St. James residents were surprised to hear a shotgun go off the evening of Feb. 23. The gun was aimed at the sky, but instead of shooting at birds, a man was aiming at an unmanned drone.
Members of Missing Angels-Long Island, a Bay Shore-based organization that searches for missing pets, were using a drone to search for a missing dog named Dezi in the St. James area, according to a Facebook post.
Suffolk County police said Gerard Chasteen, 26, of St. James allegedly fired three shots into the air in a residential area, striking the drone at around 4:45 p.m.
Chasteen was charged with third-degree criminal mischief and prohibited use of a weapon after an investigation by Suffolk police. Multiple shotguns were also confiscated from the residence. Chasteen was issued a field appearance ticket and was to be arraigned at a later date.
Missing Angels did not respond to requests for comment. But Facebook posts from the organization show Dezi was found and returned home the next day, Feb. 24.
The drone used, a Mavic 2 Zoom model, is valued at about $1,500 online, depending on configurations and accessories. Unmanned drones have seen a surge of popularity in recent years, and some 7 million drones are expected to fly over American skies by 2020, according to the Federal Aviation Association. A drone is considered an unmanned aircraft, according to Suffolk County law.
In response to the Feb. 23 incident, members of Missing Angels started a fundraiser the next day on Facebook to replace the destroyed drone. Within the first two days the fundraiser reached its goal of $1,500 to replace the drone. Organizers extended the fundraiser to $1,900 to cover the expenses for a universal microchip scanner. The group has now raised more than $2,100 for a new drone.
The organization said on a Facebook post these pieces of equipment are important to continue to help search and track pets on Long Island.