Amish shooting “likely accidental”

Rachel Yoder was killed by a stray bullet from a hunter’s rifle, according to new reports.

A hunter was getting ready to clean his weapon about a mile and a half away, and discharged the firearm into the air.  In the most recent news piece I can find, Holmes County Sherriff Timothy Zimmerly describes it as “in all probability” accidental.

If there is any “good news” that can come out of this story, I suppose it’s that this killing was in all likelihood not intentional.  I think we might be surprised by this, given that no bullet holes were found in the buggy.  Police were investigating the incident as a homicide.

amish shooting buggy frontI’m not here to play junior detective, but does this mean the bullet entered through an opening in the buggy? As noted yesterday, Rachel was a member of the Andy Weaver Amish.  In contrast to both Old and New Order Amish, Andy Weaver Amish have historically restricted the use of storm fronts (similar to car windshields) on their buggies.

To be honest I am not sure if any Andy Weavers permit, say, removable storm fronts (ie used in wintertime) or not, though perhaps someone can clear that up.

If there was no storm front on Rachel’s buggy, I guess it could have entered through the front.  Or perhaps through a side opening, or even the top, though you’d think that would leave a hole.  I imagine these questions will be answered soon enough.

Regardless, I hope the family can take some small comfort from the news.  They probably could use some prayers right now, and I imagine the hunter, who is also a member of an Amish church, could too.

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    1. Jane Foard Thompson


      This is heartbreaking for everyone involved. Like the Nickel Mines shooting, “demut,” trusting the goodness of God no matter what transpires here on earth is truly the only avenue for peace, though certainly not an easy one. I am praying for

      1. Jane Foard Thompson

        heartbreak cont.

        everyone in the community. Interesting, the next email I received after this one was Chuck Swindol’s Insight for Living, and he says what we think of God influences how we see everything. Especially the hard times.

    2. Cindy Burroughs

      accidental shooting

      I have never been one to like guns and think that a shot into the air has to land somewhere, it is just a shame someone has to pay for it. I am not Amish, however I read alot about the Amish and I send my prayers out to the family.

    3. lanore

      Will keep both familys in my prayers. Just a heartbreaking story.

    4. Ana Sweet

      Unusual things do happen

      We lost an entire family when a tree on a lonely road fell on their moving car with no warning. No one could anticipate such an accident. Sometimes so hard for the remaining family and others to comprehend.

    5. Dana

      It is sad sad story and almost impossible to believe such a long shot (they said more than one mile)killed her, but as tragic it is knowing it was an accident its a bit comforting. God bless them all.

    6. hedy nobil

      zimmerly comment all wrong!

      no one ever teaches to empty a gun by firing up into the air!!! this is just NOT DONE!!! ever.. i am sorry but even if this man is Amish he should be held responsible even if it was an accident..because his ACTIONS were negligent and caused this girls death..
      no where have i read this man was Amish.. the media just puts out bits and pieces…and i will tell you what. that zimmerly sheriff really looks dumb to many people that own and use guns for his statement that what that man did by firing his gun up into the air..
      that just is NOT DONE!!

      1. Amish hunter

        Here is a story with info that the hunter is Amish, for what it’s worth:–135925298.html

        1. hedy nobil

          Amish shooter..

          thank you.. will read it when i get home.. Just wish the media would update and make their articles inclusive of the old info and note any corrections… but that is just a…again.. thank you because i never found any article about this and i wondered because of the area…have a great Christmas!! and thanks for having this newsletter/forum and making it easier to use!

          1. Sure thing Hedy, and I’m glad it’s working better now. Still trying to make some improvements but it can be slow going sometimes 🙂 A great Christmas to you too.

