A Rochester man who accidentally shot his 16-year-old granddaughter after mistaking her for an intruder was charged Thursday with a felony.
The criminal charge against Stanley W. Wilkinson, a pastor at the Rochester Seventh-Day Adventist Church, unravels the details of the tragic misunderstanding that left the teen with a gunshot wound to her neck. Wilkinson, charged with intentional discharge of a firearm under circumstances that endanger the safety of another, is scheduled to make his first appearance in Olmsted County District Court at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
According to the criminal complaint, Wilkinson, 61, said his granddaughter went to her bedroom about 10 p.m. on Dec. 10. At about 11:30, he and his wife woke to noises like the crunching of snow outside their bedroom window.
Looking out the window, Wilkinson said he saw a figure moving in the dark with what appeared to be a lit flashlight. Without his glasses, he said, he can't see very well.
Thinking that someone was breaking into their house, Wilkinson said he got his pistol and told his wife to call the police.
Wilkinson said he turned on the living room lights to scare off the intruder, then switched them off.
Seeing that the person outside was trying to come in, he backed up and fired his gun through the closed door, later acknowledging to police that he didn't give a warning. But the shot didn't appear to stop the person from trying to open the door, he said, so he shot again.
Then he heard his granddaughter's voice: "Poppa!" she yelled.
Before the tragedy unfurled, the granddaughter had gone to her room after coming home at about 9 p.m. that night, she told police in an interview Dec. 20. An hour later, she left the house without telling her grandparents so she could meet up with a couple of friends. As she tried to sneak back into the house an hour later, she noticed the light in her grandparents' bedroom was on so she tried to be quiet. But the snow crunched, she said.
Standing on the deck, her iPhone illuminated, she saw the living room lights go on, then off. She looked through the sliding-door glass, figuring that her grandparents knew she was gone and were waiting for her. As she peered through the glass, she heard the shots and saw a flash.
Wilkinson began rescue breathing. According to the 911 transcripts, the pastor's wife begged for help in saving her granddaughter. "She's bleeding, bleeding bad!" she tells the dispatcher. "Please save her!"
As Wilkinson's granddaughter recovered in the hospital in December, the pastor agreed to a short newspaper interview in hopes of cautioning others who might be caught in a similar situation.
"Even if you have a plan for an emergency, you don't know what you'll do out of fear," he said then. "You just don't know what you'll do when, out of fear you do things that you wish you hadn't ever done."
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788