Friday, April 21, 2006

Rhinelander, Wisconsin

From Green Bay’s of April 21, 2006
Rhinelander Man Shot At While Working In Woods

A logger told investigators two men drove up and shot at him while he was working alone in the woods, sparking a gun fight in the forest, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department said.

John "Homer" Van Meter of Rhinelander told investigators he had never seen the other two men before and he didn't know what prompted the shooting, said Mike Caylor, communications officer with the sheriff's department.

Van Meter was in serious condition at an area hospital Friday with three bullet wounds to his torso and a graze wound to his head, Caylor said. The injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Van Meter, 52, was working around noon Wednesday when a passenger in a black sport utility vehicle got out and began shooting at him with a handgun, the sheriff's department said.

Van Meter ducked behind his truck where he retrieved his own pistol and returned fire, he said, telling deputies he thought he injured the passenger, the sheriff's department said.

The driver emerged with a rifle and began shooting, but Van Meter said he thinks he injured that man as well before the driver got back in the SUV and drove away without his passenger, according to deputies.

The passenger started running through the woods, so Van Meter said he grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun and continued the gun battle until the man disappeared, deputies said. Van Meter said he sustained the torso injuries during the chase.

He walked back through the woods, discarding his shotgun by a road after he grew too weak to carry it, he told authorities. Wardens with the state Department of Natural Resources found the shotgun by the road Thursday.

Van Meter sought help from a homeowner, who called 911.

"Everything we're finding in terms of physical evidence is matching up with what Mr. Van Meter is telling us," Caylor said.

Investigators found more than 30 shell casings from the original shooting site, believed to have come from the driver's weapon.

The crime scene covers a two-mile stretch into the woods, slowing the investigation, according to authorities.

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