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Video purports to show Dell Schanze shooting from paramotor

Published June 8, 2013 11:18 am

Investigation • Utah wildlife official sends YouTube video to feds probing owl incident.
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A new YouTube video, "Para­motor Pilot Dell ("Buck") Schanze Shoots Handgun While Flying Flat Top Powered Paraglider," has been forwarded to federal agents for investigation.

The video was posted May 21 on YouTube. It is filmed from multiple positions on the craft and shows the pilot shooting at the shoreline of a lake.

Tony Wood, chief of law enforcement for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said he has reviewed the video and forwarded it to federal agents who are investigating another video of a different incident that purports to show Schanze, a 43-year-old Utah businessman, chasing and kicking a protected, flying owl from his paraglider. That video does not show the pilot's face and was removed after it went viral due to a copyright claim by Schanze.

Wood said he referred the new video to federal investigators in case it contained evidence that the pilot — whose face is shown and who resembles Schanze — shooting at protected wildlife or any other evidence connected to the video of the owl.

When called for comment on the new video, Schanze said, "I wouldn't post that and claim it was me, or you'll be in big trouble."

On Friday, the link to the video detoured to a notice that it had been taken down due to a copyright violation claim by a user with the email address of "imasuper0308@gmail.com." It could not immediately be confirmed that the address belonged to Schanze.

Agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Aviation Authority have not returned calls about the status of the investigation of the owl video.

Utah law forbids firing a gun from an automobile or other vehicle. Acting Utah County Prosecutor Tim Taylor said he is unaware of any other case in which someone was charged under that law for firing from aircraft.

"There's nothing in that code section that defines 'vehicle,'" Taylor said. "I don't think we would normally consider a flying aircraft a 'vehicle,' but that doesn't limit it either."

He said he hadn't seen the video but planned to review it to determine whether it shows evidence of a state crime and whether it was filmed in Utah County.

The new video — the lone item posted by a YouTube user named DodgeThisBuck — shows a series of edited clips in which the pilot takes off in a paramotor craft and, while in flight, retrieves a handgun from his fanny pack. He then fires the gun many times toward the shoreline while steering with his other hand. As the angle of the video changes, splashes can be seen on the lake where bullets appear to hit the surface.

Another clip shows the pilot reloading a gun while flying over land. Further footage shows other shots fired from a rifle on the ground.

Shane Denherder, a Salt Lake City-based paragliding instructor, said powered paragliding enthusiasts generally do not fire weapons while in flight.

"It wasn't a great idea," Denherder said. "I've never really done that, and I don't know anybody that would."

A separate YouTube video shows the gunfire footage edited in combination with clips from action movies.

Schanze, who became well-known for his "Super Dell" computer commercials, has had legal issues involving paragliding in recent years. He was arrested in June 2011 in Oregon for paragliding off the 125-foot high Astoria Column, an historic city structure. According to the Daily Astorian, Schanze pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor offense.

As part of a plea deal, he paid a $1,000 fine and wrote a letter of apology to the city of Astoria, according to the newspaper.

Schanze also has had run-ins with the law in Utah.

He was found guilty in June 2010 of class B misdemeanor reckless driving and three seat-belt violations for an incident in Saratoga Springs in which he was driving erratically with several of his children in the car.

In August 2006, Schanze was found guilty of a class B misdemeanor in 3rd District Court for making false statements to a Draper police officer.

Also in 2006, Schanze pleaded no contest to a class B misdemeanor charge of public nuisance in Draper's justice court for buzzing Interstate 15 in a paraglider.

ealberty@sltrib.com