Orange County Man Charged With Shooting at Sheriff’s Helicopter

Orange County Man Charged With Shooting at Sheriff’s Helicopter

A helicopter flies over Yosemite National Park, Calif., in this file photo. (Nic Coury/AFP via Getty Images)

City News Service
City News Service

6/11/2024

Updated: 6/11/2024

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SANTA ANA, Calif.—A 39-year-old Laguna Niguel man accused of shooting at an Orange County sheriff’s helicopter pleaded not guilty June 10 in federal court in Santa Ana.
Justin Derek Jennings was arrested on Monday on a federal grand jury indictment returned last week when state prosecutors dropped attempted murder charges against him to make way for the federal case.
Mr. Jennings had been charged by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office with two counts of attempted murder and single felony counts each of assault with a semiautomatic rifle on a peace officer and shooting at a helicopter. Mr. Jennings also faced sentencing enhancements for attempted premeditated murder and shooting a gun.
Now Mr. Jennings is charged in federal court with one count of attempting to damage, destroy, or disable an aircraft. He was ordered held without bond and is scheduled for trial on Aug. 5.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to the 31000 block of Golden Lantern about 9 p.m. March 9 where a man fired a rifle inside a home during a family dispute, Orange County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Frank Gonzalez said earlier this year.
Deputies placed the neighborhood on lockdown for a short time after the suspect fired the weapon again after family members got out of the home he was in, Mr. Gonzalez said.
Some of the bullets nearly struck deputies outside the house and a sheriff’s helicopter, Mr. Gonzalez said.
The standoff lasted about 30 minutes, according to Mr. Gonzalez.
Mr. Jennings, who had been drinking, was celebrating his birthday when he grew upset and eventually fetched a gun from a safe in the home, emptying an entire magazine worth of ammunition in the home, federal prosecutors said.
The defendant is accused of firing a rifle up in the sky as a sheriff’s helicopter circled the home, prosecutors alleged. The shooting continued off and on for about 20 minutes before a sheriff’s deputy talked him into surrendering, prosecutors said.
Authorities seized two revolvers, two handguns, and two rifles as well as multiple rounds of ammunition from the home, prosecutors said.
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