            1. That link you gave didnt work for me, Erik.
              On the muzzleloader incident … I used to hunt with one. Once they are loaded, the only easy way to unload them is to shoot the gun. Otherwise you have to try to pull the ball back out, or put air pressure in the back side and blow it out. It is far, far easier to just shoot the gun. I imagine that the person wanted to unload the gun so it could be cleaned and put away for the season. So he just stepped out doors and shot up in the air, never dreaming that it would be a 1 in 10,000 chance to actually hit and kill someone.
              That said, the one and half miles away seems a long ways. I personally dont think a muzzleloader would shoot that far typically. My guess is that they upped the limit to broaden the possibilities of who did it, to keep the shooter anonymous. If they had said it was within a half a mile, then it would be fairly easy to determine which farm it came from. By upping the limit to maximum possibility, many more farms become a possibility. It is very likely that it was an Amish that made the shot, in a rare 1 in 10,000 shot. Obviously hindsight says make sure you unload your muzzleloader into a solid backstop next time. The Amish probably dont want to publicize the shooter, preferring forgiveness, especially since it was totally accidental, even though a bit of negligence on the part of the shooter.
              It could have been me. I think of how many times I have shot guns up in the air, shooting, for example, at flying birds with a .22 just to see if you can hit one flying. Not exactly the best thing to do, but I am guilty. Mike

              1. Amish shooting link

                Hmm, it did that for me too. If you copy-paste this slightly different link, it should work:


                The relevant bit:

                “Holmes County Sheriff Timothy Zimmerly told ABC News an Amish man has come forward to say he was preparing to clean his muzzle-loaded rifle after deer hunting and fired it into the air. Zimmerly says the bullet from his rifle “is consistent with” the one that struck the girl riding in a buggy more than a mile away.

                The investigation continues and no charges have been filed against the Amish hunter, who voluntarily notified authorities after he heard Rachel Yoder had been shot the same night that he was cleaning his gun.”

                1. Roberta

                  Different news reports

                  “…who voluntarily notified authorities…”

                  The news report that I saw on television said that he turned himself in to authorities only after learning that his neighbors had reported to police that they heard a shot from his house during the relevant time period.

              2. Lattice

                Oh, that’s a very smart thought, PC. I’ll bet you’re right – the hunter was probably much closer than 1.5 miles away. I have been very puzzled about how this slug/ball could have caused a fatal wound at that distance. If it had been shot into the air and was eventually free-falling to the ground (what you’d expect at a 1.5 mile distance)the force have been expended. It would have reached terminal velocity in its free-fall, and a fatal wound hardly seemed possible. But if the hunter was closer than that, it would make more sense, I guess.

                1. Lattice

                  After I posted, I started researching this type of thing and came across the following from Myth Busters Episode 50 from

                  Bullets fired into the air maintain their lethal capability when they eventually fall back down.

                  busted / plausible / confirmed

                  In the case of a bullet fired at a precisely vertical angle (something extremely difficult for a human being to duplicate), the bullet would tumble, lose its spin, and fall at a much slower speed due to terminal velocity and is therefore rendered less than lethal on impact. However, if a bullet is fired upward at a non-vertical angle (a far more probable possibility), it will maintain its spin and will reach a high enough speed to be lethal on impact. Because of this potentiality, firing a gun into the air is illegal in most states, and even in the states that it is legal, it is not recommended by the police. Also the MythBusters were able to identify two people who had been injured by falling bullets, one of them fatally injured. To date, this is the only myth to receive all three ratings at the same time.

              3. Mac

                Danger range of firearm projectiles

                A .22LR fired out of a rifle has a danger range of about 1½ miles. This is if the barrel is elevated to about 33-35°.
                When using a .22 to shoot squirrels there is a tree and leaves to slow the bullet so that it doesn’t go far if you miss.
                Danger ranges:

                .22 Short hi-vel 0.5 mi .222 Rem. 2.1 mi
                .22LR hi-vel 0.9 mi .458 Win. Mag. 2.3 mi
                .22 Hornet (centerfire) 1.2 mi .25-06 Win. 2.6 mi
                .44 Rem. Mag 1.3 mi .30-’06 Sprg. 2.6 mi
                .30-30 Win. 1.7 mi 7mm Rem. Mag. 2.9 mi
                .45-70 1.8 mi .300 Win. Mag. 3.0 mi
                Ref: Layne Simpson’s Shooter’s Handbook

