‘Enraged’ man accused of shooting at police helicopter after birthday party

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A California man is facing charges after authorities said he got angry at his 39th birthday party and shot at an Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.

Justin Derek Jennings, 39, pleaded not guilty Monday to attempting to damage, destroy or disable an aircraft. A judge ordered him jailed without bond.

The charge stems from an incident at Jennings’ birthday party on March 9, when he allegedly began drinking “and became enraged,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release.

Family members began to leave the house where the party was being held “as his outburst escalated,” and he then got a rifle from out of his gun safe “and fired an entire magazine worth of ammunition inside the home,” prosecutors said. The incident prompted the rest of Jennings’ family to flee and contact authorities, officials said.

Several deputies with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department responded to the incident, as did a police helicopter which circled around the area.

“Jennings allegedly then went to the home’s second story and began shooting a rifle upwards in the sky, firing only when the helicopter was visible to him,” prosecutors said. Citing court documents, they added that the shooting “continued intermittently for at least 20 minutes.”

Jennings surrendered to law enforcement after talking to a deputy, officials said.

Authorities recovered two revolvers, two handguns, two rifles and ammunition from the home, including two magazines and a box of ammunition found on a couch beneath the window from which Jennings appeared to have fired, according to prosecutors. Bullet casings were found scattered across the floor.

It was not immediately clear what is believed to have caused Jennings to get angry in March. On Monday, a judge scheduled his trial to begin Aug. 5.

If convicted, Jennings could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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