Suspect: Former Marine Wounded In Afghanistan
Aero-News Senior Editor Pete Combs has
been investigating the use of firearms against aircraft. Click here
to listen to the story.
A 29-year old former USMC marksmanship instructor has been
arrested in the August 6th shoot-down of a Bernalillo County
Sheriff's helicopter in Albuquerque.
Jason Kerns, who told police he was a "sniper" and that he saw
the entire incident late that night, is being held on $1.8 million
He was arrested late Monday, charged with assault with intent to
commit a violent felony on a peace officer, criminal damage to
property and tampering with evidence, according to a warrant
obtained by the Albuquerque Journal. Police, however, said they
suspected Kerns for some time.
As ANN reported last week, the Hughes 369 Sky
Knight was orbiting a crime scene when pilot Chris Holland heard a
loud bang -- "the loudest bang he ever heard," according to
Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White. Both Holland, a civilian
contract pilot, and Deputy Ward Pfefferle, were hit by shrapnel as
the bullet entered the plexiglass bubble canopy, struck an
anti-torque pedal, fragmented and bounced around the cockpit. Even
though he was wounded, Holland was able to auto-rotate from
approximately 400 feet, landing hard in the backyard of a west
White praised Holland as a hero. The pilot continues to suffer
from a severe cut to his leg.
The Sky Knight helicopter was destroyed.
Law officers say they were approached by Kerns at the crash
scene. He said he saw the whole thing and heard a gunshot just
before the helo went down.
He also said that he became very annoyed at the helicopter as it
orbited near his home. Deputies said Kerns told them he would have
been able to "make the shot" without a problem -- even given the
distance -- and that the helicopter "was a great target."
Even that night,
investigators said, Kerns story wasn't "solid and was misleading."
For instance, no one else in the neighborhood heard the shot. And
even though Kerns couldn't have seen the crash site from his home,
he drove directly to it immediately after the Hughes went down.
While he had military training that would have allowed him to
pinpoint the shot he said he heard, Kerns was unable to do so,
according to investigators.
Detectives searched Kerns' home the night of the crash, then
again three days later. In the meantime, they said, they tailed
Kerns. When he spotted deputies following him, Kerns tried to elude
them by driving his Corvette at more than 100 miles an hour.
As they searched Kerns' house a second time, Bernalillo County
deputies and the FBI reportedly found a 30-06 rifle, a silencer
and, inside a trash can, a spent shell casing wrapped in masking
tape. Further, the ammunition found in Kerns house matched bullet
fragments taken from both the helicopter's cockpit and Holland's