Man Takes Down Drone With T-Shirt, Ends Up in Jail

drone shootdownBy Joe Wright

The small town of Deer Trail, Colorado made national news in 2013 when they announced the bold proposal of offering residents bounties of $100 for every drone shot down via official drone hunting licenses that would be made available.

The proposal understandably drew the ire of the FAA who stated that those engaging in such activity would be severely penalized.

As Mac Slavo wrote at the time:

Phillip Steel, who authored the original proposal in Deer Trail, Colorado says his ordinance is a “pre-emptive strike” against what he calls a “virtual prison” being created through continued expansion of the surveillance state. (Source)

Despite an initial wave of support for the concept, the small contingent of voters decided overwhelmingly to defeat the measure.

However, the central message went far beyond this tiny community and forced a federal response and wide mainstream news coverage.

All has been relatively quiet on the drone-shootdown front ever since, at least in terms of any sort of mass uprising.  However, this website does get its fair share of comments suggesting that a good number of people feel it is perfectly justified to defend one’s privacy by blasting the offending drone.

A bizarre story from Encinitas, California might reawaken the debate, and certainly highlights what the official response is likely to be.

In this case, the drone was not blasted out of the sky, but was downed with a T-shirt.

Augustine Lehecka, 53, was at an Encinitas public beach with a group of friends when he says that a low-flying drone passed above them. He asserts that in addition to concerns about his privacy, he was more concerned about the safety of 2 small children in the group who were subjected to what he described as basically a flying lawnmower with its spinning blades dangerously close.

The San-Diego Union-Tribune reports what happened next:

He said he motioned for the drone to leave them alone, but it didn’t appear to work. Concerned for the safety of the group, as well as their privacy, he decided to take further action.

He took off his shirt and tossed it at the drone.

“I’m a big guy and my T-shirt is huge. It cannot be tossed more than 6 feet,” he estimated of the height. The shirt wrapped around the propeller of the drone, causing it to drop to the sand.

Lehecka said he considered the situation resolved at that point.

About 10 minutes later, he was met by sheriff’s deputies. They arrested Lehecka on one count of felony vandalism and booked him into Vista jail.

He spent around eight hours behind bars before posting $10,000 bail, said Lehecka, who remained shaken by his experience days later.

Turns out, the operator works for a drone company.

When the pilot of the drone finally reached out to media (anonymously) he defended the safety of his drone flight and claims not to have been invading anyone’s privacy.

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Fortunately for Lehecka, charges against him were dropped, but no mention is made of any charges being brought against the drone operator. This outcome would suggest that legislators and law enforcement are not yet sure about how to properly address the proliferation of hobby drones, those used in journalism, or any of the other potential uses – legitimate or not.

Lehecka made a further troubling comment that he and a friend had been “buzzed by a drone just the day before in the Del Mar area.”  This would suggest that public drone encounters are quite prevalent in certain areas.

While the strange circumstances surrounding this particular public-land case have given it some major media attention, here are a couple other cases that I have seen reported where homeowners from their private property have employed a physical response equal to the perceived physical encroachment upon their privacy … and were, of course, arrested.

Have you seen low-flying drones out in public where you live? Have you read any other stories of people being arrested for shooting down drones? Please leave details in the comment section.

Also See:

5 Things You Need to Know About This Week’s Drone Wars

Image Credit

Hat Tip: Zen Gardner

Joe Wright’s articles can be found at

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33 Comments on "Man Takes Down Drone With T-Shirt, Ends Up in Jail"

  1. Ok, so the drone was so close the guy could throw a T-shirt and easily hit it first try! What more does a person need in order to show that the drone operator was putting people’s lives at risk and that he should be charged?

  2. I own the air space 350 feet above my land, you invade it I shoot your craft

    • I’m with you! We are “protected????” by our constitution..right? Shoot ’em all out of the sky!

    • As a pilot I am required to KNOW the laws! 500 ft over a inhabited area, (one home is enough or visible people) and 1000 ft over a populated area (2 houses or more)! I think if a man was present it certainly was inhabited! And I don’t know of anybody who can throw a tee shirt 500 ft? There is a questionable exception for helicopters “an altitude high enough not to endanger lives and property” The cites on that are mainly when used for rescue! Nothing I can find about being used for harrassment?

  3. The sheriff was confused, obviously. He should have arrested the drone operator for endangering the man and children. If one of the sheriff´s children is cut by a drone propeller, he will more clearly understand the situation.

    Operators of such radio-controlled models with cameras, who spy on private persons and their property, should be charged as a peeping-tom is charged.

    • the ‘Dudley-do-Right’ Sheriff is a moron…but goes to show how hired thugs like him always defer to the ‘established order of things’ rather than the people he was elected to protect & serve.

    • Indeed you are correct. Drones are an amazing new technology but it seems like, as usual, safety concerns lag behind commercial ventures. I agree with your speculations – the sheriff is obviously ignorant of the severity of the injuries that can be caused by contact with the propellors of an airborn drone.

      I won’t post a link here but an image search for “drone injuries” can be quite revealing.

      • If you do more research on these erroneously labelled drones, then you’d find most operate off a lithium polymer battery. please look up what these do if punctured, and determine why it might be a bad idea to shoot one while it is flying over your house, or yard, or neighbors home. I ask that you keep in mind that these will likely never fall straight down, and would likely veer off.

  4. So it’s legal for that drone operator to invade those people’s privacy and at such a low height, but not for them to protect their privacy and persons? Why the heck does the drone operator need to get right in their faces? What is he trying to see, their freckles? I agree with the other fella “drbhelthi” who said the guy should be charged as a peeping Tom, at the least!!! Kudos to Mr. Lehecka with the T-shirt; good aim, sir! He shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place!