                As you might guess, the larger, heavier bullets are more dangerous.
                If a firearm absolutely MUST be fired into the air, it should be aimed straight up vertically. The bullet will come to a stop at its maximum height and then free-fall to the ground or whatever it lands on. It will fall no faster than if it had been taken up in a balloon and dropped.
                Except for the time-honored squirrel shooting with a .22, preferably a .22 Short, bullet-shooting firearms should not be aimed above the horizon. Not “pointed,” but “aimed.” The “horizon” is the top of a backstop that will stop the bullet, such as a hill, a bullet-catcher target, or the like.
                Shooting up into the air is the province of shotguns shooting shot (not slugs, as they should be treated like any other bullet-firing firearm).
                I recall that the maximum range of a 12 gauge shotgun firing 00 buckshot at maximum velocity is about 600 yards (1/3 mile). Round spherical balls are aerodynamically very inefficient. They lose velocity rapidly. What we call a shotgun today used to be called a “fowling piece” as they were used to bring down birds on the wing. If used with a single round ball it was called a “musket.” The round “punkin” balls lost velocity rapidly so that they fell to the ground in a relatively short distance.
                But with the development of “conical” bullets – shaped like cylindrical barrels with a point on the front end, the bullet both became heavier and more aerodynamically efficient. The bullet would not lose velocity as rapidly as a round ball. It would retain more striking power at a longer distance.
                Sometime around 1900 the spitzer, or pointed bullet was developed, improving aerodynamics greatly for longer range and higher striking power at distance. Being base- or rear-heavy, they are less stable than short “pistol” bullets, requiring “faster” rifling twist to make them spin at high speed for stability. When a bullet loses stability it wobbles and then tumbles, slowing it quickly.

        2. Joan Sheldon

          link doesn't work

          I just tried this link and it doesn’t work. Can you please resend it?

          1. Joan, see my comment 2 comments above yours. You’ll need to copy-paste it. Should work for you.

    7. Roberta

      Totally accidental???

      This death was not “totally accidental.” I was taught that randomly shooting a gun at nothing is never acceptable practice. If he was unloading, he should have used a solid backstop. Someone is dead because he was careless.

      1. hedy nobil


        i agree 100%…i own guns..rifles and pistols..and shot all over florida in competitions..also..i have cousins that hunt and not a one of us were ever taught to empty a gun into the clear it…and i am a ‘life’ member of the NRA
        [i am against all hunting too, i will]
        and they do not teach that
        but i see others agree with the sheriff that it is ‘normal’..
        i am 58 and think i would have heard that sometime in my life

    8. Alice Mary

      Lesson for all gun owners

      It’s sad that it has taken a tragedy, the loss of an innocent teenager, to remind us all (especially those of us who own and use guns) of the laws of physics, that what goes up (at least on THIS planet) must come DOWN. I have heard of at least one other similar tragedy involving a gun shot into the air in this general area of Northern Illinois within the past couple of years. And let’s not forget all of the innocents who accidentally lose their lives due to gunshots by gangbangers, which happens far too often in cities like Chicago.

      May they all rest in peace, and may peace on earth for the rest of us become a reality in our lifetimes (I can wish, can’t I?)

      Alice Mary

      1. Alice Mary if there’s a time to wish for that, this may be it.

    9. Tom

      It is extremely, extremely hard to believe that a muzzle could shoot a mile and a half, something about this does not make sense. No bullet holes, no witnesses, no exact time of death and when the muzzle loader was fired. Still maybe i am lacking in information but it just don’t make much sense. But sometimes in life strange things can occur.

      1. Muzzle loader range

        Tom I know next to nothing about guns, but I wondered the same myself–and have been hearing this same thought expressed by others.

