The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Kimball man convicted of pointing pistol at hunters

 

October 2, 2019



By RICHARD JENKINS

[email protected]

Hurley — It took a jury roughly 20 minutes to find a Kimball man guilty of endangering safety by intentionally pointing a firearm at a person.

Jerry Gus “Rocky” Hitter, 71, faces a possible sentence of up to nine months in jail or a fine of up to a $10,000 for the Class A misdemeanor.

The charge stems from a Oct. 18, 2018 incident when Hitter confronted Clifford and Gene Kaari near the border of Hitter’s property in the town of Kimball while the brothers were bird hunting.

Both sides agreed to the basic elements of the misdemeanor — that Hitter pointed a firearm at someone and that it was an intentional act — but the defense argued Hitter was acting in self defense by pulling a pistol after the two men had shotguns pointed at him.

District Attorney Matt Tingstad argued the evidence presented during the trial proved the two hunters didn’t initiate the confrontation.

“Look at the facts, look at the testimony. (Cliff and Gene Kaari) both said they were out hunting … they’re not looking for a fight. They’re not looking to even the score,” Tingstad told the jury during his closing argument. “They’re out there chasing birds, (looking) at the scenery and just trying to have a good time.”

Hitter’s attorney, Mike Korpela, told the jury that Tingstad hadn’t met the burden of proof needed to convict his client — especially when accounting for his claim of self-defense.

“You must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, from all the evidence in this case, that the circumstances of the defendant’s conduct was unreasonable. I just don’t see that here,” Korpela told the jury during his closing. “Mr. Hitter acted reasonably, in my opinion, throughout. He did what normal people would do in order to confront a problem on his property.”

Korpela also told jurors that Hitter being the one to call 911 strengthened his claim as the victim.

“The guilty man doesn’t call the sheriff, the innocent man does. The Kaaris didn’t call the sheriff, Hitter did,” he said.

Prior to closing arguments, the jury heard accounts from six witnesses regarding the confrontation and the events surrounding it — including Hitter, the Kaari brothers and Iron County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Inv. Matt Foryan who investigated the incident.

Hitter testified he heard shotgun blasts close by his house and that the two men were trespassing on his property leading up to the confrontation, while both Kaaris testified they were on a neighbor’s property where they had permission to hunt.

Both sides agreed Hitter pointed a .22-caliber pistol at the two during the confrontation, although Hitter testified he only pointed the weapon at them because they had shotguns pointed at him and refused to lower them when he told them to.

Hitter also testified the pistol wasn’t loaded during the confrontation.

Although there was conflicting testimony regarding the specifics of the confrontation, there was a general consensus that it didn’t escalate beyond the pistol being drawn and that Hitter soon returned home on his ATV where he told his wife what happened and reported the incident to the sheriff’s department.

Hitter is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 29.

 
 

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