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Evidence about “shooting party” sufficient to support endangering safety conviction

State v. Steven E. Steffek, 2015AP93-CR, District 2, 7/1/15 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

The evidence was sufficient to convict Steffek of endangering safety by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon, § 941.20(1)(a), as a party to the crime, despite the fact there was no evidence that anyone was dodging bullets in a “zone of danger.”

Steffek’s neighbor M.S. reported a .223-caliber bullet hit a chair outside his home, and B.F., another neighbor, heard gunfire coming from the direction of Steffek’s property and heard a bullet strike something on M.S.’s property. Steffek admitted he shot a .223-caliber rifle during a “shooting party” at a home-made shooting range on his property and allowed others at the party to shoot the same gun. (¶¶2-3).

¶9     We find sufficient evidence to support the verdict. At trial, the State argued that Steffek’s actions created a risk of death or great bodily harm not only to anyone who might have been on M.S.’s property but also to B.F., who was at home and hosting a family gathering. In addition to shooting his own rifle, Steffek also testified at trial that he had allowed two other people to shoot his rifle and that he invited his brother to bring and shoot his own rifle at targets on his shooting range on Memorial Day.

¶10     A reasonable jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Steffek should have known that using a rifle within shooting distance of residential homes, with nothing more than two sand-filled buckets and the surrounding topography to stop stray bullets, created a substantial and unreasonable risk of death or great bodily harm to others. Moreover, knowing this, Steffek could reasonably be found beyond a reasonable doubt to have either directly committed the crime of endangering safety by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon or intentionally aided and abetted in its commission by engaging in and hosting a group target practice on his self-made shooting range. ….

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