Man Pleads Guilty to Shooting Crop Duster

Texas man says he shot airplane flying near his hunting ranch.

Stephen Paul Riley
Stephen Paul Riley

It took authorities approximately two years to gather enough evidence to press charges in a 2008 incident in which multiple shots were fired at a cropduster as it flew over a property next to Flying Lead Ranch, owned by 41-year-old Stephen Paul Riley, in northern Texas.

On Tuesday, Riley pled guilty to shooting the airplane as it flew near his hunting ranch, hitting its rudder cable with one bullet and nearly breaking it in the process. Another bullet hit the aircraft’s V-strut bar, coming dangerously close to the connector bolt, while other bullets left a hole in the airplane’s rear left wing as well as indentations throughout the fuselage.

Court documents show that prior to the incident Riley threatened the owner of Keeter Aerial Spraying — the company that leased the airplane — saying he would fire at any aircraft that flew over his property.

During a search of Riley’s property in 2010, authorities found video footage of the man doing just that to another Keeter airplane that flew near his ranch in 2007. The footage captured Riley firing a total of 23 shots at the crop duster.

Riley is scheduled to be sentenced on May 21 and could receive up to 20 years in federal prison as well as up to $250,000 in fines.