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PA: Followup to Erie Gun Range Armed Samaritan Shooting, no Charges

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Article first appeared on Ammoland.com

U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Additional details have been released by the Erie County District Attorney’s office in the rare attack and defensive shooting at the State Game Lands Shooting Range 109. The incident happened on 22 December 2020.

From yourerie.com:

On December 22nd, 2020, a group of four friends made way to the Pennsylvania Game Lands in Greene Township to test out a recently purchased Beretta nine millimeter handgun.

Five people were directly involved in the shooting. Two have been identified. The attacker was Robert A. Eppley, 26 years old, who had served as a Marine. His fiancee, said to be pregnant with his child, was present. He shot his long term friend, Michael Patterson, 28 years old. Patterson’s girlfriend was also present.

The person who shot Eppley, to stop the attack, was an unnamed 67-year-old man.

The two couples had come to the gun range a little before 2 p.m. to shoot a Beretta 9mm pistol which Patterson had recently purchased.

A little while after they arrived the 67-year-old man arrived and set up on the pistol firing point to their immediate left.  He was firing a Ruger .22 caliber pistol. There is only three pistol firing points at the range.

Shortly after 2 p.m., the four friends had been taking turns shooting the Beretta. Robert Eppley had reloaded the pistol and fired about five shots downrange.  He abruptly turned to his right and commenced firing at Patterson. One report states he fired at Patterson and “his girlfriend”.

This correspondent has been unable to determine if “his girlfriend” refers to Eppley’s fiance or to Patterson’s girlfriend. From goerie.com:

Eppley then turned to his right and began firing the handgun at Patterson and his girlfriend, Daneri said. Patterson was shot five times and was taken to UPMC Hamot for treatment before being released from the hospital later that night. 

The 67-year-old Erie man then used his 22 mm Ruger pistol to shoot Eppley five times — twice on his rib cage and three times in the back — Daneri said.

If Eppley fired at one of the women, he missed. Patterson was hit five times. It appears the hits were not to vital organs, as he was released from the hospital later that night.

Upon seeing Eppley shooting at Patterson, and possibly one of the women, the 67-year-old armed Samaritan opened fire with his Ruger .22 pistol.

He hit Eppley five times, twice in the ribcage and three times in the back, presumably as Eppley turned during his attack on the others.

Both Patterson and Eppley were hit five times. Patterson with a 9mm, Eppley with a .22 rimfire.  Patterson was released from the hospital the same day. Eppley was quickly disabled and died at the scene. Both shootings were at close range, about 10 feet.

After Eppley went down, the 67-year-old attempted to render first aid and called 911. Eppley was pronounced dead at the scene.

Where people are hit is more important than what they are hit with, at least for common pistol calibers.

The autopsy of Eppley revealed his blood-alcohol level to be .21, more than double what is considered legally under the influence in most states.

The Erie County DA found the shooting to be justified. He stated no charges will be brought against the armed Samaritan, and no motive for the attack on Patterson was determined.


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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