ADA, Okla. — An Ada man, alleged to have shot a neighbor’s lawn mower during a dispute over property boundaries, could be facing stiff penalties in District Court.
John Vance Sliger, 71, of Ada has been charged in Pontotoc County District Court with one misdemeanor count of reckless conduct with a firearm and one felony count of malicious injury to property over $1,000. Both charges stem from an incident in which a neighbor alleged Sliger “shot (the) engine on his lawn mower.”
Records indicate Pontotoc County Sheriff’s deputies were called to a home in the 12900 block of County Road 3476 June 27 regarding “an assault resulting in a lawn mower being shot.” Upon their arrival at the home, deputies spoke with Shawn Horton of Ada, who reportedly told them that as he was mowing grass “near the highway, (Sliger) came over to him and began to argue with him about cutting grass on (Sliger’s) property.”
Deputies report Horton told them after both parties “exchanged words,” Sliger punched Horton in the face, and, when Horton “turned his lawn mower around to leave… Sliger shot (the) engine on his lawn mower.” Deputies report they observed “bruising and dried blood” on Horton’s face and a bullet hole in the side of Horton’s lawn mower.
According to reports filed by sheriff’s deputies, Horton’s lawn mower became inoperable and Horton asked his father, Murrel Horton, to “haul it on a trailer.” Deputies report Murrel Horton told them when he heard the argument, he got on his golf cart and drove toward Horton and Sliger to see what was going on. Along the way to their location, Murrel told deputies, he heard the gunshot. Deputies report Murrel told them he saw Sliger “putting a black semi auto pistol in his side” when he arrived at their location.
Records indicate Murrel Horton told deputies he took (Horton) home and called 911 when he saw “blood on (Horton’s) face and the bruise where he had been hit.”
Deputies report Sliger told them he has had “issues” with the Hortons in the past. Sliger reportedly told deputies the area where Horton was mowing grass was his (Sliger’s) property, and that he has told Horton “numerous times” not to mow there. Deputies report Sliger told them he believes Horton mows the grass in that location “because (the Hortons) sell tractors from their property and cutting the grass makes them more visible.”
Records indicate Sliger told deputies when he approached Horton they began to argue, and Horton “threatened to kick Sliger’s *** and threatened to kill him.”
Deputies report Sliger told them he punched Horton in the face when Horton attempted to get off of the lawn mower.
Deputies report Sliger told them Horton then “turned on the blades of the mower and spun the deck towards him in what he believed to be a deliberate (attempt to maim) Sliger.”
Records indicate Sliger told deputies he then stepped back, drew his pistol and “shot into the back of the mower.” Deputies report Sliger told them he then returned home.
Records indicate a witness told deputies they saw “Horton cutting grass on slugger’s property” and saw Sliger walk over to Horton, where “an argument ensued,” resulting in Sliger punching Horton. The witness reportedly told deputies they saw Horton attempt “to run Sliger over with the lawn mower, and after Sliger stepped out of the way … (Sliger) shot the back of the lawn mower.”
Records indicate a second witness told deputies they, too, had “issues” with the Hortons cutting their grass.
After further investigating the incident and collecting evidence at the scene of the altercation, deputies placed Sliger under arrest for “shooting with intent to kill, malicious injury to property and assault and battery.”
Deputies report they had a discussion with the Hortons about “property lines” and issued criminal trespass warnings to Horton, his father and his brother, advising them to stay off of a neighboring property.
Sliger appeared in Pontotoc County District Court July 2 to face one misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct with a firearm and one felony charge of malicious injury to property over $1,000. He is next scheduled to appear in District Court at 1:30 p.m. July 12.
Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian said Monday by phone that his office has seen an increase in calls involving violent disputes.
“People continue to think this is the wild West and (they’re) going to take matters into (their) own hands and solve it (themselves),” Christian said. “In this day and age, it’s the most ridiculous thing ever.
“We discussed this in the sherif’s office, and it was discussed at the scene — if you’ve had such issues with your neighbors (that it comes to this), why haven’t you called and reported it?
“We’re getting into a situation in this country and in this county where people think the first thing to do is to punch someone or pull a gun and shoot at them. I’ll be the first person to tell you, if you do that, you’re going to go to jail and you’re going to see a judge.”
Christian said he understands people have a right to defend themselves when their lives are in danger, and he supports that right. But, the sheriff said, there is a difference between a life-and-death situation and a property dispute.
“Use of firearms is no way to settle a dispute,” Christian said. “We get called many times a day to settle disputes and many times we resolve those situations without any type of injury to anybody, and that’s the way to handle the situation.”
Contact Carl Lewis by phone at 580-310-7520, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lewis is editor for The Ada News, a CNHI News Service publication.