Orange County man arrested for trying to shoot down sheriff’s helicopter after birthday party


A man was arrested in a federal grand jury indictment alleging he fired repeatedly at an Orange County Sheriff's Department helicopter in March after his birthday party ended “acrimoniously,” according to federal prosecutors.

Justin Derek Jennings, 39, of Laguna Niguel, has been charged with one count of attempting to damage, destroy or disable an aircraft after a chaotic incident on March 9, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice united

Court documents say Jennings and his family were celebrating his birthday party and he was allegedly drinking when he “went into a rage.”

“As his outburst escalated, the family members present left the house,” the court statement said. “After most of his family left, Jennings allegedly took a rifle out of his safe and fired a full magazine's worth of ammunition inside the house.”

That reportedly prompted the rest of the family to leave the home as well, with some members reporting the incident to law enforcement, prosecutors said.

At that point, OCSD officers and a department helicopter responded to the scene.

“Jennings allegedly went to the second floor of the home and began firing a rifle into the sky, firing only when the helicopter was visible to him,” the statement continued. “Filming continued intermittently for at least 20 minutes.”

Jennings eventually left the home and surrendered after speaking with a deputy.

Investigators seized two revolvers, two handguns and two rifles, along with multiple rounds of ammunition, from Jennings' home during a search, prosecutors said.

They also found bullet casings strewn across the floor of the home, and two magazines and a box of ammunition were found on a couch under the window from which Jennings was allegedly shooting, according to the DOJ statement.

If convicted, he faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Both the FBI and OCSD helped investigate the matter.


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