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Tuesday night, two men were shot on the Appalachian Trail, forcing the closure of a 25-mile section of the trail in Giles County, Virginia. One of the victims was shot in the neck and back, and is listed in serious but stable condition, while another was shot in the face and has been released. (The section of Virginia AT in question has since reopened.)
But most bizarrely of all, the suspected shooter, Randall Lee Smith, killed two people along the Appalachian Trail in Giles County almost 30 years ago. After spending 15 years in prison, the state released Smith on parole in 1996, which he completed in 2006.
According to one of the victim’s brothers, Smith allegedly started talking with the two hikers, who were camped near the Dismal Creek section of the trail, when he just opened fire. The two men escaped to a car and drove to a house nearby for help, while Smith stole a car and sped off. He later crashed the car and had to be airlifted to a hospital, where he himself is listed in stable condition.
Neighbors describe Smith as “strange” and “weird,” which I suppose is the nicest thing you can say about someone who kills people on the AT and then allegedly tries it again.
I hate it when stuff like this happens — random, horrific acts like these are the reason why non-outdoorsy people are afraid to go camping. (Well, that and bears, of course). Violent crime in the wilderness is really quite rare, but when it does happen, it lodges itself in the panic centers of the brain.
It’s a strange coincidence that this happened within the 60-day public comment period for the Interior Department’s review to allow guns in national parks. Guess the NRA and other backers now have a current incident to rally around.
— Ted Alvarez
Appalachian Trail reopens after Giles County shooting (WDBJ7.com)