As the result of the Aug. 30 execution of a search warrant at his Olney ranch by Palo Pinto County authorities, 39-year-old Stephen Riley was arrested last week in Young County on two charges of attempted murder and two charges of felony theft.
Investigators in Young and Archer Counties are continuing to work leads involving several older cases uncovered during the recent search of Riley’s ranch by Palo Pinto County authorities investigating a 2009 elk shooting.
According to the arrest warrant complaint filed by Texas Ranger Corey Lain with Justice of the Peace Stan Mahler, Riley is accused of attempting to murder two crop duster pilots in 2007 and 2008.
Riley allegedly fired 23 bullets from a semi-automatic rifle at a pilot and crop duster that flew over Riley’s land in 2007 and struck another crop duster with bullets in early 2008 that might have caused a crash.
Riley was arrested Aug. 31 on a Palo Pinto County warrant for theft of exotic livestock, over $1,500, less than $20,000, a state jail felony after his alleged accomplice informed Palo Pinto County Game Warden Clifton Swofford of the location of the livestock heads.
Riley owns the Flying Lead Ranch, a game ranch, in Olney, where sportsmen can reportedly shoot white-tail deer, sika deer, hogs, pheasants, quail, ducks, sandhill cranes, turkey and pigeons.
Game Warden Brent Isom of Young County reportedly recovered video evidence during the search of Riley’s ranch that shows footage of a plane and several shots fired as the plane comes near the camera.
According to the affidavit, the man who provided information to authorities leading to the original search of the property told Lain he filmed the incident in July 2007 as Riley shot at the plane with the .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle.
The man also reportedly told Lain he heard Riley state many times he was going to shoot the planes out of the sky because they disturbed the pheasants Riley was raising in cages.
The complaint states Riley admitted to Lain on Sept. 2 he threatened to the owner of the crop dusting company on numerous occasions that he was going to shoot the crop duster planes down if they continued to fly over his house.
Riley also allegedly admitted to Lain to firing the gun in the video recording but said he was intending to scare the pilot and admitted to firing in the direction of a crop duster on another occasion but said he aimed to the right of the plane and didn’t believe he struck it.
According to the complaint, a 51-year-old Olney man reportedly identified the plane in the video as the one he was piloting in 2007 and told Lain he spoke with Riley on the phone after he flew over Riley’s property.
Riley reportedly threatened to shoot him down even after the man warned him it was a federal offense, according to the complaint.
The second pilot, a 56-year-old Olney man, reportedly made a complaint with the Young County Sheriff’s Office in February 2008 after he reportedly found bullet holes in his plane shortly after feeling an impact on the left rudder cable while flying over Riley’s land.
One of the shots to the left rudder and v-strut could have caused the plane to crash, according to the complaint.
The Young County Sheriff’s Office reportedly interviewed Riley in 2008 and the deputy’s report indicated Riley told the deputy he did not shoot at the crop duster, according to the complaint.
Because two all terrain vehicles reported stolen out of Archer County were found on Riley’s property, Young County Game Warden Brent Isom said they filed theft charges that focused on the possession of the items at the time they were found.
A six-wheeled green ATV with a VIN number matching a $9,000 ATV reported stolen out of Archer County was reportedly found when the property was searched by law enforcement in August, according to the complaint.
A red four-wheeler, valued at $4,000 was also reported stolen from Archer County in 2009 and found on Riley’s property during the search.
The man who originally approached law enforcement in August told investigators he and Riley stole the four-wheeler, along with a tiller and trimmer from a hunting camp on a ranch in Archer County, according to the complaint.
In addition to the charge of theft of exotic livestock filed in Palo Pinto County for the alleged shooting of two elk and two fallow deer on the Guest Ranch last year, Riley has been charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of theft, more than $1,500, less than $20,000.
“We disagree with the charges,” said Riley’s attorney, Christopher Baran, who declined to comment further.
Isom confirmed they are investigating other leads that have not led to charges as of Monday afternoon, including allegedly darting deer in the Possum Kingdom area.
Young County Chief Deputy Carl Magee said the sheriff’s office was not releasing any information other than confirming Riley’s arrest, the charges and the bond amounts because of the ongoing investigation by the sheriff’s office, the game wardens and the Texas Rangers.
The Index was unable to reach Young County District Attorney Brenda Gray for comment Monday afternoon.
Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer said they have not filed any charges on Riley’s alleged accomplice in the elk shooting and would be forwarding the case to the grand jury for review since he approached law enforcement and is cooperating.
Index staff writer Christin Coyne can be reached at (940) 325-4465, ext. 3428, or firstname.lastname@example.org.