Heli Shot At, Hit, While Flying In Idaho

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Federal and state authorities are considering charges for a suspect who earned the attention of the FBI for his possible role in putting bullet holes in a Bell Jet Ranger as it flew near Clarkia, Idaho, on Oct. 14. The helicopter was performing contract burning when the pilot and ground crew heard four gunshots. The pilot was 69-year-old Vietnam War veteran Earl Palmer. "The first one I didn't recognize as a bullet," Palmer told the Lewiston Morning Tribune. But the aircraft was struck by the third shot, "and that one, the way it passed through the helicopter, went right over my head," said Palmer. With the fourth shot, Palmer departed the area and landed safely at a nearby refueling facility. There, he found the aircraft had been struck twice, and one bullet had cracked a control tube. "It was within minutes of coming apart," Palmer said.

The aircraft's owner, Gale Wilson, told the newspaper, "It was a high-powered rifle. It was a hunting rifle." Authorities detained a suspect within 24 hours. They were reportedly led to an individual by the accounts of hunters, ground crew and possibly witnesses in the area who had come forward. Wilson said hunters and nature enthusiasts can become annoyed with helicopters flying overhead. "However," he added, "there's no justification to take out a high caliber rifle and try to shoot us down." Prosecutors will now decide how to proceed.