Gun range comes under fire from neighbors

The local pistol and rifle range remains closed, coming into one of the busiest times of the year, as police continue an investigation into a shooting incident that left one man injured and several homes damaged in a nearby subdivision. A large group of residents from the Cutter Park subdivision showed up at the monthly board meeting of the North Ottawa Rod and Gun Club on Monday night to express their concerns about the club's activities.
Becky Vargo
Oct 4, 2011

Officials said a group of police officers from Grand Valley State University were training at the club Thursday morning when some of their bullets apparently traveled about a half-mile east into the subdivision, striking a contractor and some of the homes.

University officials said they are fully cooperating in the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation into the incident, but declined further comments.

Jeremey Wilder, one of the residents whose home was hit by a bullet earlier this year, read a letter asking the board to completely shut down “all use of the rifle and pistol range until a full investigation by the Ottawa County Sheriff is complete.”

He was acting as one of the spokespersons for a group of neighbors who had met at his home the previous night.

Wilder said he discovered the bullet hole in the siding above the garage door about six months ago and thought it was from one of his children using a slingshot. Once he heard about the man being injured at a neighbor’s house, he investigated further and found a bullet lodged in the board underneath the siding.

Police were initially contacted Thursday morning after a contractor working at a house on Acacia Street went to the hospital with a bullet wound. His supervisor, who asked not to be identified, said the man was hit in the arm and was doing well.

During Monday’s meeting, OCSD Undersheriff Greg Steigenga told the crowd that officers had searched the area, as well as responded to neighbors calls, once the incident was reported. He said the investigation was expected to be completed by Wednesday, then turned over to the Ottawa County prosecuting attorney’s office. Once the prosecutor is done addressing the case, the report would be available through the Freedom of Information Act, Steigenga said.

Earlier in the day Monday, Lori Wilder pointed out that the bullet that struck their house hit in the area of their bedroom.

“A little higher (and) it could have been in our bedroom,” she said. “A little lower, it could have hit our cars or one of our kids.”

The Wilders have lived in the subdivision for eight years. Lori said their children are older and are handling the situation OK; but other children are asking if it is safe to play outside, while others are scared and having nightmares.

“We feel really fortunate right now that we’re not dealing with a tragedy,” Lori Wilder said.

Another neighbor, Rick Blazer, asked for assurance from the Rod and Gun Club Board that the club wouldn’t open the range before meeting with the Cutter Park neighbors.

Mark Welch, president of the gun club board, told those attending Monday’s meeting that the board was concerned about everyone’s safety; and would keep the rifle and pistol range closed until further notice, pending the investigation.

He noted that a popular monthly event had been canceled Saturday, almost without notice.

Monday afternoon, Welch said that the club becomes very busy because they have sight-in days for hunters a couple of weeks before gun season opens on Nov. 15.

“It’s a busy couple of weeks,” he said. “We usually have extra safety people out there.”

Welch also explained to the group that the trap and skeet shooting areas are separate from the rifle and pistol range because they are located farther from the subdivision, and the guns have a much shorter range. This area has also been closed pending the investigation.

Gun club officials confirmed after the meeting that the skeet and trap ranges will re-open on Wednesday. The hours of operation are Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5-9 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The outdoor (rifle and pistol) ranges remain closed.

The board was asked if any modifications had been made to the club since the ranges were constructed.

Welch said several modifications had been made to the facilities since the range was built in the late 1960s to early 1970s.

Board member Ethan Barnett said the most recent improvement had been a grading of the rifle range so that the target was 7 feet lower than where the shooters were standing.

Barnett noted this was not in response to any specific incident, but to make things safer.

At the end of the meeting, Jeremey Wilder said: “Personally I would like to see the outdoor rifle and pistol range enclosed or moved to a different location.”

Welch said the board would review the reports before making any determination on what needed to be done.

“While we used to be in splendid isolation, that is no longer the case,” Welch said about the gun club’s location near the subdivision.

Construction for the Cutter Park subdivision began about 12 years ago.

The gun club is on 160th Avenue, off Ferris Street. The Cutter Park subdivision is about a half-mile to the east, located between Ferris and Lincoln streets.

To see more photos from the meeting, click here.

Comments

tech

Where was the GVSU Police? They were the ones responsible, yet they weren't there?

Mad Mike

Who cares where the GVSU police were. The question is, why in the world would someone build a house a half mile away from a shooting range and not think about the possibility of stray bullets. As the saying in real eatate goes location, location, location. Live with it or leave you made the choice to build in the gun clubs backyard.

Yaright

The issue is the bullets left there backyard and shot someone.
If your neighbors house catches fire and burns yours are you at fault for building next to them becasue they have a gas stove?
If a car crashes into your home, are you at fault for building on a paved road?
If a dog poops in your yard, your choice to build in a town that allows dogs....silly argument
Negligence comes into play when you are not able to control or confine and you have the abilty to do so, and clearly they can not.
Its bullets in flesh...really

On the GVSU issue, clearly they need training as they arent able to even come close to their targets.

oraB

You are Mad Mike. People can not shot other people duh. They can not complain about noise or smell but they can complain if bullets go flying into their homes and children. Don't you think Grand Haven Township would have thought of this if it was a concern? Bottom line everyone thought that the Gun and Rod club was safe. I think they will do the right thing and make it safe so families don't have to live in fear. All of the people mad at Cutter Park residents are a bunch of babies. Make it SAFE end of story.

