because it if it is determined trespass did NOT happen, the property owner would be 100% the aggressor and might even jump it to murder one.

    Since that is indeed a point of debate that is moot to the death, then you have to look at those circumstances and those are really not looking good for the land owner.

    1. brandished the firearm over a misdemeanor, not a good idea.
    2. negligently discharged the firearm, depending upon testimony, if he shot it at an angle that crossed the waterway he broke the law twice.
    3. he negligently shot at the ground near the feet of one of the parties, did he or was he just a real bad shot? I bet the prosecutor refrences that he may indeed have been trying to shoot them with that shot.
    4. the guy with a rock in his hand or both hands, well they can be weapons, I believe the size of the rock would be a significant factor in deciding if the shooter indeed had a reasonable mans fear for his life, aka they need to be big rocks.
    5. here comes the kicker, all of this becomes moot itself when the victim went for his arm, or did he go for his gun? If argued he was going for the gun, then it indeed is a deadly force struggle that the victim shifted to the aggressor possibly.

    Since this info was developed from the post disgrace, it is VERY likely that a lot more to the story exist and any of the reported facts may indeed be totally false or even manufactured.

    I must say, if that dude comes down to the river bank waving a gun around screaming for me to leave I am indeed gone and without any doubt what so ever I would have been armed during the encounter, but I would absolutely left, sought out a safe location with cell service or other means of communication and called the police including following through with charges as applicable.

    There are also indications that say the shooter failed a toxicity screen and may have been intoxicated, again, it may be internet lore or fact, just a claim being made on some forums.

    My family also owned river property on both sides of a river, folks floated through a lot, they littered a lot, but not a one ever resisted a simple "ya'all need to move along, this is private property not a public access, take your trash with you please" and I would have to say a whole lot hollared "sorry, we were just grabbing a bite" etc. Never any kind of confrontation. if we were down there fishing, swimming, drinking beer sometimes folks would ask if they could stop and the answer was always sure and if they wanted they could toss their trash in the truck.

    IMHO this is going to be a mess of a case as i believe it will be argued that both parties were pushing for a fuss and it happened with horrible results. Sad for EVERYONE involved.
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    Campaign Veteran marshaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMTD View Post
    4. the guy with a rock in his hand or both hands, well they can be weapons, I believe the size of the rock would be a significant factor in deciding if the shooter indeed had a reasonable mans fear for his life, aka they need to be big rocks.
    5. here comes the kicker, all of this becomes moot itself when the victim went for his arm, or did he go for his gun? If argued he was going for the gun, then it indeed is a deadly force struggle that the victim shifted to the aggressor possibly.
    Unless they were real tiny, any rocks at all constitute potentially deadly force.

    People can be so f'in dumb, can't they?

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    Quote Originally Posted by marshaul View Post
    <snip> But don't you think leaving another's property.....
    It remains to be seen if the floaters were trespassing. I focus on trespassing because it is reported that some of the floaters claimed they were on public property and this justified their not having to leave. Add alcohol, and a dangerous situation was developing. The property owner's property line extending to the center of the waterway does not mean that he had the authority under the law to claim trespassing. I suspect that this case will hinge on his legal right to claim trespassing on the gravel bar. Based on my reading of Elder v. Delcour this dude is going to have a tough time of it. The SD claim may be the easy component of this case.

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    Campaign Veteran marshaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC for ME View Post
    It remains to be seen if the floaters were trespassing. I focus on trespassing because it is reported that some of the floaters claimed they were on public property and this justified their not having to leave. Add alcohol, and a dangerous situation was developing. The property owner's property line extending to the center of the waterway does not mean that he had the authority under the law to claim trespassing. I suspect that this case will hinge on his legal right to claim trespassing on the gravel bar. Based on my reading of Elder v. Delcour this dude is going to have a tough time of it. The SD claim may be the easy component of this case.
    I agree the court case will hinge on this issue.

    What I meant was, if I ever found myself in that situation, I would consider accepting the word of a man with a gun and an obvious "no trespassing" sign that I was on his property. Maybe the issue of trespass is ambiguous, but I'd think the gun and the sign could clear it up well enough for me to be on my way. Even if the guy is technically wrong.

    It's not worth a fight. It's definitely not worth dying over.

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    Regular Member Superlite27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC for ME View Post
    The SD claim may be the easy component of this case.
    Easy to dismiss.

    1) He fired several "warning" shots. Really? If you have time to decide to fire warning shots, you must not be in much fear of IMMEDIATE BODILY HARM, eh?

