Jury acquits suspect in ATV rider’s shooting

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2003

A Lawrence County man was found innocent on two counts ofaggravated assault recently in the shooting of an ATV rider on hisproperty in May 2001.

Joseph “Buddy” Dickson of 511 Nola Rd., was accused of shootingJeff Ingle of 2823 Allen Rd., Brookhaven, and endangering the lifeof his brother, Randy Ingle, of Cleveland, Texas, during an earlymorning altercation.

The defense readily admitted that Dickson shot Ingle, but saidit was justifiable.

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The jury agreed by finding Dickson not guilty on both chargesafter only 90 minutes of deliberations.

Both sides told different stories of the events leading to theshooting, but there were some similarities.

The prosecution and defense agreed that the Ingle brothers andtheir families had been riding ATVs along the Fair River sinceearly on the evening on May 19.

The brothers were members of a hunting club that owned land onboth sides of Dickson’s property along the river. The hunting clubdid not have permission to allow ATVs to travel across Dickson’sproperty to get from one area to another.

When the brothers traveled through Dickson’s property on theriver around midnight on May 19, two shots were fired. The brothersleft the area, dropped off their families, and returned to thescene to confront the shooter. During the conversation between theIngles and Dickson, Jeff Ingle was shot by Dickson.

There the similarities end.

The Ingles claimed they returned “to apologize and see what waswrong,” and when Jeff Ingle climbed off the ATV to approachDickson, he was shot at close range in the right shoulder by a12-gauge shotgun. Randy was told to stay on the ATV, and when hegot off to help his brother, Dickson made him lie in the sand, putthe shotgun to his head, and threatened him. Dickson eventually lethim up and went to his house, where he dialed 911.

According to Dickson’s testimony, however, he fired two warningshots to make them leave his property.

“He tried to stop them and put a light on them,” said Bob Evans,who represented Dickson at the trial. “He shot two shots into thetop portion of a 50-60′ high bluff on the other side.”

Dickson testified he had called the sheriff’s office earlierthat night and, although they had responded promptly many times inthe past, they were unable to respond immediately on the night ofthe incident.

He was surprised when the riders returned to his property, andsaid they were upset and shouting obscenities.

Dickson also testified that the brothers, riding the same ATV,tried to run him down when they came back, and only stopped afterhe put himself into a position where they couldn’t get to him.Dickson asked them to stay seated on their ATV, but Jeff climbedoff and approached with his hand behind his back.

Dickson told him to stop because he was crippled in one leg anddid not want him coming any closer. When Jeff continued to advance,Dickson shot him in the shoulder.

“When he was charging, Jeff made some type of motion that he wasgoing behind his back or somewhere in that vicinity,” Evans said.”Buddy testified that he thought (Jeff) was going for a weapon andshot him.”

Jeff was shot at a range of 2-3′ with a 12-gauge shotgun, yetstill fell forward onto his face.

“The jury believed the physics of that was a little strange fora man who was supposedly calmly approaching,” Evans said. “It mademore sense that Jeff had a lot of momentum behind him, that he wascharging.”

Dickson then told Randy to use his shirt as a compress bandageand see to his brother while he (Dickson) went home and called theambulance.

No weapon was found on Ingle, but Evans brought in testimonythat Randy had “ample opportunity” to dispose of any weapons whileDickson was calling the ambulance and sheriff’s office.

Both sides also agreed that the brothers had been drinking, butdisputed how much they had to drink. The brothers said they had afew beers earlier in the afternoon. When Jeff was taken toUniversity Medical Center after the shooting, a test revealed hehad a blood alcohol content “substantially in excess” of .10. Thelegal limit at the time of the incident was .08.

The case was further complicated because of vague legal languagein a state law about rights to travel along the river. Someinterpretations of the law said it was legal for ATVs to travel inthe river, but not on the banks of the river. Last year, monthsafter this incident, more specific language was used in a new lawthat bars any travel along public waterways if the means of thattravel must touch the riverbed.

The criminal trial has little direct bearing on an $8 millioncivil suit filed by the Ingles in federal court in Hattiesburg, butthe verdict could help the case some, Evans said.

“That’s been held in abeyance until after the criminal case,” hesaid. “One doesn’t have any direct effect on the other, but thefact that he was found not guilty in a criminal court, where thestandards of proof are much higher, can give an indication of howthe civil suit will go.”