The 74-year-old Michigan resident accused of shooting an elderly pro-life canvasser during a dispute with his wife was charged on Friday. The women’s attorney is pushing back against claims the shooting was an accident.
The 84-year-old volunteer, Joan Jacobson, was shot on Sept. 20 while going door-to-door in Lake Odessa on behalf of the pro-life group Right to Life Michigan. She was asking people to oppose Proposal 3, which would make abortion a state constitutional right. The organization warns that the proposal will allow abortions anytime in the state.
In a statement Friday, Michigan State Police disclosed that an Ionia County prosecutor charged Richard Harvey with assault with a dangerous weapon, careless discharge causing injury and reckless use of a firearm.
Harvey turned himself in Friday, according to mlive.com. He was arraigned in Ionia County District Court, appearing via a video link from the county jail. The man has no previous criminal record, and Magistrate Mandy Sanderson ordered him held on a $10,000 bond.
If released, Harvey is forbidden from contacting Jacobson or her family. The magistrate also said he could not possess a firearm if he posts bond.
Harvey told Wood-TV8 Tuesday that he was in the barn when he heard Jacobson and his wife arguing after she came to the couple’s door, urging them to vote no on Proposal 3.
Sharon Harvey, the defendant’s wife, claims that Jacobson refused to accept that she plans to vote for the measure, stating that the volunteer refused several requests to leave the property before she eventually made her way off the porch.
Eventually, Richard Harvey emerged from the barn with a .22-caliber rifle and said he fired a warning shot into a pine tree. The defendant claims that Jacobson continued yelling and was waving her clipboard around.
He reportedly feared that the volunteer would hit his wife with it, and, when trying to knock the clipboard out of Jacobson’s hands with his rifle, he accidentally shot her. Harvey alleges that his finger was still on the trigger guard when he attempted to swat the clipboard away, and the gun went off, hitting Jacobson in the shoulder.
In a Monday interview with The Christian Post, Jacobson’s attorney, David Kallman, said that Harvey’s wife became aggressive after the volunteer stated why she was there and that Jacobson never raised her voice.
According to Kallman, Sharon Harvey revealed during the confrontation that she had a tubal pregnancy in 1971 that required her to undergo surgery. She accused people like Jacobson of trying to kill women in similar circumstances, claiming that she would be dead if pro-life people were in charge.
“And Joanne just simply said, ‘Well, you know, that is an exception. You do understand that?'” Kallman explained.
“‘Ectopic pregnancies, you know, they can’t be brought to term. By definition, it’s endangering the life of the mother. You would have been protected under the current law.'”
Shannon Harvey reportedly would not listen, and after three to four minutes, she eventually ordered Jacobson to leave her property. Kallman said that his client agreed to go and began walking toward her car when Harvey came out of the barn with a gun.
The attorney described his client as a “sweet, soft-spoken lady” who has been going door-to-door for over 20 years. Kallman said that Jacobson did not engage with the man and that Harvey’s claim that he fired a warning shot made “no sense at all.”
“Why are you firing a warning shot at an 84-year-old, five-foot, 100-pound grandmother-kind-of person who’s just walking away and leaving your property?” he asked.
Kallman said Jacobson was walking away when Harvey approached her, with his wife still following and yelling. When Jacobson turned around, she saw that the husband was holding a gun, according to Kallman.
“And she said just the second that it registered in her mind, ‘He’s got a gun,’ the shot goes off,” the attorney said. “And she was holding a clipboard, and it went through the clipboard, through the top of her shoulder at an angle.”
The pro-life volunteer drove herself to the Lake Odessa police station, which helped get her to the emergency room. The couple reportedly called 911 and provided a statement, according to mlive.com.
“At the hospital, doctors told her that she was shot more from the side than the front,” Kallman said. “And the bullet went through the top of her shoulder at an angle and exited at the base of her neck, and it just missed the spine.”
The attorney questioned why Harvey’s finger was on the trigger if he only tried to use the rifle to knock Jacobson’s clipboard out of her hands. He noted that anyone with training on how to use a firearm would know not to do that.
“And it surely doesn’t justify lethal force,” he said. “Why would he have the gun to begin with and keep pointing it at her and use it to knock away a clipboard which, again, my client says that never happened.”
Jacobson said she had been holding the clipboard close to her chest, which the attorney believes is consistent with the bullet going through Jacobson’s clipboard and through her shoulder.
The attorney says that with Harvey being charged and the investigation complete, police reports and the prosecution’s discoveries will be available to the attorney next week.
Jacobson and her attorney are looking into whether there are grounds for a civil suit.
In a statement Tuesday, Right to Life Michigan condemned the violence against Jacobson and highlighted the derogatory comments Harvey’s wife made about pro-lifers on social media.
“What could have stayed a heated political discussion that ended peacefully and was totally forgotten years down the road by these ladies instead culminated with pulling a gun on a small, elderly woman and shooting her,” the group wrote.
“This recklessly irresponsible rhetoric must end, and it must end now before more people are harmed.”
Reporting from The Christian Post.