More Facts in Schuylkyll River Trail Shooting Case

Looks like more details are emerging in the Schuylkyll River Trail shooting, and the Montgomery County DA is dropping the most serious charges:

As DePaul tried to get onto the bike trail in Conshohocken around 8:30 p.m., two juveniles on bikes reportedly blocked his path, officials said. Though DePaul was able to get around them, both juveniles followed him, according to the district attorney’s office.

After the teens passed the 27-year-old cyclist, the juveniles collided with each other, and as DePaul rode by them, they “exchanged words” with him.

Soon after, the 17-year-old got back on his BMX bike and chased DePaul, police said. After catching up to him, the teen kicked DePaul, causing him to nearly lose control of his bike and hit a fence, police said.

DePaul admitted that he drew his Keltec .380-caliber handgun and fired six shots in the direction of the teen who had kicked him. One bullet struck and flattened the rear tire of the fleeing bicycle.

The juvenile was about 200 to 250 feet away at the time, authorities said. At the time of the incident, DePaul had a legal permit to carry the weapon.

So, the facts would appear to be that the kids were in the process of trying to rob DePaul of his bicycle, he attempted to flee, and they continued chase, then assaulted him.  He drew a pistol, and they fled.  Still not a clean shoot, but considerably more justifiable than the previous narrative.  In essence, given multiple attackers, he was justified up until the point he fired.  Had they not fled, I would argue the jury should walk him if the DA were bold enough to press charges.

I think this incident has cemented for me the utility of pepper spray, as this incident would be a really good example of a situation that it was useful.  Had he sprayed them instead of fired, he would have been home that night drinking a beer on his patio, thinking about how good it felt to send the punks home crying to mommy, rather than trying to explain to police and DA why the shooting was justified.

22 thoughts on “More Facts in Schuylkyll River Trail Shooting Case”

  1. Too bad that it’s illegal for me to carry pepper spray concealed in my state.

    I can carry a .45 hidden, but not pepper spray.

  2. And a case where displaying weapon or use of taser wouldn’t help because the encounter was ongoing. He couldn’t be sure that they wouldn’t be back if they retreated on display, and a taser only disable while you are pumping current.

  3. How is it illegal to carry pepper spray? Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states, with there being some restrictions in Massachusetts and New York. Michigan has a silly strength limitation. But it’s perfectly legal just about everywhere else.

  4. While arguable, why wasn’t this a clean shoot. Because Kid #1 was supposedly fleeing?


  5. I guess my point is, the article seems to imply this might be considered clean because the shooter lost track of Kid #2

    Like all shootings, the details get squigly.

  6. Interesting turn of events in an interesting case. The guy obviously made a determined effort to flee, and the assailants made determined efforts to pursue him.

    Pepper spray might be an effective tool against a couple of 14-year-old would-be juvenile delinquents. In this case, because of the bicycles, effective application of pepper spray might have required the guy to stop, so that he could get a stationary target, lest the stuff drift back into his own eyes.

  7. You can make an argument he was just headed for cover. Had the kid flashed a gun, all bets would have been off, and I would walk the guy if I were on a jury. Had the kid even said he had a gun, walk. In a street confrontation, I think you could shoot someone fleeing, unless he dumps the weapon. You have no idea whether he’s breaking off from the fight, or is headed for cover, or is going to try another means of attack.

    Unarmed kid, I don’t buy that. If he was unable to locate the other attackers, that’s a mitigating circumstance, but why did you shoot at the fleeing kid instead of keeping your side arm at ready and watching for approaching threats?

    As for the spray having an issue on a moving bike, this much is true, but you’d generally have to stop to draw a pocket pistol too, and he was presumably off the bike when he fired. I’d be willing to let him walk on any charges for drawing, but firing at an unarmed kid at 250 feet away who’s fleeing on a bike? I might not agree with attempted murder charges, but I’d take simple assault for sure.

  8. As usual, it depends on the state laws in question.

    In Oregon, you are allowed to use the threat of deadly force to arrest a felon. Other states ( generally south of the Mason-Dixon line or west of the Mississippi ) also allow such.

  9. Probably assault on the 27-year-old’s part. But if I were his lawyer (IANAL) I would point out that, 1) my client was alone, 2) he was facing two assailants, 3) it was getting dark, 4) he had out-distanced his pursuers once before, only to have them give chase and renew the attack, and 5) the assailants had blocked him, pursued him and attacked him in a determined, coordinated attempt to assault him.

    Well, it MIGHT work!

  10. Is this the same river-trail in Philly that was featured on America’s Most Wanted a while back, for a serial killer/jogger assault by a guy on a bicycle?

