Bullet whizzes overhead

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:25 PM

“We were supposed to go away, but I wasn’t feeling good,” she said Wednesday.

“I’m home alone. I was laying down, reading — in the family room,” she said. “I heard this loud noise.”

Luurtsma’s first thought was that a light bulb exploded, but the lights were all fine. Then, she saw a dust cloud.

“I jumped up. I ran in the garage. My dog was hiding behind my vehicle. He heard it too,” Luurtsma said.

Luurtsma called her husband, who was just across the street at their daughter’s house. The couple looked around the home, and that’s when they found a hole on the east side of the family room.

The homeowner said they went inside the house and found a wall hole about 28 inches above the couch where she’d been resting. A second, larger hole was found on the north wall of the room with a bullet lodged inside.

Luurtsma said they looked for a bullet because other area residents have had property damaged by bullets shot from a nearby state game area.

Luurtsma, who was not injured, said it was upsetting but not a surprise.

Police responded to the Luurtsma’s home on the 11000 block of Port Sheldon Road at about 7:40 p.m. Tuesday after they called 911 for help.

Deputies from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department also responded to the Olive Township State Game Area, located on 112th Avenue south of Port Sheldon Road. It is about three-quarters of a mile away from the house.

Lt. Mark Bennett said they found a Holland Township man in his late 20s sighting in a gun.

“It was a 7.62 Russian rifle, similar to a 223,” Bennett said of the gun.

The man told police he’d aimed the gun at a target, took the shot and the bullet went right through the target.

“He was very cooperative,” Bennett said. “It wasn’t intended, but it certainly was an act of concern.”

Bennett said once the investigation was finished, a full report would be turned over to the Department of Natural Resources.

“Right now, it’s legal to hunt, shoot and target practice on that land, as long as it’s done in a safe manner,” Bennett said. “That’s the crux of the investigation.”

Local conservation officer Gerard Goulette said area is a popular spot for target shooters. He noted that he regularly stops to talk to people about which guns they should use.

“When you come there with a rifle, for example, you need to know 100 percent that there is something there that will stop the bullet,” he said. “You’re still responsible for the bullet, even if it leaves the area and strikes a house.”

Possible charges that could come out of this incident include misdemeanors of careless or reckless discharge of a firearm, Goulette said.

Goulette said Wednesday morning he hadn’t seen a report on the incident.

Holland resident Steve Roodhouse, who was slinging clay pigeons at the state game area Wednesday afternoon, hadn’t heard about the incident but was disappointed it had happened.

“It’s too bad,” he said. “Something like that just means people are going to be taking a closer look at these little areas.”

Roodhouse, a member of Tulip City Rod and Gun Club, said he has taken gun safety classes and takes precautions when he uses firearms.

“I’m using target shells to test the gun,” he said, noting that the shells have a lower velocity.

He also noted the direction he was shooting. If he tossed a clay pigeon too far to the north, he didn’t take a shot.

“There’s buildings over there,” he said as he pointed into the distance. “I don’t want to take a chance.”

Luurtsma said too many shooters have been taking too many chances in the 47 years she’s lived in her Port Sheldon Road home.

“They come with their big guns. They don’t realize the bullets can fly five miles,” she said.

Luurtsma noted that South Olive Christian School is on 120th Avenue, straight west of the state land.

“Some of the bullets have landed on the other side of 120th in a brick house there,” she said.

Other neighbors have had bullets hit their outbuildings, too, and she recently learned of a bullet that flew over her 12-year-old grandson’s head when he was in the yard.

“I took him over to the township and complained,” she said. “The township has a file they are keeping.”

Luurtsma said two township officials visited her husband Wednesday afternoon and “were very upset” about the incident.

“The neighbors should not have to worry about mowing their lawns,” she said. “The kids should not have to worry about playing in their yards.”

Luurtsma recommended the state game area be closed to firearm use.

“Does somebody have to get killed before something happens,” she questioned. “I would hate to have a child get killed at the school because the people in charge are not getting the message.”

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