The group was having fun kayaking down the Wikieup, Arizona creek before spotting a man holding a gun, and realizing it was pointed in their direction, according to authorities.
Danny Button, 68, fired several shots at one of the four kayakers from where he stood on the river bank near the Burrow Creek campground on Feb. 4, 2017, said Chief Deputy Mohave County Attorney James Schoppmann, the Mohave Daily News reported.
Lead kayaker Tyler Williams left his watercraft and escaped down the river after a bullet struck the water four feet away from him, the newspaper said. He wasn’t injured.
But the other three kayakers were forced to the shore at gunpoint by Button, who then ordered them back to the campground because they were on private property, his property, according to KSNV. They weren’t injured.
Button was arrested that night at his home. His .45 caliber Ruger revolver was placed into evidence, the news station reported.
River guide Patrick Phillips testified at Button’s trial that the kayakers were a mile downstream when a shot rang out and a man was seen coming out of the bushes, heading toward the water while firing a gun at Williams, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.
Phillips said he yelled for Button to “stop,” but the man continued firing while the kayaykers were “sitting ducks,” according to the newspaper.
“That’s when Tyler flipped over in the river and was upside down under his kayak,” he said.
Button appeared upset that Williams managed to get away, according to Phillips’ testimony.
One of the victims described the shooting as an ambush, the Daily News reported, saying that Button became a bully when he opened fire on four unarmed kayakers.
Jurors seemed to agree, finding Button guilty of endangerment, aggravated assault and disorderly conduct in March, reported the Daily News. They deadlocked on on attempted murder and kidnapping charges.
Button was sentenced Friday to more than 20 years behind bars, the newspaper said.
Authorities said property owners don’t own the waterways, KSNV reported.
“There is nothing that prevents these kayakers from floating down this river. This is a public waterway. This is not trespassing," Schoppmann said, the Daily Sun reported.
Button’s attorney, Brad Rideout, argued his client was shooting into a river bank while on his property, and didn’t realize the kayakers were on the water when he was shooting, the Daily News said.