    2) He shot one of the only people WITHOUT a rock in their hand.

    3) By HIS OWN ADMISSION....reportedly said to the state trooper arriving at the scene, "I just shot the one closest to me."

    Yep. Pretty cut and dried. This guy is going to do time. Comments such as, "He was always a nice guy." made by neighbors aren't going to matter one little bit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marshaul View Post
    I agree the court case will hinge on this issue.

    What I meant was, if I ever found myself in that situation, I would consider accepting the word of a man with a gun and an obvious "no trespassing" sign that I was on his property. Maybe the issue of trespass is ambiguous, but I'd think the gun and the sign could clear it up well enough for me to be on my way. Even if the guy is technically wrong.

    It's not worth a fight. It's definitely not worth dying over.
    If a dude with a pistol tells me to leave, and I am in public park, I'm leaving. Dude with gun has the power, so to speak.

    The floaters have a absolute right to use the waterway because the water belongs to the people of the state. As soon as you set foot on "dry" ground you may be trespassing. The land owner owns the ground adjacent to the water and the ground under the water to his property line.

    Unfortunately for the floasters:
    Meramec River - Crawford County - non-navigable, Slovensky v. O'Reilly, Mo., 233 S.W. 478 (1921);

    http://ago.mo.gov/opinions/1971/264-71.htm
    Non-navigable means that Crocker could be within his rights to claim trespassing. The incident took place just about smack-dab in the middle of Crawford County. Crocker could not place a sign on the gravel bar, that would be a violation of state and federal law. He can only place a sign, or paint trees with a purple mark, above the vegetation line. So, it gives the appearance that his private property line starts away from the waterway and thus the gravel bar.

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    Campaign Veteran marshaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Superlite27 View Post
    Easy to dismiss.

    1) He fired several "warning" shots. Really? If you have time to decide to fire warning shots, you must not be in much fear of IMMEDIATE BODILY HARM, eh?
    Maybe not at the moment of firing the warning shots... This part is unclear. The police seem to be claiming he fired all the shots in rapid succession.

    2) He shot one of the only people WITHOUT a rock in their hand.

    3) By HIS OWN ADMISSION....reportedly said to the state trooper arriving at the scene, "I just shot the one closest to me."
    Oh, so one dude holding a rock, and the other guy grabbing for your gun are completely unconnected? That doesn't constitute a serious threat?

    This is not a cut and dry case.
    Last edited by marshaul; 07-24-2013 at 09:47 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Superlite27 View Post
    Easy to dismiss.

    1) He fired several "warning" shots. Really? If you have time to decide to fire warning shots, you must not be in much fear of IMMEDIATE BODILY HARM, eh?

    2) He shot one of the only people WITHOUT a rock in their hand.

    3) By HIS OWN ADMISSION....reportedly said to the state trooper arriving at the scene, "I just shot the one closest to me."

    Yep. Pretty cut and dried. This guy is going to do time. Comments such as, "He was always a nice guy." made by neighbors aren't going to matter one little bit.
    You could be right.

    Though:
    "I fired warning shots to try to disperse the crowd of 40 or so potentially hostile people so that I could get away from them."
    "I shot the closest guy to me because I thought he was grabbing my arm to knock me in the head with a rock and take my pistol away from me."

    Maybe not so cut and dried.

    Either way, with the uniqueness of SD cases, any significant negative impact to Missouri's SD laws is very remote. Crocker was, as far as I can tell, on his land, facing a hostile crowd of individuals claiming that they were on public property. He was then apparently assaulted when one of those hostile individuals grabbed for his gun. icing on the cake for being assaulted, any bruising or other marks where he was grabbed.

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    Regular Member Superlite27's Avatar
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    If anything, this case should be a PRIME EXAMPLE of keeping one's MOUTH SHUT.

    I feel for the guy. By all accounts, he seems to have had the genuine intent of defending his property. However, making a statement such as, "I just shot the one closest to me." serves no purpose other than to reinforce the idea that he simply popped one into the nearest bystander's head simply for emphasis. Whether or not the dead guy was reaching for his arm to calm him down, or reaching for his arm to take his gun away is all open to analysis and interpretation. It is an unresolved point.

    The phrase, "I just shot the one closest to me." on the other hand, doesn't seem to be a statement that will bring any benefit to the accused.

    Therefore, using this as an example, I offer that making ANY statement is probably not a good idea since it will be hard to tell how it will sound or "come off" when, and if a person appears in court.

    This statement doesn't appear to be too good. Hence, my original prediction that this guy is going to do some time.

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