PALMER (KTUU) A heated encounter Saturday between a drone operator and a Discovery Channel star who believed he was being illegally filmed was settled peacefully this morning in a grocery store parking lot.
Justin Pursley, who says “Homestead Rescue” star Marty Raney broke his new aerial drone, filed a restraining order against Raney this morning. Raney says the drone performed an invasive and possibly illegal flight over his property.
The two men later agreed to meet at a Carrs store and discuss the dispute, with Raney paying cash for the broken device, Pursley told KTUU. Pursley said he called the courthouse and rescinded his request for a restraining order.
In a subsequent interview, Raney said the drone had flown as low as 60 feet and trailed him on his property. He said he attempted to grab the device in hopes of confiscating it, after a trooper dispatcher told him the drone activity was illegal.
“The irony of this is I work really hard, as I travel the country filming, to set a good example for Alaska and my family," he said.
The encounter flared over the weekend as each man posted his own version of events on social media and Facebook onlookers took sides. The dispute began shortly after noon Saturday in Hatcher Pass when, according to a lengthy Facebook post by Raney, the Discovery Channel star heard “a buzzing noise while I was sharpening my chainsaw.”
“I looked up and saw a drone descending dead center over the top of my cabin and me. I immediately walked out into the open and just stared back at the stationary, hovering drone,” Raney wrote.
In an interview, Raney said he walked about 1,000 feet to his vehicle with the drone tracking him the entire way.
Pursley, the drone operator, said he had been testing his new drone with his father-in-law. He had parked at a public pull-off approaching Hatcher Pass, he told KTUU. He had been flying the drone for 14 minutes when Raney pulled up in a truck.
“I see this big cowboy hat pop out and everything. And I’m like, 'Marty Raney!?' And he’s like, ‘What were you guys doing flying over there?'” Pursley said. He said his father-in-law told Raney the drones were not on Raney’s property due to the elevation of the flight.
Raney described the exchange on Facebook. "I didn't recognize them," he said of the drone operators. "And I asked them why they were filming me on my private property. They denied it. Three times I asked; three times, they denied. I told them, 'You guys are lying and I am calling the troopers.'"
Pursley described the meeting in a Facebook post of his own, shared to a group of drone users. (The post has since been removed.) Pursley wrote at the time that Raney had "assaulted" him and taken the drone from his hand.
Both men said they called 911. Raney called first, he said. Troopers arrived and, according to Pursley, said that the drone flight was legal. Raney countered that the trooper on scene said he did not know if the flight was legal because he was not sufficiently familiar with the relevant laws.
A trooper spokeswoman said she did not immediately know the details of troopers involvement and was researching the case this morning.
"The trooper that has the case is not on duty and until I can speak with him I really don’t know any more than we have a reported incident involving a drone in the Hatch Pass area from this weekend," wrote spokeswoman Megan Peters.
At about 8 a.m. today, Raney posted a message to his Facebook page offering to replace the drone and saying he never intended to break it.
“Justin Pursley. I spent the last two days driving to Chena and back," he wrote. "Ample time to think, while driving across this amazing state. I'm willing to replace your drone today. Say where and when, I'll drive to Anchorage and hand you the money. I never Intended to break your drone. And for that, I'm sorry.
Pursley said the two met after Pursley filed the restraining order. Raney apologized, he said, and paid the same amount that Pursley had bought the drone for on Amazon.com, $310.
Raney said he offered to hire Pursley to film drone footage for a new show but that Pursley declined.
A Discovery Channel spokesperson said the cable channel had no comment.
“Homestead Rescue” is in its third season.
KTUU reporter Jack Carney contributed to this report from the Palmer court house.