Area Resident Allegedly Witnesses Shots Fired at Horses
By Laura Singleton The Independent May 7, 2019
OVERGAARD — A woman photographing Heber wild horses in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests at a dirt tank watering hole last week says she witnessed a man shooting at the horses.
The incident reported to have occurred on May 2, 2019. CLICK HERE FOR THE HISTORY
Payson resident Kathie Reidhead shared her personal account with the Independent via phone on Friday, May 3. She describes being in the forest taking pictures of the horses when she heard gun shots. She also describes how she made contact with the person she saw holding the rifle and the events that unfolded after she called 911 and was connected with the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office.
She has provided her account in writing to the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Springerville office because she was advised to do so by employees she spoke with at the Black Mesa Ranger District office that same day.
“I am not a member of the Heber Wild Horses group or any other horse advocacy group,” explains Reidhead. “I am newly retired but I have been photographing the Salt River horses and the Heber horses for about three years. It’s a hobby and 99 percent of the time, my subject matter is horses.”
Reidhead is adamant that she witnessed a man “shooting directly at the blonde horses to my left.”
“At the time the first shots rang out, I was seated inside this water hole and the shooter wasn’t able to see me because I was out of sight and below ground level,” she explains. “After the first shot or two rang out, I scrambled up the side of the embankment and hid behind a dead tree,” she explained.
Reidhead goes on to say that she “peeked over and observed a man shoot four or five additional shots with a long gun in the direction of the four blonde horses to my left.”
“I could hear bullets whistling through the air to my left,” she says. “The other horses to my right were frightened … After the man shot toward the blonde horses, he turned the gun toward the dark horses still huddled on the top of the water hole to my right.” Reidhead said she was carrying a handgun herself and routinely does when she is in the forest by herself.
“I immediately stood up from my hiding place and raised my hands in the air, hoping and praying that if he saw me, he wouldn’t take another shot.”
The remainder of Reidhead’s account explains how the person saw her stand up and “immediately dropped the rifle to his side and then moved towards the open passenger door of his truck.”
Reidhead says that she walked across the field towards the man and confronted him. They exchanged words and then she called the Sheriff.
Both parties insisted on staying until the deputy arrived. The Independent does not know the identity of the man allegedly at the scene; he not could be contacted for comment.
Reidhead claims that the man was allowed to leave the scene in his truck. After that, she says she attempted to provide more details to the deputy and offered a written statement which, she alleges, the deputy was not willing to take.
“I have all I need for my report,” is what Reidhead says the deputy told her.
“Deputy Jackson made contact with the male who said he was just target shooting at the stump,” according to reports shared with the Independent by Navajo County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) Chief Deputy Randy Moffitt on Monday, May 6.
“The stump in question was filled with fresh projectile strikes.
The area the female said the horses were at was searched. No signs of any injured horses, dead, or blood was found. Deputy Jackson did not arrest the male,” also states the email from Moffitt.
“Our deputies responded to a call of someone shooting in the forest,” says Moffitt. “When we investigated it, the person refused to leave and there was an exchange of words by someone who made an accusation that he was shooting at the horses.”
“We have to operate under the rules of criminal proceedings and there was no evidence of any criminal activity upon our arrival,” confirms Moffitt.
“We take these calls extremely seriously; we are going to respond and do everything we can to investigate,” he says.
Witness still concerned
“My life was in grave danger just moments before, so it was emotional,” said Reidhead. “I was really shocked that the deputy was letting the guy go.”
She added that other vehicles arrived at the scene adding to the commotion and interrupted her initial conversation with the deputy. “I was only able to tell the deputy a small bit of what occurred before he released the man to go,” she adds.
Reidhead felt compelled to visit the Black Mesa Ranger District that same day. She claims that she encountered two employees who were “very helpful” and indicated that “there was only one Forest Service investigator who was in Cave Creek for training.”
19 horses dead
To date, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests have issued press releases confirming that a total 19 horses have been found deceased in, or adjacent to the designated Heber Wild Horse Territory. Some of the horses had been shot. The ongoing investigations into the horse deaths that were first reported in October 2018 are being conducted by the Law Enforcement Division of the Forest Service.
Horse advocacy groups, members of the public and Congressman Tom O’Halleran have previously reached out to the Forest Service regarding the ongoing investigation.