        On this point I found the comments above by Primitive Christianity interesting and a possible explanation.

      2. Mac

        The up-to-date “muzzleloaders” today are nothing like the antique type you probably think about. Many use a removable-bolt style reusable cartridge that is loaded with a bullet much like a centerfire rifle uses. The bolt comes out and is cleaned, the correct amount of powder (propellant) is loaded, typically with a prepackaged powder and bullet cartridge, and a separate primer (percussion cap) is pressed onto its nipple. The bolt is replaced in the breech and the “muzzleloader” is ready for use. Due to the much lower pressures provided by black and “Pyrodex®” powders, the muzzle velocities are lower than for highpower centerfire rifles. The large .45 and .50 caliber bullets (required by many jurisdictions for hunting) are semi-spitzer (pointed), heavy and will fly a long ways.
        The removable reusable cartridge system has been used for a long time in percussion revolvers. The reusable cartridges are machined in a solid steel cylinder in usually five or six chambers. The cylinder is, of course, removable. Larger percussion revolvers will have a ramming lever that allows reloading with the cylinder remaining in the weapon. Small “pocket” pistols that have no rammer built-in must have the cylinder removed and loaded elsewhere.
        I am a NRA Life Member for over 25 years. I do not shoot but rarely and have never hunted.

    10. Joan Sheldon

      This link doesn't work either–135925298.html
      This link doesn’t work either. Can you get a different one?

      1. Gosh, don’t know why it’s not working. Easy solution: just google “whas11 Amish shooting”. Should be the first result.

        1. Alice Mary

          Link worked for me

          I’m not sure what the problem is, but the link (–135925298.html) worked for me by copying and pasting it into a Google search box.

          Maybe it’s some weird atmospheric glitch, since we’ve been having problems with our online catalog shutting down over a dozen times today, at my library, and I heard Verizon’s 4G network wasn’t working this morning.

          Alice Mary

    11. Amish shooting "likely accidental"

      I’m glad that the mystery has been solved somewhat. I’m going to continue to pray for everyone involved..the family of the precious young girl and the hunter involved in this (and his family, too)

    12. hedy nobil

      article that did not work in link–135925298.html

      (ABC News) – The shooting death of a 15-year-old Amish girl in Ohio, originally labeled a homicide, now appears to be an accident, according to police.
      Rachel Yoder was shot in the head Thursday night as she rode in a horse-drawn buggy on the way home from a Christmas party in rolling farmland southwest of Canton. At first, a medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. Now, investigators say the death appears to be a freak accident.
      Holmes County Sheriff Timothy Zimmerly told ABC News an Amish man has come forward to say he was preparing to clean his muzzle-loaded rifle after deer hunting and fired it into the air. Zimmerly says the bullet from his rifle “is consistent with” the one that struck the girl riding in a buggy more than a mile away.
      The investigation continues and no charges have been filed against the Amish hunter, who voluntarily notified authorities after he heard Rachel Yoder had been shot the same night that he was cleaning his gun.
      Yoder was riding alone in the buggy, returning from a Christmas party for employees who work at an Amish produce farm. The shooting took place in the same area of Ohio where seven Amish men have been charged in beard-cutting attacks in a dispute over church discipline.
      But authorities say there is no connection between those attacks and the girl’s shooting.

    13. Maureen S.

      Prayers for the family(families)

      I was just cut to the heart when I saw this in the news, this poor family with a double tragedy, having lost their wife/mom in September. I have been praying, even though that can’t alleviate their pain at the current time, especially that they can hold onto their faith and know JESUS is right there with them, sharing in all their sorrow. I hope they have a strong community that will help the Yoder family as much as they can, and I hope the shooter learns to fire his gun into something safe and not just randomly into the air.

    14. David


      This story is very disheartening, especially in light of the holiday season. From a scientific perspective, what are the odds that a stray bullet over a mile away would strike a 15 year old child in the head? Also, the fact that her mother was killed in a tragic auto accident just adds frosting to the cake. Is it just me, or does it seem that Amish are prone to bizaar accidents? Curious.

