TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Farm groups are sending letters to an Idaho judge asking him to dole out a “proper” sentence to a Filer man convicted of shooting at a crop duster last August.
“He shot at another individual. The short-sightedness and ignorance of that action is frightening,” said George Parker, an aerial applicator from Gooding who is leading the effort.
Christopher V. Lewis, 42, was found guilty March 6 of firing four shotgun rounds in the direction of a crop duster that was spraying a potato field nearby.
According to a Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office police report by the arresting officer, Lewis said he was angered at how low the crop duster was flying to the ground, so he went outside with his shotgun “and I did something bad.”
Lewis told the officer he fired four rounds from a semi-automatic Remington shotgun into the air.
Lewis, who faces as much as 20 years in prison, directed the Capital Press to his attorney, Lynn Dunlap, who said it would be inappropriate to comment while the matter is still pending before the court.
Lewis will be sentenced by Fifth District Judge Randy Stoker on May 5 and Parker wants to make sure he gets more than just probation or a slap on the wrist.
“He was just pissed because the aircraft was making noise and flying close to his house,” Parker said. “He drew a gun up and unloaded four shells of a 10-gauge shotgun in the direction of another human being. It’s important that this guy have something real actually happen to him.”
At Parker’s encouragement, Food Producers of Idaho members voted unanimously to send a letter to Stoker.
FPI Executive Director Rick Waitley said the group also sent letters on behalf of several of the group’s members.
The FPI letter, which asks for “the proper penalties” for Lewis, says farmers and ranchers often rely on aircraft that fly at low altitudes for various purposes, including aerial application of crop protection chemicals and fertilizers and field scouting.
“Granted, low-flying aircraft may create noise or a smell while applying certain chemicals,” the letter states. “However, that does not and should not give someone the right to shoot at an aircraft because of personal annoyance.
“The owners and pilots of these aircraft need to have assurance that they are safe and protected while providing this valuable service.”
Parker, past president of the Idaho Agricultural Aviation Association and a current member of the National Agricultural Aviation Association, said obtaining an appropriate sentence for Lewis would send a strong message that it is not all right to shoot at aerial applicators.
“If someone had stood at the end of the runway at the Boise airport and shot at planes taking off, you can bet your ass that person would be in jail,” he said. “We are still human beings and we have families, wives and children and we don’t deserve to die just because we’re going to work.”