Neighbor charged with shooting gun too near Tiger Haven

1:45 PM, May 15, 2013   |    comments
  • Toby Rhynehart
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A neighbor of a big cat sanctuary is charged after recklessly shooting a gun too near the property.

According to a police report from the Roane County Sheriff's Department, the owner of Tiger Haven, Mary Haven, called 911 Tuesday afternoon to report her neighbor was firing a gun onto her property.  She claimed that she had an ongoing dispute with the man, Toby Rhynehart, 62, because of property lines and the animals she keeps.  She said in the past, the neighbor fired a gun so close to the fence line that a tiger became so distressed it mutilated its own leg, causing it to be amputated.

Haven said Rhynehart had been shooting for almost an hour and that debris, and "shotgun pellets" were hitting her property near some of her employees.  

When the deputy arrived, he first heard the shots, then stated he heard a "round travel above my head. In quick succession, several more rounds traveled over the fence striking tree limbs causing limbs and leaves to fall nearby."

The deputy said he and several others took cover as more rounds flew overhead.  He called for more backup, then hit his siren and horn to let the shooter know that law enforcement was on the property.

He said the shooting stopped for a moment, then resumed.

The deputy then looked through the fence, where he saw six men about 15-20 yards away from the fence in a wooded area. He told them to stop shooting, and asked Rhynehart to come to the fence to speak with him.  He told him to go to his home where he would meet him to talk about the incident because he couldn't cross the fence.

At Rhynehart's home, he admitted he had been shooting a SKS assault rifle and didn't stop when he heard the siren because he "thought it was his neighbor trying to get him to stop shooting."

The deputies then went with Rhynehart and the other men to the area where they were shooting.  The deputy stated the "backstop" that Rhynehart was shooting at was "completely inadequate and unsafe." He also noted that for the rounds to be going onto the Tiger Haven property, the gun would have to be intentionally aimed high and to the right.

Rhynehart told the deputy, "If there was a subdivision over there it would be a different story," which the deputy said "indicated to me that Mr. Rhynehart knew that what he was doing was extremely dangerous."

Rhynehart also admitted he had been drinking.

Because of his actions endangering several people, Rhynehart was arrested and charged with Reckless Endangerment with a firearm.

The deputy also said that he checked the history of the property and learned there had been several similar reports in the past.

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