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Orange County man arrested for trying to shoot down sheriff's helicopter after birthday party

A man was arrested on a federal grand jury indictment that alleges he repeatedly fired shots at an Orange County Sheriff's Department helicopter in March after his birthday party ended "acrimoniously," according to federal prosecutors. 

Justin Derek Jennings, 39, of Laguna Niguel, has been charged with one count of attempting to damage, destroy or disable an aircraft after a chaotic incident on March 9, according to a statement from the United States Department of Justice. 

Court documents say that Jennings and his family were celebrating his birthday party and that he was allegedly drinking when he "became enraged."

"As his outburst escalated, family members in attendance left the home," the court release said. "After most of his family left, Jennings allegedly removed a rifle from his gun safe and fired an entire magazine worth of ammunition inside the home."

This reportedly caused the rest of the family to leave the home as well, with some members reporting the incident to law enforcement, prosecutors said. 

At this point, OCSD deputies and a department helicopter responded to the scene. 

"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," the statement continued. "The shooting continued intermittently for at least 20 minutes."

Jennings eventually exited the home and surrendered after speaking with a deputy. 

Investigators seized two revolvers, two handguns and two rifles, along with multiple rounds of ammunition, from Jennings home during a search, prosecutors said. 

They also found bullet casings scattered throughout the floor of the home and two magazines and a box of ammunition were found on a couch beneath the window out of which Jennings was allegedly firing, the DOJ statement said. 

If convicted, he faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Both the FBI and OCSD assisted in investigating the matter.

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