      1. Mac

        Years ago a young woman was driving her car across a bridge when it drifted into the railing and ground to a stop. She was sitting slumped over and was found to be dead.
        Upon examination a tiny spot was found on her neck. It was where a bullet had entered with just enough velocity left to penetrate her neck and strike her spinal cord, causing her heart to stop.
        A shooter, learning of the incident, turned himself in. As I recall he had been shooting at cans floating on the river. The bullet matched his rifle’s barrel.
        The bullet had glanced off the surface of the water and sailed a couple of miles to strike the woman and kill her. Just barely, but she was dead.
        The critical angle is about 11° depending on the bullet shape. Shoot straight down into water or at a steep angle and the bullet won’t ricochet. But it is best not to shoot over water at all as the angle of the flank of a wave may reduce a fairly steep angle of attack to below that 11° threshold.
        NRA Life Member for over 25 years.

    15. hedy nobil

      shooter may be charged for negligence

      was on the news tonight…tho an accident..his actions were negligent they stated…prosecutors may charge him…
      i would like him to be charged because if not..others will see this as a way ‘out’ and no one learns..and he WAS wrong and did cause her death–> still to be proven, however <–
      that said, i do not feel he needs any long jail term…his guilt and anguish will/is causing such remorse i am sure he will[is] punish himself ..
      The Amish always forgive..[as we all should]
      it is their way of life…and the community is gathering around her family and i am sure his will be helping his as well..
      the rest of this country COULD learn so much from The Amish people..

    16. timing

      There is no good timing for something like this to happen but just before Christmas is unfortunate. It’s a sign that we do not know the time or the hour.

      The Amish are not prone to odd accidents. We just hear them when the happen and a rural setting makes them all seem like odd, outdoor accidents.

      That’s why it’s an “accident” – under normal circumstances, it doesn’t happen.

    17. Boots Davis

      "Accidental" shot presumption is dubious

      My condolences to all in the Amish community at your loss. Miss Yoder sounds like she was a fine young lady.

      But I would caution accepting on it face the “accidental”shooting presumption. All people are innocent until proven guilty, however, anybody with real knowledge of firearms knows muzzleloaders routinely don’t have anywhere near this kind of range, even the most sophisticated target guns, which casts doubt on an “accidental” shooting. Even the most powerful muzzleloader only develops around 2,000 feet per second muzzle velocity, and it drops off dramatically over distance, even at an optimal 45 degree trajectory for maximum distance. Any actual physicist out there can do the math. To the layman non-scientist like myself who has a lot of experience with firearms, this simply doesn’t pass the “smell” test. Add the near statistical impossibility of actually hitting a spot as small as a head from a mile and a half, and the statistical possibility is, I would think, near nil. A muzzleloader is less powerful than even an blackpowder cartridge gun (a bullet seated in a cartridge greatly multiplies the power over a patch and ball ramrodded into powder in a muzzleloader). Note that one of the longest measured shots by a percussion cartridge gun, a 50 caliber Sharps used by Billy Dixon at the second Battle of Adobe Walls in the Texas panhandle, was only 9/10ths of a mile, and is still considered a miraculous shot. Even with modern muzzleloading powder, it would be statistically and practically unlikely that even the best champion marksman could best Dixon’s shot by another 6/10ths of a mile (about 1,000 yards), particularly in only one shot. Sounds to me like the sheriff needs to let the state police and crime lab handle this. The idea that this was an accidental shoot seems to really stretch credibility.

      1. Probability of the accident

        Boots, I read your comment with much interest. I agree that it does seem hard to believe. I did note the comment from Primitive Christianity above though, on the idea that it maybe wasn’t really 1.5 miles away.

        However it does seem like at best a terribly bad piece of luck even if it were much closer. I’m hoping that what was reported really was the case–just a highly improbable thing that happened. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, (and thanks to other gun-knowledgeable people here too).

