Osceola Mills man pleads guilty to assault in VFW shooting

An Osceola Mills man who suffered a gunshot wound after fighting with a Bellefonte man pleaded guilty to assault Tuesday in Clearfield County Court.

The charges stem from an incident in April 2015 at the VFW in Osceola Mills when Robert Dwayne Hanson, 56, of Bellefonte and Jeff Swanson, 46, of Osceola Mills, fought in the parking lot. Both men were shot. Swanson was struck in the chest and suffered an injury to his right lung.

Swanson was sentenced Tuesday by President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman to 30 days to one year in jail and one year consecutive probation.

Prior to sentencing, District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. explained to the judge that he felt this sentence was appropriate even though the bottom of the standard sentencing range on this charge would be 12 months in jail.

“It comes down to what we can prove,” Shaw said, noting Swanson could claim this was self-defense. He felt Swanson should be charged with at least assault and in this way be held accountable for his behavior, he said.

According to the criminal complaint, Swanson struck Hanson, who had threatened him, first.

Swanson’s attorney, Curtis Irwin, pointed out that Swanson has been out on bail since the incident and has no other legal issues.

Swanson apologized, saying this has affected his family and it was a mistake.

Ammerman noted that it was fortunate that Swanson had not paid for his mistake with his life. He added that this is the kind of thing that happens when you add alcohol with bad tempers and throw a gun into the mix.

Hanson pleaded guilty in March to aggravated assault and person not to possess firearms. He was sentenced by Ammerman to three to 10 years in state prison.

According to court documents, Hanson was at the VFW bar when he mentioned to a woman that he borrowed a gun from somebody. He said he planned to shoot Swanson because he owed him money.

The woman went home and contacted Swanson who was at another bar. She warned him to stay away from Hanson because he said he was going to shoot him.

Swanson left that bar and went to the VFW. Once there, he opened the door, and yelled for Hanson to come out. Hanson stepped outside and the two men started to argue.

According to police, Swanson first slapped Hanson across the face and then punched him several times in the face and head. Hanson dropped onto the sidewalk and lost the gun that was hidden in his waistband. The two then struggled over the gun. At this point, the gun went off firing one shot into the air. Another shot grazed Hanson on the side of the head.

Swanson walked away and when he was approximately 15 feet from him, Hanson yelled his name. When Swanson turned around, Hanson fired the gun, striking Swanson in the chest.

EMS personnel arrived and provided medical treatment to both men. They were transported by ambulance and then on to UPMC Altoona by helicopter where they were treated for their injuries.

A witness told police that Hanson asked him if he could borrow a gun. This witness stated he didn’t know Hanson was planning to shoot someone. He added that he thought Swanson owed Hanson $9,000 and Hanson said that Swanson had ripped him off.