The girl’s dog wouldn’t quit barking Monday night, so she let him outside. Chad Eric Pickering, 40, was there waiting, crouched beneath a pine tree, prosecutors say. She glimpsed a shadow before she was shot three times.
Pickering, who lives just northwest of Bemidji, targeted the 17-year-old hours after she confronted him about riding his lawn mower through her yard, according to charges filed Wednesday in Beltrami County District Court. He is accused of shooting the girl, whom he described to investigators as “a bitch,” and faces one count of first-degree attempted murder and 20 years in prison.
The shooting has alarmed the Bemidji community and gained national attention Thursday from advocates for stronger gun control, who called Pickering’s pro-gun Facebook posts disturbing.
Neighbor Brianna Benson, 22, said that the victim, who has not been named, was released from the hospital Thursday. Doctors told her it could be months before she walks again, Benson said. The teen was shot in her upper left chest, right thigh and left ankle.
“One bullet missed her heart by 2 inches,” said Benson, after exchanging messages Thursday with the teenager, who used to baby-sit her kids.
The shooting has scared the Eckles Township neighborhood. Pickering was new to the area and little known, said Benson, who lives near the victim.
“I have three little kids. They’re always playing outside,” Benson said. “I would have done the same thing she did — telling him to get off my property. … It’s kind of scary.”
The 17-year-old told deputies that when the first shot hit her, she fell down on the deck outside her house. Then Pickering shot her twice more, according to the charges.
Then she crawled, “pulling herself into the house as she could not walk,” the charges say. About 10 p.m., she called 911. Officers found her on the living room floor.
When they asked her who might have shot her, she “stated that the neighborhood had been having problems with an individual who lived three doors south of her,” according to the charges. “She said that she did not know the person’s name, but that he had been repeatedly riding his lawn mower through her yard and that he routinely carried a pistol in a holster while riding a lawn mower.”
The victim was brought to Bemidji Sanford Hospital, where she was stabilized, then transferred to a Duluth hospital for further care.
Officers arrested Pickering after finding a Kimber .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol and holster in an air vent of his house.
Pickering told officers that after taking his children for a ride on the lawn mower, “a girl came to the front door and threatened him,” the charges say. “Pickering said that he then went over to the house and knelt down by a pine tree … and ‘I waited, and I waited and I waited.’ ”
After 20 minutes, the 17-year-old came outside. Officers said Pickering told them that he then shot her. She said “Oh, God,” after the first shot, dropping down, according to the complaint. Then he shot her again.
“He said that he was very upset with the girl coming to his house,” the charges say, “and that he had a lot of thoughts racing through his mind as he was walking towards his home.”
In court Wednesday, Judge John Melbye set Pickering’s bail at $1 million and conditional bail at $300,000, which requires Pickering to remain law-abiding, keep his distance from the victim and not possess firearms. He remains jailed.
Pickering filed for bankruptcy last year in Wisconsin, listing $45,000 in liabilities, much of it unpaid medical debt. In 2011, Pickering pleaded guilty in Wisconsin to two counts of driving under the influence.
On his Facebook page, Pickering listed his job as a correctional officer at Northwestern Minnesota Juvenile Center. A call and e-mails to that center’s director, Bill Frey, were not returned Thursday. But Frey told the Valley News Live that Pickering was a part-time correctional officer from May 20 to June 9.
On Facebook in July, Pickering shared a message from a group called “Cold Dead Hands” that blasted gun control. Pickering urged voters to “ditch the retards that are taking this country down the drain.”
By Thursday afternoon, Pickering’s Facebook profile had been deleted.