  11. Pepper spray is legal in Illinois, but not in Chicago. You can therefore carry it in Illinois as long as you don’t go to the city with the highest likelihood that you’ll need your pepper spray.

  12. Turk – Everything sounds good in your explanation of the sequence of events. He was clearly threatened, and everything he did was justifiable IMO up until he fired on someone 250 feet away who was fleeing from him.

    At that point there is just no way the kid was an imminent threat to him.

  13. The sticking point in everyone’s mind seems to be the 200-250 feet distance. My question is, and will remain, where did the police get that figure? did he say,

    “oh yeah, those punks were all the way over there and i shot at them anyway. you wouldn’t believe how high you have to aim a .380 at that range!”

    or did the cops ask the poor, scared kids.

    “yes mr. officer, we had some words, but we were running away from the bad man with the gun and we were all the way over there when he shot at us.”

    if it is the first, well, he’s too stupid to have a gun. if, as i have always suspected, it is the second, then all the evidence goes out the window when the “victim” turns out to be a serial robber and assault artist.

    In PA, all you have to prove is that you were in reasonable fear of life or serious bodily injury. you don’t have to show that they were armed. two teenagers can kick you to death pretty quick, and they had already shown the willingness to try.

    i’d be willing to bet $20 he gets off and gets his gun and permit back. at this point, the lawyer can show enough reasonable doubt that he should be able to beat the rap if he hasn’t opened his fat mouth and said anything stupid. remember, if you shoot, all you say to the cops is, “i was defending myself. I wish to cooperate, but i would like to have my lawyer present.” then shut your pie hole and keep it shut until your lawyer tells you otherwise. Don’t talk to the Police

  14. There’s still obviously a lot of details missing. I won’t cry is a jury lets him walk. They will be the only ones presented with all the facts.

  15. “Too bad that it’s illegal for me to carry pepper spray concealed in my state.

    I can carry a .45 hidden, but not pepper spray.”

    “How is it illegal to carry pepper spray? ”

    I don’t know his situation, but I think the operative words there are “concealed” and “hidden,” hopefully he’ll check back to clear it up.

    Also, I agree with Sean Sorrentino on the distance the police gave. They never stated in the article how they got that figure.

  16. Thanatos Said,
    August 1st, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Also, I agree with Sean Sorrentino on the distance the police gave. They never stated in the article how they got that figure.

    I believe that this is the distance that DePaul estimated – no mention on whether that was checked with a tape.


  17. I rode my bike past that location today, open carrying my XD. there is still tape on the fencing, but no indication what exactly the tape means. The thing that i found most interesting is the fact that the location is basically a death trap. there is about 20-30 feet between the Mittal Steel’s chain link fence and the trees. if you got attacked in that location, and kicked off you bike into the chain link fence, you’d basically be trapped. you aren’t going to get over the chain link fence fast enough to stop the two teens from grabbing you, and it isn’t obvious if it is possible to get through the trees. even if you did, it’s about a 15 foot slope/drop to the train tracks. check out the satellite view.

    it’s basically a tunnel. the attackers chose their ground better than they chose their victim.

  18. “In essence, given multiple attackers, he was justified up until the point he fired. Had they not fled, I would argue the jury should walk him if the DA were bold enough to press charges.”

    I don’t think I’d convict nor revoke. Did the kid flee before or after DePaul drew his pistol?

    Second, there is a factor that is, IMHO, being forgotten here. Bicycles!

    200-250ft is a very short distance on a bicycle. It’s been proven a man on foot with a knife can cross 20ft in the time it takes for many to draw their pistol. People train just for that scenario.

    200ft can be covered in a much briefer time on bicycle than on foot. So I’d consider 200ft to still be a clear and present threat area; when the threat is on a vehicle.

  19. I’m still trying to figure out how you would use pepper spray while riding a bicycle – let alone a Kel-Tec.

  20. I’m also wondering if the victim drew and fired out of anger and frustration; They kicked him into the fence and possibly seemed to be breaking off the encounter–the final kick being a parting “F*ck you”; It’s only natural in the heat of the moment to want to respond *somehow* to such a crass indignity; By itself that’s no excuse, but the emotions would be completely understandable if present. But in any case the jury may find that they can’t overcome “reasonable doubt’ and vote to acquit. Best of luck to the guy, sucks to be in his shoes right now.

  21. I think if you can’t control your anger to the point where you’re going to whip out your pocket rocket and dump your magazine at someone who is fleeing after a simple assault, you’re not the kind of person who ought to be carrying a gun in public. That’s not to say I think the state ought to be making those kinds of judgments, but there are definitely people out there carrying guns that I wish wouldn’t.

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