Sheriff’s Dept. releases gun club shooting investigation report

Mark Brooky • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:10 AM

“With the determination made by the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office on (Thursday) that no criminal charges will be brought regarding this accidental shooting, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office releases the following information:

“On Sept. 29, our office was made aware of an apparent gun shot injury that had been sustained by a man who was out of doors working in the Cutter Park subdivision area. Subsequent to this notification, we were also made aware of the fact that a resident of that same subdivision had sustained damage to the exterior of his home from a suspected stray bullet. The bullet had apparently entered the property from the area of the North Ottawa Rod and Gun Club at about the same time period as when the victim had sustained the injury in that same vicinity.

“The Sheriff’s Office then became aware of the fact that officers from the Grand Valley (State University Police Department) had been conducting firearms training at the gun club during that time period. As a result, the Sheriff’s Office made contact with the officers at the gun club as well as with (GVSU Police Department) officials, and it was determined that the Sheriff’s Office would conduct an investigation of the incident.

“As a result of this investigation, it has been determined that there was an errant round that was fired from the training exercise that struck the victim in the Cutter Park subdivision, causing injury to the arm of that person. It has also been determined that there were other rounds fired from that training exercise that became errant rounds, which caused damage to the exterior of homes in the Cutter Park subdivision. 

“In addition, the investigation revealed that there were other incidents of damage sustained by the exterior of homes in the Cutter Park subdivision that appeared to be the result of earlier incidents of errant rounds not attributed to the training exercise on Sept. 29, but believed to be related to shooting activity at the North Ottawa gun range.

“The training being conducted by the public safety officers was a controlled exercise that involved ‘close-encounter’ firing with semi-automatic handgun service weapons. There were five officers participating in the exercise itself, along with a (GVSU Police) range/safety instructor and an assistant instructor from that department.

“The targets being used for the exercise were portable and they had been positioned on one of the firing ranges in a location that was not in close proximity to the earth berm that was in place as a backstop for that particular range. As a result, based on the elevation of some of the rounds being fired and the placement of the targets in relation to the earth berm, some of the rounds escaped the range as errant rounds. The investigation has revealed that the rounds that left the range from that particular training exercise were fired in the direction of the earth berm; but, due to the extended distance from the berm combined with the elevation of some of the rounds being fired, some of the fired rounds escaped the range by clearing the top of the berm. 

“The Cutter Park subdivision is located directly east of the firing range and in direct line of where the errant rounds left the range over the top of the earth berm.

“To date, of the 12 incidents of errant bullets reported to authorities in the Cutter Park area, the Sheriff’s Office has taken possession of seven bullet rounds. Working with the Michigan State Police crime laboratory in Grand Rapids, the Sheriff’s Office has determined that all of the recovered rounds appear to have been fired from handguns of various calibers, with five of the recovered rounds being consistent with the service weapons being used by the Grand Valley officers at the time of the Sept. 29 injury incident in Cutter Park.

“Two of the recovered rounds appear to be errant rounds that are not consistent with the caliber of weapon being used by the Grand Valley officers at the time of their training exercise; however, they are believed to be rounds that were fired from the North Ottawa range at an earlier time from a source that has not been determined.

“The Sheriff’s Office has concluded that the incidents of injury and damage on Sept. 29 are directly attributed to the type of training being conducted in conjunction with the placement of the targets for that training.”

Following a Grand Haven Township Board meeting earlier this week that was well-attended by more than 80 Cutter Park residents, officials sent a letter to the gun club asking that the outdoor gun range be closed. The letter also asks that an independent expert evaluate the design of the range and review the procedures in which law enforcement officials are using the range, as well as ask gun club officials if they are following standard operating procedures adopted by the state in regards to outdoor shooting range use.

The gun club issued a statement on Wednesday stating that the outdoor shooting range will remain closed “indefinitely” — until the “club’s board can review the incident in great detail,” according to the press release.

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