    • Don’t cloud the issue with privacy rhetoric. They were outside, you have no expectation of privacy in public. Funny how all these privacy ppl get riled with quads, yet have zero problem being recorded 24/7 by CCTV huh?

      • Being on the beach, enjoying the sun and sea in my bathing suit is a helluva lot different that being recorded when I’m in street clothes elsewhere. I’m not a criminal so I don’t worry about those cams. This incident amounts to the same thing as someone peeping in my bedroom window while I’m naked or changing clothes, which is illegal, and THAT is MY point!

        Fly your quad safely and responsibly and I don’t have a problem with you. Or are you a peeping Tom with a zoom lens?

        Drone operators also need to stay out of airplane flight paths!

        • Do you often do intimate things on the beach, or change your clothes in public? No? OK then. It doesn’t matter how YOU personally feel about it; opinion doesn’t equal law.
          Same with a camera, if someone is taking NON-COMMERCIAL pictures, and you land in the shot, too bad. Same thing for the same reason. How one compares a quad with a camera looking INTO someone’s bedroom window vs. being outside in PUBLIC, barely clothed for all to see, is beyond me as far as logic is concerned.

          • Ok So I’ll stand with a digital recorder over your wife and children seeing if I can get a nice closeup down their shirt or of their butt’s and see if you don’t get ticked off. While you are correct that legally I have no expectation of privacy on a beach you are 100% wrong if you are to suggest that this drone operator had any moral high ground to stand on. Now you can sit and defend that which is morally reprehensible all you like but don’t expect others to agree with you. Also I’m not so sure that you are even legally correct. In the instance of the police they do in fact need a search warrant to obtain information that could not gathered with the naked eye. In other words they can’t sit with a telescope and spy on people even if they are in public and then use that in court. So the expectation of privacy is that of the naked eye not a telephoto lens at least when it comes to cops. I have a feeling that this is soon going to apply to private individuals and it should if scumbags can’t act like decent human beings without the government getting involved. You want to walk by and look at my wife and kids? Fine. But if you stand over them taking close up pics of them you are going to be in for a world of hurt, law or no law.

          • You said that much better than I did.

          • Thanks

  5. “My drone was perfectly safe, unless the RF transmitter failed, or the wind changed, or a bit of electronic interference is encountered, or someone hacks it, intentionally or unintentionally, with a ground-based device, or I don’t pay attention for a second . . .”
    All it would have taken was two seconds of interruption of communication, and that drone would have come STRAIGHT DOWN on them. Try throwing a T-shirt into the air. Now imagine how long something solid would take to come down from that point at freefall. Not very long is it? Apparently drone “flyaways” are also a common prob with amateurs, too, (I really don’t think a guy hovering six feet over a crowd of people was a pro) where software error or interruption in signal causes them to barrel away uncontrollably at speed. So, yes, the drone was very much a danger to health and safety at its current altitude.

    • a drone, as a drone, SHOULD NOT come ‘straight down’ on anyone if the communication is interrupted. this would happen with an RC model airplane/helicopter/boat/car, but not a drone.

  6. They’ve already had drones crash on people’s heads!

  7. – an additional observation.
    The photo shown in this article does NOT represent the vast majority of radio-controlled, model drones, or quattro-copters. They began to show up four years ago, as experimental, in the RC-model club of which I am a member. The one pictured is the first one I have seen with a protective fence around it. I wonder who provided this particular photo, and why – – ?

  8. How about some RF jamming equipment? No one will know the source. Kind of like a universal remote control. Or what if your drone rams the other drone?

  9. I have a Blade 350 qx3, (for those that want to see what I’m talking about) and this sUAV operator was idiotic. (I refuse to use the lazy term “drone”. A drone is 12 feet long & can fire hellfire missiles.) There is no way flying that close is safe, here’s why. If the blades were carbon fiber, (which is possible) they can cut to the bone. There is also the chance that a fly-away can happen at any time, (especially with dji phantoms, which happens to be the most popular) which is why you don’t fly near people! If it was THAT low, if the guy didn’t listen to me, I would’ve done the same thing. Its idiots like this that give the rest of us a bad name!

  10. nobody should be arrested for dropping one of these spys if they are hovering above them..period. where I live there are damned few but if one ever came hovering I guess I too, would be arrested because it would not live to tell the story…death to all hovering drones, and a good butt kicking to its owners

  11. We should all shoot down or destroy drones on sight. I will if given the opportunity. Long live American freedon. Take the drone destruction pledge today,

  12. I was on a beach in Florida and a father and his son were running a radar-controlled race car on the beach. The beach was crowded and the car was kicking up sand and making a lot of noise. Most people were annoyed but they kept quiet. I kept my eye on the thing and watched as the father handed the controls to his son, probably around age 5-6. The boy, either by accident or intent, ran the car right into a group of children sitting on towels, and it crashed into one of them, hitting a small girl in the face and cutting her up pretty bad. The father of the girl picked up the car and smashed it to bits with his foot. The father of the boy came running over and they got into a very loud argument that was finally settled when the owner of the car stomped off after realizing the father of the girl was a lot tougher and meaner than he was.

    Was the father of the injured girl within his rights to smash the car? I sure thought so, and I don’t need a cop or anyone else to tell me that.

  13. Nice straw-man & assumption. I don’t have a camera on my quad. I do however, like knowing the laws in case I decide to do it.

  14. if they want to play come watch us then we should only be able to play hit the target . all is fair in love and war

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