Jurors to Decide if Man Intentionally Fired at Sheriff's Helicopter


By Amy L. Edwards | Orlando Sentinel
Posted 5:44 p.m. EST, November 10, 2010

Did Jason McGuire intentionally shoot at a Sheriff's Office helicopter circling his home earlier this year, or was he a distraught man who decided to fire rounds in a tree and into the air rather than kill himself?

It's a question that an Orlando federal jury pondered Wednesday as they determine McGuire's fate – but they did not reach a verdict. Deliberations will resume Friday.

McGuire, 27, is accused of shooting at an Orange County sheriff's helicopter March 21 outside his home on Pacific Heights Circle.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury in July on charges of attempted destruction of an aircraft, using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime, and possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony.

McGuire's trial began this week, where he admitted he was guilty of the one charge — a felon possessing a firearm.

If McGuire's found guilty of only that charge, he faces no more than 10 years in prison.

But if convicted of all three charges, McGuire faces up to 40 years in prison.

During closing arguments Wednesday, defense attorney Michael LaFay asked the jury to return not-guilty verdicts for the two other charges.

LaFay told jurors the main issue of the trial is if McGuire intentionally, willfully and knowingly pointed the gun at the sheriff's helicopter.

He said testimony from neighbors and deputies became a "runaway train" full of "inconsistencies" and "maybes."

LaFay noted some witnesses never saw McGuire actually aim and fire at the helicopter.

He also told jurors that McGuire, who cried as he testified Tuesday, was a "lost young man who on that night, his world was falling apart."

According to trial testimony, McGuire, who was distraught over a breakup, ran into his ex-girlfriend at a bar.

He went home, got a gun out of his father's bedroom, and went out to the front yard, where he put the weapon to his chin.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Eckhart told jurors Wednesday that McGuire's account of that night's events is a "self-serving" story.

The prosecutor said there is an "abundance of evidence" McGuire intentionally fired at the helicopter.

Eckhart told jurors about how McGuire said he couldn't pull the trigger, instead shot the palm tree, "and says, 'That could have been me.' "

McGuire said he was worried about the other bullets, and so he fired those off.

And at one point, when there was one bullet left, Eckhart said, McGuire said it was an "omen" bullet and he fired it too, as the helicopter was flying overhead.

"He wants you to feel sorry for him," Eckhart said.

Source: Orlando Sentinel