Ranch hand charged in shooting

Claims shotgun fired to scare off thieves

Crown has approved a criminal charge against an employee of a Maple Ridge ranch accused of shooting a fleeing thief in March to scare off a group of men who had broken into the property.

Harold Schienke struck one of the thieves in the buttocks by mistake when he fired three birdshot pellets, less than five millimetres in diameter, in the air.

He now faces one count of careless use of a firearm.

The 46-year-old man, who lives with his family at Timberline Ranch, was arrested in March, along with five men allegedly involved in the break-and-enter.

The ranch was hoping criminal charges would be not be pursued against Schienke, who claims he was trying to protect his family and ranch property.

“We regret that the incident happened, but we are thankful for the support that we continue to receive from the community,” said Timberline Ranch executive director Craig Douglas.

“Moving forward, our main concern is to continue to offer an incredible camp experience for young people and families in a safe and enjoyable environment. To this end, we have taken steps to ensure that an incident like this will not occur again at Timberline, and we continue to train our staff to respond appropriately to any dangerous situations that occur.”

Timberline Ranch is a 50-year-old Christian camp and retreat centre in Maple Ridge that serves more than 6,000 children and their families each year.

The March incident was the second time in three days thieves had targeted the rural property on 144th Avenue, at the north end of 224th Street.

Several items were stolen during the first break-in, while two groups of children, staff and their families were at the ranch.

Staff believe the same group returned to the ranch for a second time in two days.

They were heard breaking into a workshop and seen loading tools and a motorcycle into a Timberline vehicle.

All five men, between 20 and 45 years old, fled after being confronted by staff, but were apprehended by police before they could escape in a waiting vehicle.

Michael Raymond Cowthorn, Steven Philip Drage, James Jeffrey Green, William Balice and Douglas Ronald Dobson each face one count of theft and one count of trespassing at night.

Cowthorn, Drage and Green also face break-and-enter charges.