A court in Pennsylvania has ruled a man who made a ‘gunlike hand gesture’ during an argument with a neighbour committed a crime.
Stephen Kirchner, from Lancaster County, was filmed on CCTV making the hand gesture towards his neighbour in June last year. According to court documents, Kirchner and his girlfriend were walking past their neighbour’s house when the incident took place.
Kirchner, 64, reportedly ‘stopped, made eye contact with [the neighbour], and then made a gesture at him imitating the firing and recoiling of a gun.’
According to reports, the neighbour had installed six home surveillance cameras on his property because of ongoing disputes and confrontations with Kirchner.
It is not currently clear what the neighbours’ confrontations were about, though Kirchner’s girlfriend reportedly had a ‘no contact’ order against the male neighbour at the time of the incident.
During the incident, however, the neighbour – along with several other residents nearby – felt ‘extremely threatened’ by the gesture Kirchner made, and reported it to authorities.
According to another resident: ‘[Kirchner] put his finger up like he was going to shoot him.’ The neighbour said they felt ‘insecure’ about the hand gesture and called the police.
During the trial, Kirchner admitted to making the ‘gunlike hand gesture’, but said he did it in response to the neighbour’s own hand gesture, which Kirchner claimed was giving ‘the finger with both hands.’
Kirchner was found guilty, and was issued a disorderly conduct citation.
According to a press release from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, Kirchner ‘argued on appeal that the gesture did not cause a hazardous or physically offensive condition, that he did not intend to cause public alarm, and that there essentially was no harm done to the victim or society.’
However, they added:
The high court found that Kirchner’s gesture – “imitating the firing and recoiling of a gun” – “risked an altercation,” so the charge is supported. Additionally, a neighbor felt insecure and called 911.
The court said Kirchner ‘created a hazardous condition as it risked an altercation’, MailOnline reports.
While court documents added:
This act served no legitimate purpose, and recklessly risked provoking a dangerous altercation.
Kirchner was ordered to pay a $100 fine as well as court fees.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.