BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Prosecutors have dismissed charges against a Weldon man who was accused of yelling a racial slur and firing a gun after the alleged victim changed his story.
Dennis James Knippel, who is white, had faced charges including a hate crime stemming from a confrontation with a Black man in Onyx last year. The charges were dismissed Nov. 1.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel said the alleged victim gave statements during the investigation that conflicted with what he originally told authorities, including that the weapon used in the offense was a BB gun and not a firearm. Also, the alleged victim decided not to participate in the prosecution, Kinzel said.
“Given the conflicting state of the evidence, the charge was no longer capable of being proved beyond a reasonable doubt, so the case was dismissed in the interest of justice,” he said.
Knippel, 53, was arrested Feb. 27, 2020, after a man reported Knippel twice used a racial slur and fired a shot at him. The man said the shot missed and he was uninjured, according to reports filed in Kern County Superior Court by sheriff’s investigators.
The man said he and Knippel had ongoing problems, and he won a fight against him a year earlier, according to the court documents. He told an investigator Knippel had been harassing him, and previously broke windows to his home and vehicles.
An investigator photographed a metal tool shed with a small hole in it that appeared to be consistent with a bullet hole, according to the documents. A projectile was not found.
The alleged victim told an investigator, “I’m going to keep it 100 with you, I don’t want to testify against him, go to court, or have my name in a report. I will handle it myself.”
A witness said she was sitting on her front porch when she heard yelling, according to the filings. She heard a racial slur, and when the alleged victim walked toward the tool shed “she heard a muffled sound like a gun being shot,” she said in the documents.
Knippel wasn’t at the scene when deputies arrived. A California Highway Patrol officer detained him at his home.
Knippel denied owning firearms, and said he only had a BB gun. The officer found a BB gun with a silver slide tucked into the driver’s seat of Knippel’s pickup, the documents said.
The officer handcuffed him, read him his rights and asked if he understood.
“Yeah, I know my rights. I didn’t do anything,” Knippel said according to the filings.
Knippel denied going near the alleged victim or firing a gun. He told the officer he was in Lake Isabella at the time of the incident.
Detectives determined the BB gun was not the weapon used. The alleged victim described the gun as a silver revolver, according to the documents.
In 2016, Knippel pleaded no contest to making terroristic threats, a misdemeanor, and later the same year pleaded no contest to contempt of court and obstructing or resisting a peace officer, court records show.