Western Michigan man charged with murder in New Year gunfire

January 4, 2023 GMT

PAW PAW, Mich. (AP) — A western Michigan man was charged Wednesday with two counts of second-degree murder for allegedly firing an AR-15 rifle in celebration and killing two guests at his New Year’s party.

Christopher Alan Toppenberg, 62, of Lawrence Township, also faces two gun charges. He is being held on a $1.5 million bond.

It wasn’t clear whether Toppenberg has an attorney who might comment on the charges.

Second-degree murder charges are punishable by up to life in prison.

“The defendant fired a rifle that hit two other human beings at a distance of about 50 feet (15.2 meters),” Judge Michael McKay said in court.

“One was struck in the back of the head and one was struck four times. Again from about a distance of 50 feet. The incredible danger that that represents to the public cannot be overstated,” the judge said.

Toppenberg allegedly fired 20-25 celebratory rounds from an AR-15 when fireworks were lit at midnight, Sgt. Greg Pentland of the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office said.

David Reed, 35, of Waverly Township, and Jason McCreary, 40, of Sutter Creek, California, were killed, authorities have said.

“We don’t have a clear understanding why he was shooting horizontally toward an area where fireworks were being set,” Pentland said.

Reed, who was shot multiple times in the back, died at the hospital. McCreary died at the scene, deputies said.