A Seattle Municipal Court jury has found a man guilty of reckless endangerment stemming from a June 2015 incident in which a woman was knocked unconscious when she was struck by a small drone during the Pride Parade in downtown Seattle.
Paul M. Skinner, 38, had been charged with the gross misdemeanor, accused of engaging in conduct that created a “substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person.”
The six-member jury reached the unanimous verdict in a four-day trial before Judge Willie Gregory. The case marked the first time the Seattle City Attorney’s Office has charged anyone with mishandling a drone in a public space.
The 25-year-old woman was standing near Fourth Avenue and Madison Street on June 28, 2015, when the 18-inch-by-18-inch drone crashed into a building and fell into the crowd, striking her in the head, according to Seattle police.
The woman’s boyfriend caught her as she fell to the ground. An off-duty firefighter helped treat the woman and called for police.
A friend of the victim gave police photographs of a man who might have been piloting the aircraft, police said, adding that the drone’s pilot ultimately came forward and contacted police.
The drone retailed for about $1,200 and weighed about 2 pounds, police said at the time.
During the trial, assistant city prosecutors Raymond Lee and Jeff Wolf called several witnesses to testify, including the woman, who suffered a concussion, and a man who suffered a minor bruise from the drone’s strike, the City Attorney’s Office said Friday in a news release.
Reckless endangerment carries a penalty of up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Skinner is scheduled be sentenced on Feb. 24.
The verdict comes days after representatives of Seattle’s Space Needle revealed an incident — captured on video — in which a flying drone struck the structure’s roof while pyrotechnicians were prepping for the annual fireworks display on New Year’s Eve.
A spokesman for the Seattle Police Department, which is investigating the drone crash, said earlier this week that such crashes are an increasing concern in the city.
The Space Needle incident is the sixth significant investigation involving a drone since summer 2014, according to the department. A Space Needle spokesman said the New Year’s Eve crash was the third one in recent years at the landmark alone.
In that crash, captured in video recorded by the drone, the aircraft didn’t damage the Needle, the spokesman said. The drone sustained some damage, but the spokesman’s team was able to salvage the footage.