A volunteer fire chief terrified a couple by pointing a shotgun at them during a late-night act of "vigilantism", a judge has found.
Brent John Dickson, 41, told Masterton District Court yesterday that it was sheer coincidence he happened to go spotlighting near the house of a couple to whom he had earlier sent abusive text messages.
The five shots he fired on either side of their Eketahuna property were aimed at a fleeing magpie, and he had never aimed the weapon at owners Fiona Freemantle and Simon Brew, he said.
Judge Stephen Harrop rejected Dickson's claims, but he nevertheless dismissed a charge of causing fright by shooting a firearm near a dwelling, as it was not the shots that scared the couple.
"The level of terror that I saw described . . . resulted from something traumatic; not from the shots, but from the pointing [of the weapon]," he said.
Dickson had not been charged with presenting a firearm at the complainants, he said. The shooting could also not be considered "near" the dwelling, as the nearest spent cartridge was found 120 metres further along Norlings Rd.
However, he found Dickson guilty on another charge of offensive use of a phone, after he sent a series of obscene text messages to Ms Freemantle, calling her "Fanta pants", and Mr Brew "F... nuts".
Dickson, a builder, was Eketahuna Volunteer Fire Brigade chief between 2007 and September this year, when he stepped down from the role as a result of the incident.
He had denied the two charges, and yesterday said it was a coincidence that he chose to hunt in Norlings Rd on September 8 for the first time.
The texts were warnings to Mr Brew to slow down on the road while driving near children, but were not "obscene", his lawyer, Jock Blathwayt, said.
However, Judge Harrop said Dickson's explanations "beggared belief". "It's simply unbelievable that there was just this coincidence that, having sent abusive texts to Ms Freemantle just hours before, you then turned up . . . with a shotgun."
There was "an element of vigilantism" in the way Dickson got involved in the dispute about Mr Brew's driving, knowing it had already been reported to police.
Ms Freemantle said the incident had terrified her and her children. "I was scared for my family and scared for us that we were going to be shot."
They had since left Eketahuna.
Judge Harrop said Dickson had provided years of community service in his role as fire chief, and called his actions on the night "an aberration".
He fined him $350.
- The Dominion Post
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