Camper with a gun arrested in Desolation Wilderness
Four adults and four children camping in Desolation Wilderness tried to escape the big city life of Southern California but ran straight into it at Dicks Lake.
That’s where Brian Hopper, a 47-year-old transient, had set up camp. He allegedly shot a semi-automatic gun toward the group of campers.
Investigators said a shot was fired Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. and two shots were fired around 8 a.m. Wednesday.
On Tuesday, one of the campers, William Snyder, 31, of Los Angeles, went down to the edge of the lake to meditate. Hopper come out of his tent, began yelling at the water and then pulled a gun from his pocket.
Snyder told an investigator that Hopper then went into a combat stance with the gun and turned and pointed it at him. Snyder walked away immediately. Seconds later he heard a gunshot.
The campers, who call themselves Big City Mountaineers, decided not to hike out because it was dark and waited until morning to pack up.
At 6:30 a.m., Hopper was up and yelling obscenities again. By 7:50 a.m., as the campers began hiking from the lake, Snyder said he turned and saw Hopper shoot two rounds into the air above their heads.
El Dorado County sheriff’s deputies arrested Hopper after the campers reported the incident on Wednesday at a U.S. Forest Service Station in Meeks Bay at 12:30 p.m.
Law enforcement entered Desolation in a helicopter. It landed about a half-mile from Dicks Lake. Five deputies and a Forest Service officer hiked in to the lake.
“When we contacted him, he was acting in a somewhat unusual manner,” said El Dorado County sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Stroot. “He was speaking rapidly without stopping, jumping from one topic to another.”
Stroot said he found several shell casings at the scene, but there was no evidence of drugs. In his 11 years working at the basin, Stroot said it’s the first time he can remember a case like this.
“It’s somewhat unusual. We don’t go into Desolation to arrest people on a regular basis,” he said.
Hopper was arrested at his campsite and booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and discharging a weapon in a reckless manner.
Hopper gave investigators several reasons for shooting the gun, including warding off bears and signaling a friend headed back to camp with supplies. He also said discharging the weapon was part of his tai chi exercises, and that he was making a movie, which involved yelling curses and pointing a gun.
Investigators found a Panasonic video recorder and a tripod at Hopper’s campsite.
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