Not guilty verdict in shooting
Although a Schuylkill County jury found Charles D. Heffelfinger Jr. not guilty of attempted first-degree murder, he faces three to 20 years in state prison on charges of aggravated and simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.
The charges stem from shooting Gary Riedel of Girardville in the back during an argument on Orwigsburg Street, Tamaqua, on Feb. 12, 2017.
President Judge William E. Baldwin ordered a presentence investigation before imposing punishment.
Citing concerns about Heffelfinger’s combination of temper, his tendency to “get extremely intoxicated,” and fondness for weapons, Baldwin increased Heffelfinger’s bail to $100,000 cash from $75,000 cash or bond.
Baldwin also ordered Heffelfinger to live in a home where there are no guns, to not have a gun, not drink alcohol, and not live with his parents.
Heffelfinger, 24, said he lives with his girlfriend’s parents at 300 Wildcat Road, Tamaqua, and asked to continue staying there.
He told Baldwin the guns there are “locked away.”
The judge said no.
Heffelfinger then asked if he could live with his parents.
Baldwin denied that request after the prosecutor, Special Deputy Attorney General Nathan L. Boob, said Tamaqua police had recently confiscated several weapons from the home because “people had been shooting in the street.”
Heffelfinger was taken by sheriff’s deputies from the courtroom in handcuffs.
Jurors had listened to about three hours of prosecution testimony on Wednesday, and about one-and-a-half hours of defense testimony on Thursday.
Public Defender Kent D. Watkins called Heffelfinger to the stand.
He said he shot Riedel in self-defense.
Heffelfinger recounted the events leading up to the shooting. He was at the Pine Street Pub in Tamaqua with his father, Charles D. Heffelfinger Sr.
Their neighbor, Troy Meckes, introduced them to Riedel. At 1:40 a.m., Heffelfinger Sr. was asked to leave the bar because he was intoxicated. Meckes offered him a ride home, and Riedel helped him to the car.
Heffelfinger Jr. said he was also asked to leave by six people, whom he did not know. He had had three shots and 10 or 12 beers, he said.
He walked home, arriving in time to see Riedel and Meckes helping his father out of the car.
Heffelfinger said he was yelling because he was angry with his father for leaving without him.
He began arguing with Riedel, saying he was aggressive, telling him to “shut up and go in the house.”
At one point, Riedel was walking to the car after they argued. Heffelfinger said something to him, and Riedel “ripped off his shirt” and came back at Heffelfinger.
“When Gary ripped off his shirt, that changed the whole situation,” he said.
Heffelfinger said he pulled his gun, which he said he carries all the time, to get Riedel to stop. He said Riedel slapped the gun from his hand and the two scuffled.
“He’s trying to rip the gun out of my hand and acting like a maniac,” Heffelfinger said.
Heffelfinger got the gun again. He said Riedel got his hand on the gun and “Bam! I shot him.
“It was to stop the threat,” he said.
“I stood my ground. I have stand your ground rights,” he said.
Heffelfinger said that after shooting Riedel, he “froze. I didn’t know what to do.”
He shot Riedel, he said, to defend himself.
“There was not really much aim. Just bam, bam,” he said. “I wasn’t taking a military shot at his head.”
Riedel, he said, screamed, a “God awful yell.”
The bullet hit Riedel in the side and exited through his lower back. Another bullet ended up in the tire of a vehicle parked across the street.
Heffelfinger said his mother came out onto the porch and yelled at him to get inside and stay there. He did, taking off his clothes and emptying his pockets, putting the gun, holster, magazine and bullets on the kitchen table.
When police arrived, he went out onto the porch in his undershorts “to not look threatening. I knew I just shot somebody.”
“I pretty much got (the idea) from watching the movie, ‘Law Abiding Citizen,’” he said.
He told Tamaqua police officer Michael J. Hobbs, “I did this. I shot him.”
On cross examination, Heffelfinger explained why he gave police several different versions of what had happened.
“I was still pretty cloudy from drinking. I was still intoxicated,” he said.
Heffelfinger said he has a permit to carry the 9 mm Smith & Wesson pistol he used to shoot Riedel, that he keeps it loaded with nine bullets and holstered inside the waistband of his pants.
“It’s my self-defense weapon,” he said.
Boob asked him why he thought it would be a good idea to take a loaded gun to a bar where he would be drinking a lot.
“You tell me the letter of the law that says I can’t do that,” Heffelfinger said.
He also denied that he could have just gone into the house instead of shooting. Riedel was between him and the house.
“What am I supposed to do? Walk around him in the middle of an argument?” he said.
Heffelfinger’s father and his mother, Yvonne Heffelfinger, also testified as to the events that night.
Reaching the verdicts
Jurors deliberated for three-and-a-half hours before reaching the verdicts, beginning at 12:30 p.m. and reaching the verdicts at about 4 p.m.
The process wasn’t easy. They returned to the courtroom at 1:10 p.m. and again at 2:15 p.m., both times to ask Baldwin to explain and clarify the charge of attempted first-degree murder.
They returned again at 3:30 p.m. to ask him what they should do if they could not agree on a verdict for the charge.
Baldwin sent them back to the deliberation room.