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PA: Attempted Murder at Gun Range Stopped by Armed Samaritan

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Image  screenshot from video  cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten

On 22 December, 2020, at about 2:08 p.m. at the State Game Lands Shooting Range 109, in Erie County, Pennsylvania, a highly unusual attack and defensive shooting occurred. 

The shooting range is located in a dense wooded area. There are nine shooting points; three for pistols with a 25 yard range, and six for rifles, with a 100 yard range.  Tuesday was dull and dreary with a westerly wind of 14 mph. Before noon it had been overcast with a light rain. By two p.m, the sun was occasionally peeking through the clouds.  It was cool and cloudy at 39 degrees F.

Satellite view of Erie County Game Lands Shooting Range 109 from Google maps, cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten

Two young couples had arrived in separate vehicles. One of the two young men had recently purchased a pistol. The two young men and two young women reportedly took turns shooting the pistol, at the range. 

Then, from reported accounts, Robert A. Epply, 26 fired five shots down range, turned around, and started firing at his 28 year old male friend.  An Internet search reveals little of Robert Epply, except, in 2012, he briefly listed a post office box on Parris Island, North Carolina, a Marine Corps installation.

There was an Armed Samaritan on one of the other two pistol firing points. He observed what was happening, and quickly acted. He shot Robert Epply to prevent further attacks and to stop the shooting of the 28-year-old.

Three people were at the rifle portion of the range. They heard the shooting, but did not see the events as they happened. 

Epply was declared dead at the range at 3:11 p.m. From

Eppley was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting, at the State Game Lands 109 gun range at 10679 Sampson Road, at 3:11 p.m. Tuesday by Erie County Deputy Coroner John Maloney.

A 4½-hour autopsy performed Wednesday by Erie County forensic pathologist Eric Vey, M.D., determined that Eppley died of gunshot wounds to the torso, Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook said.

The 67-year-old man who was nearby, who Weindorf said had no connection to the two men, saw what was happening and fired on Eppley, who was still shooting at his friend, Weindorf said.

Murders at shooting ranges are very rare events. Prominent Marine sniper Chris Kyle and friend Chad Littlefield were murdered at a Texas shooting range, in 2013, by a mentally disturbed drug user, Eddie Ray Routh, who Kyle was attempting to help. Routh was sentenced to life in prison.

In Pennsylvania, the shooter was stopped before he was able to kill his first victim.  The identity of the armed Samaritan and the victim have not been released to the public.

The deceased attacker has been identified as Robert A. Epply.

Internet records show a person with the same name, associated with an September, 2012 address in North East PA, listed a post office box at the Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot in July of 2012.

It is likely the same Robert A. Epply, but what connection he may have had with the Marine Corps is indeterminate at this time. 

Previous Marine recruits have told me all mail was sent through their training unit. Training units have post office boxes. Searches have not associated the P. O. box associated with Robert Epply with a particular training unit. 

Police are continuing to investigate the Pennsylvania shooting. The victim was released from the hospital on the 23rd of December, according to US News. No motive for the attack has been determined.  The 67-Year-Old armed Samaritan has been released. No charges are pending at this time. 

Update: His obituary shows he served as a Marine. His fiancee  knew the friend who Robert was shooting at and wounded.  His fiancee has been reported as being pregnant with Robert’s unborn daughter. 

Might this have been a domestic situation?

©2020 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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