Some days, you just can’t make this stuff up. Back in June, a Virginia woman spied a drone hovering over her property, picked up a .410 bore shotgun and “blasted it to smithereens.” She didn’t do it just for a bit of target practice, however. Turns out that the lady’s neighbor is legendary silver screen actor Robert Duvall, and she thought (probably correctly) that the drone belonged to paparazzi trying to snap unauthorized photos of him.
Tech publication Ars Technica followed up on an earlier report in the Fauquier Times to tell the bizarre story in its entirety. Sixty-five-year-old Jennifer Youngman had just returned from Church and was doing some maintenance work on her two shotguns, including the .410 she would use shortly. She heard a buzzing noise, looked up and saw a drone sweeping across her property.
To Youngman’s credit, she did give the drone one chance to vacate her property, and had six or seven minutes peace and quiet after it departed. When it returned, though, she picked up her .410 and blew it out of the sky.
The drone’s handlers approached her, whereupon she told them that she’d called the police and that they needed to vacate her property. Apparently, the two parties didn’t exchange many words beyond that, but Youngman did notice that their car was much fancier than most of the vehicles in her neighborhood; another indication of unwarranted photographers.
“The man is a national treasure,” Youngman told Ars Technica, “and they should leave him the [expletive] alone.”
Sergeant James Hartman from the County Sheriff’s office confirmed that no one filed a formal complaint about the drone, suggesting that the party controlling it may have had something to hide. While people have shot down drones in Kentucky and California before, this is the first time such a thing has happened in Virginia.
The law is anything but clear regarding who was in the right. Some legal precedents suggest that landowners also own the air above their properties, up to 500 feet. On the other hand, drones may not count as trespassers the same way that humans do, and shooting them down could destroy property unlawfully, to say nothing of endangering the drones’ handlers.
For now, though, Robert Duvall’s privacy seems safe, although one must hope that he had a chance to read about the incident somewhere. Given that the man has played at least two porch-sitting shotgun aficionados in his career (Secondhand Lions, Get Low), he would almost surely appreciate the poetic justice.