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Gun club seeks NRA evaluation

Kyle Moroney • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:12 AM

more evaluations of our outdoor range completed, including an evaluation” by the NRA.

The letter was sent to Grand Haven Township Manager Bill Cargo and township attorney Ron Bultje. Jeremey Wilder, president of the newly formed Cutter Park Homeowners Group LLC, also received a copy of the letter, he said.

The letter states that the gun club would like to get confirmation from township officials that the NRA is an “acceptable independent evaluator from the township’s perspective” before hiring them to do the evaluation.

Welch explained that club officials might have other sources, besides the NRA, evaluate the outdoor shooting range as well — but there are not any definite plans as of yet, he said.

“We just want to make certain that the township has (ample) notice in what we intend to do,” he said.

Welch would not estimate when the evaluation would begin; however, he said he hopes to have it done as “promptly as possible.”

“Because the (NRA) team is considered the pre-eminent authority in gun range design and safety, and because the state of Michigan’s shooting range guidelines are based upon NRA’s specifications, I believe that this is the best consulting group that the (gun club) could select for their evaluation of (its) shooting range,” Cargo said.

According to its website, “the NRA Range Technical Team is a nationwide network of volunteers trained in the field of shooting range development, design and operations. The Range Technical Team was developed to provide an extension of NRA headquarters to range owners and operators at the local level.”

Cargo said he received the gun club’s letter Thursday afternoon, and he and Bultje plan to recommend to the Township Board on Nov. 14 that it affirm the club’s evaluation selection.

“As a past-president of the North Ottawa Rod and Gun Club, an active member of the gun club and as supervisor of Grand Haven Township, my stance is that I will not support something that jeopardizes the safety of the neighborhoods and residents of Grand Haven Township or members of the Rod and Gun Club,” Township Supervisor Karl French said on Thursday. “Safety is my first priority.”

French explained that he would not support any actions of the gun club if it is not safe, nor would he support the Cutter Park residents if they are being “unreasonable.”

“There has to be a happy mix somewhere,” he said.

Wilder said he is elated that the gun club board is cooperating with the township.

“The important thing for the residents of Cutter Park will be the report afterwards,” he said. “We expect the safety recommendations to ensure that no bullets will be capable of leaving the rifle/pistol range and striking people, homes and property in Cutter Park.”

Wilder said nearly one-third of the 98 homes in the subdivision, located just east of the gun club off Ferris Street, are represented in the newly formed Cutter Park LLC. There are seven Cutter Park residents on the LLC’s “leadership board,” including Wilder.

The group was formed in order for the subdivision residents to have a unified voice in dealing with any issues raised in connection to errant bullets being found in their neighborhood, according to Wilder.

“Our concern is that there is a possibility that the gun range could open back up and our residents will be at risk for having live rounds coming into our neighborhood,” he said.

There are no plans for a lawsuit at this time, according to Wilder. However, the group plans to submit a Freedom of Information Act request for the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department report of the Sept. 29 shooting accident involving seven Grand Valley State University Police Department officers at the gun club that injured a man in Cutter Park.

Details released in Sept. 29 shooting incident

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department report, obtained by the Tribune through a FOIA request, reveals that five GVSU Police Department officers were each given a .40-caliber Glock 22 handgun during the Sept. 29 training exercise at the gun club. The guns are the property of GVSU Police Department and are not issued specifically to any individual officer.

The five temporary call-in officers — all but one are recent GVSU Police Academy graduates, according to the report — were under the supervision of GVSU Officer Nathan Dornbos, the lead firearms instructor; and Paul Weaver, the department’s Glock armor. Dornbos and Weaver arrived two hours prior to the training in order to set up targets for the outdoor shooting range training. Targets — measuring about 6-foot-2-inches from the ground — were initially placed on the 100-yard range on the southernmost part of the gun club property, according to the report.

To hear Dornbos' interview with the Ottawa Sheriff's Department on Sept. 29, click here.

Training began at 8 a.m. with a lecture by Dornbos. About an hour later, the group went out to the gun club’s outdoor rifle range to begin drills, about 25 yards east of the benches on the rifle range.

The setup had been approved by the North Ottawa Rod and Gun Club, according to the report.

“Dornbos said they conducted dry fire and holster drills, and then he gave the order to load three magazines with 15 rounds each,” the report states. The officers carried on with various “close-encounter” shooting drills under the supervision of Dornbos and Weaver.

In the report, Dornbos said: “All of the shots that he observed were hitting the intended targets.”

At about 9:30 a.m., a man who Dornbos described as “frazzled” got out of his car, holding a bullet in his hand, and said “he had a round that went through his roof.”

The incident was reported to GVSU Capt. Brandon DeHaan immediately, and GVSU officers inspected the backstops and the damage to the Cutter Park home.

The targets were then moved to the 25-yard line on the gun club’s pistol range, directly in front of the berm north of club’s rifle range, “because there was a better backstop at that location,” according to the report. The officers were shooting about 2 yards or less away from the targets while they were doing “close-combat” shooting. This area does not have a covered area at the beginning of the range.

“Once at the pistol range, the students completed drills (and) Dornbos reported that he did not see any out-of-the-ordinary observations,” the report states. “… Dornbos said that he did not see anyone goofing around or firing any weapons other than what was instructed, and he did not see any rounds hit anywhere other than the intended targets.”

The officers were reloading their gun magazines when an Ottawa County deputy arrived at the gun club, notifying them that a man nearby was hit by a stray bullet.

According to the sheriff’s report, Jon Zubrickas told deputies he was working on an addition to a home on Acacia Drive on the morning of Sept. 29. He said it was common to hear gun shots in the Cutter Park subdivision and heard shots all morning, including “several shots in a row” before he was hit. Zubrickas said the shots did sound close “and didn’t have the echo like a rifle shot,” according to the report.

Zubrickas told officers he had gone outside the Acacia Drive home to cut a piece of drywall. He then heard “a noise of a bullet going through a small pine tree near him and actually saw the bullet before it struck him,” the report stated.

While at the hospital, sheriff’s deputies seized “what appeared to be a .40-caliber full-metal-jacket bullet.”

GVSU officers ceased their training session after learning that a man was injured from a stray bullet.

Since then, the outdoor shooting range remains closed “indefinitely.”

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