Non-jury trial date set for man accused of shooting Marine while aiming for squirrel

Non-jury trial date set for man accused of shooting a Marine while aiming for squirrel in Iowa City.


Johnson County Courthouse.

Meg Doster, News Reporter

An Iowa City man accused of accidentally shooting a marine with a pellet gun while aiming at a squirrel is set to appear in court in February.

Philip Olson, 69, will appear in a non-jury trial on Feb. 24, 2022 at 10:30 a.m., according to court documents filed on Dec. 9.

Olson allegedly discharged a .22 caliber air rifle over a highway, shooting Lance Cpl. Gabe Heefner, 20, in the head as he was driving through Iowa City on Oct. 17. Olson claims that he was aiming at a squirrel and missed. He turned himself into the Iowa City Police Department on Oct. 20.

Heefner survived the gunshot to the head and spent nearly a month at the University of Iowa Hospital with life-threatening injuries. He was discharged to a transitional rehabilitation facility on Nov. 10.

A non-jury trial means the judge presiding over the case is the only one who can decide the outcome of the trial, with no jury involved in the decision.

Olson was charged with violating Iowa City Code by shooting the air rifle, which under Iowa law is considered a toy gun. He also received fines from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for hunting without a license.

In a criminal complaint, police said Olson told them he had shot 38 squirrels in his backyard and outside his property line between Sept. 17 and Oct. 16.

Olson has pleaded not guilty to the city code violation. The charge is a simple misdemeanor and is punishable to up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $855.

Olson has voluntarily pleaded guilty to not paying a wildlife habitat fee and shooting a firearm over a highway, taking game, and hunting squirrels without a license. Those four charges are classified as scheduled violations and are citations of a similar value to a parking ticket.


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