A Pennsylvania man has been charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment after he allegedly shot his friend in the neck during a meth-fueled affair.
Michael M. Walnock, 47, and Joseph Linn, Sr., 50, admitted to using methamphetamine prior to the Jan. 14, 2022, incident. Linn testified at a hearing Wednesday that he had been using methamphetamine for at least three days. . as a stimulant to stay up at night hunting coyotes,” according to a report in the press company.
The men began their night at Walnock’s brother’s property near Clearfield, Pennsylvania. Having no luck there, they returned to the state playing fields in Madison Township.
Walnock says he used a call to attract coyotes, and after about half an hour, the pair saw three pairs of eyes glistening in the glare of his headlights. The men took turns shooting the animals with a .223 Remington rifle, and after the second shot, Linn said she thought she saw the white belly of an animal on the ground.
Linn got up to investigate but couldn’t locate the animal. On their way back to Walnock, she saw her friend wave her light at him, which she thought meant there were more “coyotes” in the area. Ella Linn looked back, but when she turned around, she saw a flash.
“I could see his silhouette,” Linn testified. “And suddenly, I could see his snout flash.”
Linn was shot in the neck and said her right arm is almost paralyzed. She still has bullet fragments in her neck that are too close to her spine to remove, and these fragments cause constant pain in her neck, through her biceps, and up to her elbow. She also walks with a cane and had to be helped onto the witness stand, according to the Click Company.
Walnock and Linn have not spoken to each other since the incident even though, according to Walnock’s attorney, the two men have been best friends for 20 years and Linn served as Walnock’s best man at his wedding. Walnock claims that he accidentally shot Linn, but Linn doesn’t believe him.
“How do you shoot someone with a red light on their head, wearing an orange coat?” he asked her during the hearing. He claims that after Walnock shot him, Walnock took the meth in Linn’s wallet along with $100 before calling 911.
The first officer on the scene, Milton Officer Travis Stotelmyer, testified at the hearing that he found Linn on the ground when he arrived. Walnock was obviously upset and had covered Linn with her jacket. Linn was taken away in an ambulance a short time later.
Jared Turner, the Pennsylvania State Ranger in charge of the case, later found a severely injured white-tailed deer near the scene of the incident. He told MeatEater that the deer had been shot from about 250 yards away, while Linn had been shot from about 100 yards away. He and his team recovered a bullet from the deer that matched the type of projectile Linn was firing.
Turner said the incident should give the public a window into “the kinds of illegal activities that occur on your public lands.”
“State rangers like myself try to do the best we can to curb that activity, but people should remain vigilant and contact the proper authorities if they witness unsafe or illegal activity,” he said. “A vast majority of crimes witnessed on public lands and involving wildlife go unreported.”
Walnock has been charged with aggravated assault (first degree felony), recklessly endangering another person (first degree misdemeanor), shooting at a human being (first degree misdemeanor), and unlawfully assisting someone to take a great game after shooting hours.
District Judge Doug Brewer dismissed charges of tampering with evidence, failing to render immediate assistance after a hunting accident and drug possession, according to court documents.
It is legal in Pennsylvania to hunt coyotes at night with a predator call, as long as the hunter has obtained a general license. If the hunt occurs during a big game season, the hunter must be legal to hunt that type of game, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. It is always illegal to hunt whitetail at night, and the regular firearm deer season ended on December 10, 2021, more than a month before the incident occurred.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with comments from Game Warden Jared Turner.