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Kayak gunman sentenced to 22 years in prison

April 8, 2018 GMT

KINGMAN — A Wikieup man was sentenced Friday to more than two decades in prison for shooting at four Flagstaff kayakers in February 2017.

Danny Eugene Button, 68, was convicted last month of four counts of aggravated assault, four counts of disorderly conduct with a weapon and four counts of endangerment.

Button’s attorney, Brad Rideout, asked the judge for a mitigated five-year concurrent prison sentence and to consider Button’s age and that he has no prior criminal history. Rideout said Button has family support and noted that there were no injuries to the kayakers.

Chief Deputy Mohave County Attorney James Schoppmann asked for the sentences to run consecutively since the lives of all four victims were put in jeopardy. If the judge runs the sentences concurrently, then which of the other three victims are discounted, Schoppmann said, adding that even though there were no physical injuries, there are emotional injuries.

One victim said what was disturbing was that Button didn’t see his actions as being wrong. He said Button is a product of a gun culture and that a person can’t shoot at someone else unless they face a threat to their life. The victim said he has kayaked in other countries and been invited into people’s homes; in Arizona, he was shot at.

Another victim called the shooting an ambush. When Button pulled the trigger of a powerful handgun, he crossed the line to being a bully, threatening and intimidating four unarmed kayakers, the victim said.

Superior Court Judge Rick Lambert said Button’s family described him as a good family man. But Lambert agreed that Button, on that day, was a bully who used a gun to become a dangerous threat.

Lambert described the kayakers, who were having a good time, as being suddenly in shock when they saw Button crouching and shooting at the lead kayaker. Button also held a gun on the other kayakers.

“If that isn’t being a bully, I don’t know what is,” the judge said.

Lambert found as an aggravating factor the emotional harm to the victims, and as a mitigating factor that Button has no criminal history. The judge sentenced Button to 221/2 years in prison.

Schoppmann argued that on Feb. 4, 2017, Button stood on the river bank of Burro Creek and fired five shots from a .44-caliber revolver at the first of four kayakers as they kayaked down the creek near Wikieup.

One bullet struck the water about four feet from the lead kayaker. The lead kayaker managed to escape downriver. Search and rescue found him unharmed the next morning downstream.

Button forced the other three kayakers to the shore at gunpoint before finally ordering them back to the adjoining Bureau of Land Management campground. Two other kayakers testified that they had been threatened by Button about two weeks earlier.

Schoppmann argued that the kayakers did not trespass on private property since they didn’t touch the creek bottom. Button’s wife’s family owns the land on each side of Burro Creek. The water had been running wide and high that day.

Rideout argued that his client was shooting into a river bank on his own property, unaware of the kayakers who were not in Button’s line of sight as he fired. Button also worried about liability with the possibility of injuries since there were obstacles in the creek, Rideout said.

Legally using a gun on your own property, where Button has lived for decades, is not considered aggravated assault, Rideout argued.