A Rochester minister who shot his granddaughter after mistaking her for an intruder was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to a felony charge.
Stanley Warren Wilkinson, 61, was charged with one count of intentional discharge of a firearm that endangers safety.
Wilkinson was sentenced on Monday, and a judge ruled he would not have to be jailed unless he violated the terms of his probation. Those include performing community service and abstaining from gun ownership.
Wilkinson, a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor, told police he grabbed his pistol after hearing a noise outside his house Dec. 10 and fired three rounds after seeing what he thought was someone trying to open the deck door. It turned out to be his 16-year-old granddaughter, who was struck once in the neck.
She had been living with her grandparents and told police she left the house without telling them.
Many supporters packed the courtroom on Monday, many of whom were members of Wilkinson's congregation.
"You know, he's the type of person who wouldn't hurt a fly and this was something where he was very frightened and he made a poor choice," said Jacob Allen, Wilkinson's attorney.
The case also brought a barrage of letters to Olmsted County prosecutors.
"There were people who were expressing sentiments that he never should have been charged, that [the shooting] was justified," said Olmsted County Prosecutor Jim Martinson.
Many said they believed Wilkinson made a horrible yet innocent mistake while protecting his home, but prosecutors disagreed.
"That may have been the case if the person had entered the residence," Martinson explained.
Meanwhile, others demanded the Rochester grandfather be held accountable for carelessly shooting his granddaughter -- although even she told prosecutors she hoped for a light sentence.
"The problem here may be the stupidity, the recklessness, if you will," Martinson said. "The individual was not wearing their glasses, had no idea who they were firing at. The person had not, at that point, entered the residence."
In the end, authorities split the difference by saying a felony charge is appropriate while accepting a light punishment of two years probation, 100 hours of community service and no gun ownership.
"This is a man who has had to live through an experience that, frankly, I pray no one else has to," Allen said. "He, in a decision made out of fear, shot someone who was very loved to him."
In accepting the sentence, the judge told Wilkinson "this was a stupid thing to do."
Wilkinson declined comment. His granddaughter is recovered and is still living with her grandparents.