Man denies pointing gun at kids trespassing on his property

FOREST GROVE, Ore. - A man jailed and accused of pointing an unloaded gun at kids who were using his property as a shortcut denied Wednesday he pointed the gun directly at them.

Norman Allen Van Dyke, 67, was arrested Tuesday on charges of menacing and pointing a gun at a person. A 7-year-old boy and his two 9-year-old friends got off at the wrong bus stop and took Van Dyke's gravel driveway, thinking it was a shortcut home.

Van Dyke, who was released from jail after posting bail, says trespassers have been trashing his property and when posted signs, verbal warnings and calls to police didn't stop it, he says he reached a breaking point.

For 43 years Van Dyke has lived at his Forest Grove home without any problems, but he says when the neighborhood started growing up around him and a Walmart moved in behind his property trespassers started using his yard and driveway to get to the store or main roads nearby.

"It's been a nightmare for two damn years, it's been a nightmare," he said.

Van Dyke says the trespassers haven't always been respectful.

"They spread garbage through here. Every day I gotta pick up their coke bottles - beer cans with urine in them. You won't believe this stuff," he said.

Van Dyke says after all that and having his stuff stolen, he's at his wits end. So when a Forest Grove officer responded to his latest complaint last Friday, Van Dyke took the advice he says the cop gave him, which was carry a gun just in case.

"You gotta show force to back them off otherwise they walk over you," Van Dyke said.

But according to the Forest Grove Police Department, an officer would have never suggested that Van Dyke carry a gun to threaten trespassers.

Van Dyke denies he pointed his unloaded .22-caliber handgun right at the kids.

"When I seen them coming, I just got a glimpse of them coming round the other side of the building there, I hollered at them, and I run around (with the gun pointed in the air) and then when I seen it was kids I put (the gun) away," he said. "My dog chased after them because I was running."

Van Dyke says he didn't sic his dog on the kids.

Buster the dog didn't hurt anyone and neither did Van Dyke.

"I wouldn't have even pulled a gun had I known it was kids. I would have just screamed at them and tell them to get off my property," he said.

Nevertheless, he's now in a heap of trouble with the law. According to Oregon law, someone has committed the crime of menacing, a misdemeanor, when they create the "fear of imminent physical injury."

There are exceptions under the state's "use of physical force in defense of premises" statute but only when the trespasser is caught committing "arson or a felony by force and violence by the trespasser."

Former sheriff's detective and Portland attorney Bruce McCain says the menacing law applies in this case.

"You point a gun at somebody - that's obviously placing somebody in fear of imminent serious physical injury," he said.

McCain says Van Dyke probably would not have been charged if the trespasser would have broken into his home. But once he left the home and pulled out a gun, even as just a warning, the menacing law was broken.

KATU News reporter Thom Jensen contributed to this report.