We now know how Iowa City Police say a young man was shot while driving on an Iowa City highway last month.

According to the Iowa City Police Department, 69-year-old Philip Olson of Iowa City is the man who shot a 20-year-old driver on Highway 6, early in the evening of October 17.

In a media release this morning, Iowa City Police say that Olson fired a .22 caliber air rifle from his home next to Highway 6, attempting to shoot a squirrel. That happened at around 6:30 p.m. on October 17, about the same time police were called to an accident at Highway 6 and Sycamore St. There they found a man with a gunshot wound that "appeared to be a wound consistent with a small-caliber projectile". The driver, who has since been identified by his family as Gabe Heefner, was taken by ambulance to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Three days later, on October 20, after hearing about the incident on Highway 6, Olson went to the Iowa City Police Department (ICPD). He told authorities he had fired at a squirrel at about that time and had missed.

Police say that Olson's air rifle discharges pellets. The ICPD release states,

Such weapons are different than traditional firearms which use gunpowder to generate energy to launch a projectile. However, the air pressure generated creates enough force to injure or kill. Despite the potential for death or injury, Iowa law does not define such guns as firearms or per se dangerous weapons (a device specifically identified as a dangerous weapon in the Iowa Code).

Olson has been charged with violating a city code that prohibits the use of "any air rifle, toy pistol, toy gun or other toy arms or slingshot" within City limits.

There are also four different Iowa Department of Natural Resources violations that Olson is being charged with. They are: Hunting without a license; Hunting without a habitat fee; Unlawful take or attempt to take of squirrels; Shooting a rifle over a highway.

Gabe Heefner, a U.S. Marine who was in town visiting his grandparents before a 3-year deployment to Japan, remains hospitalized at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Iowa City Police say that they, along with the Johnson County Attorney’s Office, and the victim's family "are committed to working towards legislative change to define these weapons as firearms or per se dangerous weapons as they do in several other states".

Nile Heefner
Nile Heefner

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