Mo. property owner fatally shoots man on float trip in head after fight on river

STEELVILLE, Mo. (AP) - A float trip on a river in eastern Missouri turned deadly when a property owner became angry after seeing a man urinating on a gravel bar, authorities said Monday.

James Crocker, 59, of Steelville, is charged with second-degree murder. He is jailed on a $650,000 cash-only bond.

Crocker, a property owner along the river, is accused in court records of confronting a group of people on their float trip Saturday and shooting Paul Dart Jr., a traveling companion of the man who was urinating, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Dart, 48, of Robertsville, was shot in the head.

"It's my property and I was going to protect it," Crocker told police, according to court records.

Crocker went to a neighboring home and asked a woman to call 911 because he had just shot someone on the river, Crawford County Sheriff Randy Martin said.

Crocker and some of the floaters had argued for several minutes before the shooting. Crocker told police he fired warning shots as four men moved closer to him in the gravel bar, with one of them -- not Dart -- holding a pair of rocks.

"I just shot the one closest to me," Crocker said, according to police.

Dart was shot from about three feet away.

Police said they found Crocker's semi-automatic pistol inside his Ford Mustang, with a magazine containing 11 rounds and a live round in the chamber.

Dart's widow, Loretta Dart, told the newspaper in a phone interview Monday that she and her husband were on an annual float trip with about 50 others. They stopped so she could get a beverage and her cousin could urinate on shore.

"This guy comes out of nowhere," she said of Crocker.

She said he told the group it was private property and to leave. "He's waving his gun at everybody," she said.

Her husband tried to calm the man down, she said.

"He went to the guy's arm to try to stop him, but the guy jerked back and popped him in the face," she said. "I watched him be shot in the face and fall down. I watched my husband bleed to death.

"He was a wonderful man. He didn't deserve this."

Click the video player above to hear the interview with Dart's widow.

 

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