        1. muzzleloader ballistics

          I just did some research on muzzleloader ballistics, and have come to the conclusion that 1.5 miles would not be necessarily out of range with the newer “sabot” bullets. The original muzzleloader bullets were literally round balls with a cloth patch for a wad. But they now have newer designed bullets that are more aerodynamic and are pushing out the barrel about 50% faster (close to 2000 feet per second, compared to 1200) than the old 1/2 inch balls would. (A .50 caliber is/was quite common, so imagine throwing a half inch lead ball 1.5 miles.)
          I also looked at Googlemaps for the scene of the accident. At the crossroads mentioned by the Sheriff, there are a group of about 10 houses starting slightly under 1 mile to the SW (the direction the shot came from) to about 1.5 miles away. So I would say the Sheriff’s story is definitely plausible, although I was dubious about the 1.5 range when I first read it.

    18. OldKat

      Several years ago I saw on the news an account of a young child struck from a gunshot of unknown origin at almost exactly midnight on New Years Eve. The child died from the injury, but initially police were unable identify the shooter.

      They requested information from the public about anyone seen discharging a firearm into the air at that time. Surprisingly there were several people that came forward to report a friend, family member or a neighbor that they had seen doing this exact thing. Several suspects were identified and requests were made for samples of bullets fired from their firearm. One of the bullets matched the one retrieved from the child’s body when ballistic tests were made. I forget how far the bullet travelled from where the shooter was standing to where the child was standing when struck, but it was equivalent to several city blocks. Stupid, senseless and irresponsible, but apparently possible. Like PC said, the distance is probably being overstated to increase the number of potential sources.

      I’ve had to discharge a black powder rifle for just the same reason, but I’ve found that the ground makes a much better backstop than the air. Tragic and needless loss of an innocent young life for sure.

    19. hedy

      know kind of gun for sure?

      the media might not have the ‘kind’ of gun correct.. they do tend to make mistakes and print before all the correct facts are in

    20. Adair

      I still don’t understand the trajectory of this bullet. Wouldn’t a bullet that was shot into the air travel in a parabola , either narrow or wide depending on the angle at which it was shot? I don’t see how it could have struck her on the head, without leaving a hole in the top of the buggy, if it were falling, unless she happened to be leaning forward, out from under the cover of the buggy at the exact split-second that it landed, or unless the gun had been fired at a low angle ( somehow , “firing into the air” means , to me, high up into the air). Since no one else seems to have this question, I’m assuming ive missed something here. I know I don’t have all the info. Can someone explain?

      1. Adair I wondered in the original post if the bullet could have gone through an opening in the buggy. I think we’ll probably learn more about some of these unanswered questions in the coming days.

    21. Mark Burr

      Sad event

      It is sad to see how one careless act can seal a random innocent person’s destiny eternally. Not to mention the effect on the family and friends of the young lady, who will have the memory of their daughter / sister / friend, and her tragic death with them for the rest of their lives….

    22. OldKat

      I was in Houston earlier this evening and was watching one of their local TV stations 10:00 PM news broadcasts; their lead story? The chief of police and their mayor were holding a press conference asking people to NOT discharge firearms into the air on New Year’s Eve! Can you believe that?

      They also ran a story on a man who was injured quite seriously in a Houston suburb called Katy two years ago on New Year’s Eve because someone was randomly shooting their firearm into the air.

    23. Mary

      Girl shot.

      I personally talked with the victims Father and other family members as well as the shooters own Father. I was at the very scene where it happened. The bullet traveled 1-1-4 miles before hitting Rachel on top of her head. Since it was a very windy night they are assuming Rachel had her head down to ward off the wind. The bullet came through the opening on the front end of the buggy which was not enclosed with a storm front. The shooter, his Father, and Rachel’s Father have met together and wept together and Rachel’s family forgave. They are still friends in spite of this preventable accident having happened. They both need our prayers as both families are greiving the death of this young beautiful 15 year old girl.