Felon Shoots Down Sheriff’s Drone, Faces a Decade Behind Bars

Straight out of a modern crime drama, a 29-time convicted felon took aim at a Lake County Sheriff's Office police drone, bringing it down with a fiery crash. Now, he faces the potential of 10 years in prison for his actions.

Wendell D. Goney, a 52-year-old from Mount Dora, pleaded guilty to being a convicted felon with a firearm in connection to the 2021 incident. The court has yet to set a sentencing date for Goney. The full story, as reported by the Daily Commercial, unveils a series of events that sound more like a Hollywood script than reality.

The Night of the Drone Incident

The backdrop? July 11, 2021. Lake County Sheriff's deputies were investigating a burglary at a sprawling 10-acre warehouse and greenhouse in Eustis. To gain a bird's-eye view, they deployed a $30,000 drone, kitted out with infrared cameras and the latest tech gear.

Suddenly, shots rang out. Sgt. Chris Stevens recalls, “It sounded like a firecracker, but a .22-caliber rifle can sound like that. When I heard the second shot, someone yelled, ‘Someone's shooting at your drone!'”

To the shock of the officers, the drone made an abrupt turn, crashed onto a building's gutter, and erupted in flames.

Luckily, as Stevens stated, “It fell on a metal building, so it didn't cause any damage. I was grateful for that.”

Goney, the shooter, initially argued that the drone was “harassing” him. However, he later confessed to not having the right to possess a firearm.

A Troubled History

Digging deeper, Goney isn't new to the criminal justice system. With 29 felony convictions in , his charges range from resisting arrest with violence to illegal possession of firearms. This incident placed Goney under the microscope of the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, a collaboration between state and federal agencies aiming to decrease violent crimes.

Drones: A Modern Asset for Law Enforcement

This incident shines a light on the growing use of drones in policing. While the downed drone was replaced thanks to insurance, Lake County Sheriff's Lt. John Herrell mentioned a new law that grounded most of their drone fleet. This law restricts the use of drones from “countries of concern“, including .

However, there's a silver lining. The sheriff's office plans to sell off 13 such drones and purchase new, approved models with state grant funds. The drones' success stories include preventing a potential suicide, assisting in operations, and supporting .

In comparison to a helicopter, drones prove to be a cost-effective solution. In fact, many deputies now carry them in their patrol cars, ready for rapid deployment.

Drones, once a futuristic concept, have become vital tools in modern law enforcement. But as their use increases, so do the challenges surrounding them, as showcased by Goney's case. It's a stark reminder of the intertwining of technology, law, and community safety in our contemporary world.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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