ATV rider testifies about being shot

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 12, 2001

MONTICELLO — Joseph “Buddy” Dickson remained silent during hispreliminary hearing in a packed Justice Court Wednesday, but hisaccusers spoke out.

Dickson, 53, of 511 Nola Road, is charged with two counts ofaggravated assault following an incident that occurred early in themorning May 20. He is accused of shooting Jeff Engle, 30, of 2823Allen Road, Brookhaven, and endangering the life of Engle’sbrother, Randy, of Cleveland, Texas.

According to the brothers’ testimony, they had been riding allterrain vehicles on Fair River since around 8 p.m. that night. Theygot access to the river on land owned by the New Zion Hunting Club,where they are members, and rode down to the Nola Road bridgebefore turning around to go back.

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The brothers were riding with their family. Jeff was sharing hisATV with his brother’s 14-year-old daughter. Randy was sharing hiswith his wife, Anita, and a third ATV was being ridden by Jeff’swife, Lisa.

Both brothers testified that on the way back, a man “leapt fromthe bushes and fired.” They said they heard one shot and someoneyelling.

“I did not hear what he was saying,” Jeff said.

The women were scared, they said, so they proceeded anundetermined distance up the river and split up. The women went onto the vehicles while Jeff and Randy shared an ATV and returned towhere the shot had come from.

“I wanted to know why; what we did wrong,” Randy said.

They returned to apologize if they had done something wrong,Jeff said. He said he thought it was another landowner he knew andwent back to explain.

When they got to the scene, Jeff said, they were blinded by aQ-beam, a bright spotlight. They stopped when the man said stop,and Jeff said he got off the ATV to speak to the man. He can’tremember anything else until he woke up on the ground.

“I’m not sure what his reasons were. I never got to speak,” Jeffsaid.

The importance of the blinding Q-beam became apparent duringRandy’s retelling of the events. Randy also said he was blinded bythe light.

When asked to identify Dickson, Randy said, “Is that him? I’venever seen him.”

Randy’s testimony went on to recount events after Jeff was shot.He said he started to get off the ATV to help his brother and wastold to stay put. He said he told the man he had to help hisbrother and got off the vehicle. The man made him lie in the sand,put the shotgun to his head and threatened him, Randy said.

Randy said the man “finally came to his senses” and let him helphis brother while Dickson went to the house and dialed 911. Randyleft to get help and when he returned “the law was there.”

Bob Evans, Dickson’s attorney, concentrated on the brothers’level of intoxication and property lines during hiscross-examination.

The brothers admitted to drinking several beers earlier in theday, but said they were sober at the time of the incident.

“We were not intoxicated,” Randy said.

During Evans’ cross-examination, Jeff said he had seen “NoTrespassing” signs posted on trees during earlier rides, butbecause it was night he did not know where he was.

“Besides, we were in the river and on public property,” Jeffsaid.

When asked which landowners had given him permission to ride onthe river, Jeff said it was public property, but he did havepermission from the hunting club.

Evans said Jeff knew where the property lines were because hehad been told by another rider. Through questioning, he revealedthat Jeff had ridden with Chris Walker at one time and when theyreached the Dickson property line, Walker stopped and would not gofarther.

Jeff said he remembered the incident, but did not remember whyWalker would not continue. He said the last time he rode withWalker was a year ago. He added that it would not matter, becausehe did not where on the river they were at the time of theincident.

When Randy was questioned about property lines, he admitted thathe knew at some point they must have left the land owned by thehunting club and were therefore on someone else’s property.

Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigator Jimmy Barton opened thehearing in Justice Court Judge Donnie Mullins court by reading thestatements of Randy and family members who had been on thescene.

Jeff had not made a written statement yet, Barton said, becausethe deputy was waiting for him to recover before seeking one.

The statements agreed with the brothers’ later testimonies.

Barton said their investigation had determined that three shotswere fired that night from a 12 gauge shotgun, one of which struckJeff in the right shoulder at close range. Barton said threedouble-ought buck casings were found near where Jeff had collapsed.One was found 3-4 feet from where he was lying and the others at 50and 57 paces from that spot.

The 911 log shows that a call came from Dickson’s home at 12:09a.m., and the dispatcher’s notes state that Dickson said he shotsomeone when they came after him. Dickson had also called earlierthat evening at 11:46 p.m., although the reason for that call wasnot revealed.

County prosecutor Damon Ready asked Mullins to bind over thecase on sufficient evidence after Barton and Jeff’s testimony, butEvans requested to hear Randy. Mullins allowed the additionalwitness.

“The problem on Fair River is a problem. I don’t know what canbe done about it,” Mullins said after hearing the witnesses andbinding the case to Circuit Court.

A trial date has not been set.

Editor’s Note: Beginning Sunday, The DAILY LEADER willpublish a series of articles looking at ATV use on the FairRiver.