Oct. 17 accidental shooting caused by man aiming at squirrel

Philip Olson, 69, was named by Iowa City Police as the man who accidentally shot Marine Gabe Heefner in the head as he was driving on Highway 6 on Oct. 17. Olson faces multiple violations including those from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

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Katie Goodale

Iowa City Police Department vehicles are seen on July 9, 2019.

Meg Doster, News Reporter


The Iowa City Police Department said a man shooting at a squirrel from an air rifle left Marine Lance Cpl. Gabe Heefner, 20, with a gunshot wound in the head.

At approximately 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 17, Iowa City resident Philip Olson, 69, discharged a .22 caliber air rifle southbound at a squirrel from his home that is adjacent to Highway 6 in Iowa City, the police department wrote in a release on Friday.

Olson is accused of violating City Code 8-7-3: Toy Guns and Slingshots, which prohibits discharging of “any air rifle, toy pistol, toy gun or other toy arms or slingshot” within city limits. The air rifle Olson used is a non-gun powder weapon that fires projectiles powered by air, CO2, or spring action, the release said.

Olson missed the squirrel and hit Heefner who at the time was driving eastbound on Highway 6 and crashed his vehicle where he was discovered by Iowa City Police minutes later.

He turned himself into the Iowa City Police Department on Oct. 20.

Olson is not being charged for the shooting, but does face the following violations from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources:

  • Hunting without a license
  • Hunting without a habitat fee
  • Unlawful take or attempt to take of squirrels
  • Shooting a rifle over a highway

Olson received tickets resulting in $565 in fines from the Iowa DNR, according to court records.

RELATED: Iowa City police identify person believed to be responsible for Oct 17 gunshot wound

Heefner is currently being treated at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics.

The release said that the Johnson County Attorney’s Office, the Iowa City Police Department, and the family of Heefner are working towards legislative change to define weapons such as the one Olson used as firearms and dangerous weapons.

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