Florida Man Arrested on Charges of Shooting Walmart Delivery Drone

Dennis Winn, 72, faces a felony charge after firing on a drone he says flew over his home.

Dennis Winn told a Lake County sheriff’s deputy he had past experience with drones flying over his house and believed they were surveilling him. [Credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves]

A 72-year-old Clermont, Florida, man faces multiple charges, including one felony, after authorities say he shot a Walmart delivery drone that he said was flying over his house.

According to an arrest affidavit, Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at Clermont’s Walmart store Wednesday in response to a drone being shot while flying on delivery.

Representatives from DroneUp, a new drone delivery service partnered with Walmart, told deputies they had a two-man crew in a nearby neighborhood promoting their company by doing mock deliveries. The crew was at the delivery point outside Dennis Winn’s residence in a cul-de-sac.

After the drone arrived and began its descent, one of the DroneUp employees told authorities a man, later identified as Winn, pointed a handgun at the drone. After hearing a gunshot, the crew ran to the van and drove back to Walmart. The damaged drone also returned to the store.

The crew spotted a bullet hole in the drone’s payload system and estimated the damage at $2,500. Deputies noted metal shavings consistent with bullet fragmentation. The complainant from DroneUp told deputies the drone will be inoperable for some time.

Questioned by a deputy at his home, Winn said the drone had flown over his house, so he shot at it with his 9 mm handgun. Winn told the deputy he had past experience with drones flying over his house and believed they were surveilling him.

The deputy said Winn reacted with disbelief when he was told he had shot a Walmart drone.

Dennis Winn’s mugshot was posted to Facebook by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in Florida on Thursday. [Courtesy: Lake County Sheriff’s Office]

The deputy told Winn the damages amount to $10,000, which he had been advised were the damages at the time. Winn told the deputy that if he had to pay $10,000, then he wanted the drone as his personal property.

The deputy told Winn the round he shot had gone over several other residences, and he acknowledged his actions were reckless. The deputy notes in the affidavit that when officers arrived on the scene, a small child was playing in the cul-de-sac near Winn’s residence.

Winn was taken to Lake County Jail and charged with shooting or throwing deadly missiles into dwellings, vessels or vehicles, criminal mischief of $1,000 or more in damage, and discharging a firearm in public or on residential property. Firing at an aircraft is a felony in Florida. Winn was released on $13,500 bond on Thursday.

According to Florida law, drones cannot be operated over or close to “critical infrastructure facilities” but can fly over residential neighborhoods.

That said, the state does not limit the authority of local governments to enact and enforce ordinances relating to nuisances, voyeurism, harassment, reckless endangerment, property damage or other illegal acts arising from the use of drones.

The representative from DroneUp told Lake County deputies that DroneUp is a drone delivery service defined by Florida statute and is governed by Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations concerning aeronautics and space.

A spokesperson from Walmart Inc. told FreightWaves the company was aware of the incident and referred questions to Lake County law enforcement. DroneUp did not immediately respond to FreightWaves’ request for comment. Winn also could not be reached for comment.

Author CALEB REVILL is a journalist, writer and lifelong learner working as a junior writer for Firecrown. When he isn't tackling breaking news, Caleb is on the lookout for fascinating feature stories. Every person has a story to tell, and Caleb wants to help share them. He can be contacted by email anytime at Caleb.Revill@firecrown.com.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on FreightWaves.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter