While in high school, one night my buddy Josh and I decided to drive into town to pick up snacks to eat while we hung out playing video games. We ran into town and stopped at the grocery store. We picked up a few odds and ends before starting our trip back to my house.
We got near my house but still a few miles away when we crossed paths with a classmate and a few other friends from the class above us. The two vehicles stopped and we chatted for a minute about what each group was doing.
“Hey, you wanna check out something cool?”
”Okay. Follow us.”
Josh and I, in my truck, followed our friends in their truck as they drove in the direction towards my house. I lived near the small municipal airport and it was there that they pulled off to the side of the road and stopped. Josh and I got out and approached their truck with a sense of curiosity about what they were going to show us.
The next thing I know, one of them pulls out a small .22 caliber rifle. They explained that they were going to shoot at the rotating light the airport used to alert passing planes. It seemed like an odd idea but one that they were adamant about.
We watched from the side of the road as they took turns hopping the fence, running directly under the light, and shooting several shots up at the spinning bulb before returning to the truck to reload and swap to the next shooter.
I don’t remember how many times each of them shot or how many rounds were fired. The only 2 things I can say with any certainty was that I never touched the gun, much less fired it, and that their efforts had no real impact on the light as it continued to shine and spin just as it had before.
They were forced to stop shooting prematurely though. A set of headlights were spotted in the distance approaching our position in a hurry. The assumption was that it was likely the cops coming because someone at the airport had reported the shots. The shooters were quick to jump in their truck and haul ass. Josh and I were not going to get left holding that bag so we jumped into my truck and took off too. We split up and each took different routes. Living nearby meant that I knew all of the dirt roads in the area and a dozen different ways to get home.
Josh and I drove back to my house in a hurry. The lights had sped past the road I had turned onto and we did not hang around to see if they would come back or if any others were following behind. We got to my house and hustled inside where we stayed for the rest of the night.
A few days passed and we all felt the events of that night were behind us. Unfortunately, we were wrong. A few officers for the county sheriffs office showed up at our school one day. They pulled each of us out of class 1-by-1 and asked about that night. Somehow the cops knew exactly which students to pull out and ask about the shooting. It was immediately clear to me that someone had blabbed.
I got lucky. Because I never shot the gun, never held the gun, never crossed the fence, and was simply an unwitting spectator to the events the officers deemed me as being “in the wrong pace at the wrong time” and let me go. The same conclusion was reached for Josh and neither of us were involved in anything else related to the incident.
Our other friends were not so lucky. They were charged with something, I don’t remember what, but it prohibited them from owning or possessing a firearm for the next 10 years. They were each required to pay restitution in the amount of $10,000 each I believe. And that was about it. I don’t think any ever saw any jail time over the incident but there were certainly long-lasting repercussions to that night.
We later found out that the cops were tipped off when one of the shooters bragged about the event to the ex-girlfriend of one of the other shooters. Apparently their break-up had left her angry and bitter so she took this information and reported it to the cops, allowing them to question the specific people involved.
When Josh and I left the house that night we only wanted go get food. Watching other friends trespass onto airport property in an attempt to shoot out a special light bulb was not on our list of things to do. It was definitely a case of “wrong place, wrong time” for the both of us and we were lucky that the officers felt the same. God knows I did my fair share of things that I should have gotten into trouble for but that night I was actually innocent of any wrongdoing and escaped the punishment that my other friends were forced to endure for their actions.