Court rules that 'gun-like hand gesture' that made neighbors nervous is a crime

Hope Schreiber

A Pennsylvania court has ruled that a "gun-like hand gesture" one neighbor made toward another is a crime.

In June 2018, Stephen Kirchner, 64, stopped his walk with a fellow neighbor, Elaine Natore, in Manor Township, Penn., to look a male neighbor in the eye and make "a hand gesture at him imitating the firing and recoiling of a gun," according to court documents.

The incident was captured on a surveillance video. The neighbor had previously installed six surveillance cameras due to "ongoing confrontations" with Natore, with whom he had a "no contact" order against.

Kirchner admitted that he did make the "gun-like hand gesture," but claims he did so only after the neighbor held up both middle fingers at him.

Another neighbor, according to court documents, witnessed Kirchner "put his finger up like he was going to shoot him," and felt "[i]nsecure" seeing the gesture, which prompted her to call 911.

Kirchner was issued a citation for disorderly conduct for the incident and was found guilty. He appealed, arguing the hand gesture didn't "create a hazardous or physically offensive condition." Kirchner further asserted that he didn't cause "public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm," as his act was directed at one person.

Regardless, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania found the gesture "served no legitimate purpose and recklessly risked provoking a dangerous altercation."

Kirchner has been ordered to pay a $100 fine and court costs.

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