William H. Merideth, otherwise known as the “Drone Slayer,” called a judge’s decision a victory after facing charges for using a shotgun to shoot down a drone.
Merideth, 47, was arrested in his home in late July. He claims a drone stopped to hover over his fenced-in backyard where his two daughters were sitting outside. Meredith went inside, grabbed his shotgun and blasted the drone from the sky.
After Meredith shot the drone down, he claims four men approached him. “They were pretty irate,” he told sources. “Some words were exchanged, ‘Was I the guy that did it?’ I said ‘Absolutely’ and the four of them started this way and I let them know that I would defend my property.”(1)
That’s when the police were called. Upon their arrival, Meredith was arrested for wanton endangerment and criminal mischief. It is against the law to discharge a gun within city limits, according to Hillview ordinance, unless it is used for self-defense or the individual is a law enforcement officer.
Bullitt County Judge, Rebecca Ward, dismissed the case against Meredith, who pleaded guilty to shooting down the drone.
“I think it’s credible testimony that his drone was hovering from anywhere, for two or three times over these people’s property, that it was an invasion of their privacy and that they had the right to shoot this drone,” Ward said to the courtroom. “And I’m going to dismiss his charge.”(2)
The drone’s owner, David Boggs, appeared shocked by the court’s ruling. He claims his drone flew more than 200 feet over Meredith’s house and did not hover. “I’m dumbfounded,” he said. “I really am. I don’t think that the court looked at what really took place here.”
“I just want him to do the right thing.” Boggs told sources. “His neighbors, he knows, everybody knows that no way (were) we under 100-and-something feet. That never happened. And so if they said, then they’re not telling the truth.”(2)
Experts at UoL’s Speed School of Engineering warn that similar cases are likely on the horizon. “People are maybe not quite sure of where the boundaries are while they’re waiting for the law to catch up,” Associate Professor of computer engineering and computer science, Adrian Lauf said.
Lauf claims drone manufacturers and the FAA need to make the rules about drone use clearer. The FAA already strongly encourages drone users to keep drones below 400 feet while flying, keep the aircraft within the user’s sight and to not fly them near people.
“If we practice more common sense, we probably wouldn’t have as many shotguns shooting drones down, nor would we have people who feel threatened,” Lauf said.(2)
Merideth was also faced with a charge for firing a weapon in a residential neighborhood, but that was dismissed as well. “I feel good,” Merideth said. “I feel vindicated. Police told me there was nothing they could do about it. Nobody would do anything about it, so I did something about it.
“I was being watched. It was an invasion of privacy and I just, I wouldn’t put up with it no more,” he added.(2)
Boggs claims he was with a group of men while flying the drone who would attest to an alternative story if requested to testify. He has a chance to appeal his case in front of a grand jury, and states that he’s looking forward to presenting his side of the story in court.
“This is a victory for him today, I guess,” Boggs said. “But it’s far from over.” At the scene of the “crime,” Boggs told the police he was using the device, priced at $1,800, to take pictures of his friend’s home.(1)