Social media storm follows drone shooting arrest
Just as shocking as it was for Charles Hidde to lose his drone to a pellet gun Tuesday was the social media outrage against him that followed.
Public sections of Hidde's Facebook page show numerous comments sympathetic to the alleged shooter Friday afternoon. One profile posted more than a dozen antagonizing messages between Thursday and Friday about the shooting, reportedly demanding Hidde release additional footage to see what "really happened."
"You harassed, provoked and taunted thus guy until he finally had enough and shot your toy down," one message alleged. "Now you want to run and tell."
Hidde posted the following response video Saturday morning in the hopes it would calm the storm, embedded with his permission.
He declined to jump in the fray of "finger-pointing and name-calling," though he said he was "a bit shocked" to learn that the alleged shooter, Christopher David Grindstaff, was charged with a Class C felony.
"I don't feel a felony is justified," Hidde said, adding that the District Attorney's office hasn't talked to him about the crime.
Prosecutors Friday filed a single felony charge of first-degree criminal mischief against Grindstaff, 33, of the 100 block of Shadow Wood Court in Central Point, alleging he shot down Hidde's drone with a pellet rifle about 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Hoover Ponds.
The felony charge stems from the value of the drone, listed in court documents as "exceeding $1,000." No court dates have yet been scheduled in the felony case.
Jackson County sheriff's deputies arrested Grindstaff Wednesday, after the agency posted photos from Hidde's footage that prompted Grindstaff to turn himself in. He was booked in the Jackson County Jail Wednesday and released Thursday on his own recognizance, jail records show.
Similar sentiments in support of the alleged shooter were posted at the private Jackson County Scanner Group Facebook page consisting of about 41,000 members. One post cited in a previous media report about the story alleged Hidde was "being a peeping Tom creeper." Hidde said he read about 90 percent of such comments.
Hidde denied any sort of harassing behavior at the park. He saw Grindstaff, another truck driving off-road, a dirt bike rider, a woman riding her horse and another walking her dog. He said he was scoping out the park watching for high-action subjects.
As a county park, Hoover Ponds is a public place. Photography is equally allowed in public places — be it on the ground or using an unmanned aircraft, according to sheriff's Sgt. Julie Denney.
"There's no difference as long as it is in public," Denney said in an email.
Hidde said that he was only about 200 yards away from Grindstaff and operated his drone conspicuously. He said Grindstaff never communicated he didn't want to be recorded.
"He drove by me multiple times," Hidde said.
Hidde said he's familiar with FAA guidelines, and takes them seriously because violations are "not just a speeding ticket." Though he's presently a hobbyist drone operator, he is currently studying for a commercial drone pilot license.
Addressing a comment made on TV news about drone operators snooping in bathroom windows, Hidde said such complaints are federal issues that carry steep penalties. He wouldn't dare risk it.
"There's no way I'd jeopardize it to spy in your window," Hidde said.
Southern Oregon University Communications Chair Erik Palmer said that the ethics of drone video are similar to any other type of image capturing in public. Palmer said that based on what he's seen in media reports so far, Hidde was behaving within his rights at a public park.
"I would be inclined to think that the local authorities are acting correctly in this case — you can't take pot-shots at anyone who is photographing you in a public place like a recreation area, whether in-person or via drone," Palmer said in an email.
Professional aerial photographer and videographer Mark Lunn of Ashland said that when he's in a public place, he tries to be polite and courteous, and introduces himself to park-goers where he's flying.
Most of the time, people are intrigued and interested in what he's doing, and only a "small fraction" feel their privacy is being infringed.
"Everybody has a camera, some have ones that fly," Lunn said.
Lunn said he respects people's boundaries at a park, but also notes that people are "on camera a dozen times a day," be it at stoplights or at the supermarket.
He understands that remote-controlled aircraft concern some people, which is why he prefers to call his an "aerial camera."
"Drone is what the Air Force drops bombs with," Lunn said.
Hobby operator Adam Corman also avoids the word "drone," preferring to call his a "quadcopter."
“If he was flying and following the rules, I’d be pretty upset,” Corman said.
Corman's quadcopter isn't equipped with a camera, though his 12-year-old son's is. His son's aircraft, however, has a range of merely 150 feet.
"I haven't noticed anyone giving us the stink eye," Corman said. "I always try and fly where it's not going to bug anybody."
Hidde said the negative comments likely stem from people who had bad experiences with drone operators.
"A majority of drone pilots are responsible," Hidde said.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.