Mad Mike

Yaright, would you build a house next to a nucular power plant without thinking about the consequences of a melt down?

Yaright

I will lob it back at you...if there was a melt down, think the plant might be forced to act responsibly? Someone was shot...its really not what if....bullet in flesh...furthermore this plant didnt confine to its own property. its spewing nuclear waste all over the place

T-Bone

I have to ask, why was Cutter Park allowed to be built that near to an existing gun range in the first place? Who allowed that to occur? Was the pursuit of the almighty property tax dollar more important than public safety? Since the gun range precedes the subdivision by around 30 years, I ask the question to Mr. Jeremey Wilder, shouldn’t your home be moved instead of the gun range? It seems you are exhibiting a selfishness that is all too prevalent these days. The world does not revolve your existence sir. I have concern for your family's well-being, but it was you who took the action of living where you do. You bear the responsibility for that. It is not the gun range's fault that you and your neighbors in Cutter Park chose to live near it or that the developer chose to build it there. Yes, they have a responsibility to keep projectiles contained to their premises and I'm sure they will make the changes necessary to insure that. But to up and clamor for them to move is a selfish act on your part. They were there first by quite a long period of time. Get real.

Boater

Well, Cutter Park was built and the homeowners have every right to be concerned. It would be frightening to be outside or what would prevent a stray bullet to go through a window. I wouldn't let our children outside. It's a shame that the Rod and Gun club has to close down until the problem is resolved, however the risk is too great to remain open. It would probably be wise to move the Rod and Gun club to another location. Buy a larger piece of land so this would not occur again. I think the Rod and Gun club have been very responsible.

T-Bone

I rest my case about selfishness. Yeah, I'm concerned for people's safety, but again, the range was there 3 decades or more before the subdivision was put in. The range should not have to go anywhere. The subdivision should never have been built that close to it. As another commenter stated, anyone buying a home in the subdivision was given a written alert about the gun range and this possibility. I have an easement for one of the county's drains running through my property that I was aware of before buying my house. I take responsibility if the ditch were to overflow onto my property. It's something that has never happened and it took a 125-year event a couple years ago for it to come even close to occuring. But again, that is my responsibility and I took it knowing full well in advance it could happen, just as any of the residents of Cutter Park did with the NORGC. For the record, I am not a gun enthusiast but I know many who are and they are very concerned about safely discharging their firearm. This issue is strictly about knowingly living in an area where there is the strong possibility of something like this occuring every once in awhile. Take responsibility for living where you do! If you do not like the circumstances - then move!

Yaright

The law requires them to confine their bullets to their own property...clearly they did not. Hence buy more property so they dont break the law. ala move. The disclosere related to noise, not possible death to childeren. I do believe they are taking responsibilty for where they live. In your example you mention a ditch or stream or something that flows thru your property. Sorry, but a bad example.A parellel would be sharing the property the range is on. Its not. In your case its on your property. Here we are talking about protecting the rights of all land owners. It really doesnt matter if its a subdivision, farm, business, whatever their rights should be protected as well. They seem to confine their activities to their property, NORGC did not. Who cares if they were there 30 years, the land next to them was there for thousands of years. They should keep their bullets on there own land and out of peoples flesh.

T-Bone

I agree with you in regard to keeping projectiles from leaving their premises and keeping the public safe from injury, as I stated in my previous comment. I am sure that NORGC will do what it takes to see that will happen in the future. I don't believe they would have to move their operation to achieve that end. There are ways it can be done without moving. I was not trying to draw any parallel with my property condition with this serious situation either, other than to state that the residents of Cutter Park were aware of an existing condition just as I was and that they bear responsibility for their choice of residence, just as I do. I believe in personal responsibility. I am not a member of NORGC and probably never will be so I have no personal interest in this one way or another. But I don't believe that DEMANDING that NORGC move their operation is the right thing to do here either. NORGC was there first by a long period of time and should be allowed to stay there and fix the problem without residents DEMANDING they move. Thanks for your comment.

ranger6

So I feel bad for resident. But I think they need to blame GVSU and the board at the gun club. 1) why would the gun club allow the police depts run the range when its not there's in the first place? I dont think the gun clubs Ins. company would like that 2) who was the range officer for that dept. where was he/she? sorry but I myself do have some extensive range training from the military. So it sounds like some Negligence was played out on whoever was in control of the range. I hope they ask for the manifest of training officers. sorry but what I have been told that officers were in in the prone position shooting 100 yrd targets? get real! maybe shooting at crows or squirrls in the trees maybe! over all to bad it's a good place to bring children of age to teach about gun safety , gun control and the sport of shooting!

SurfCruise

Gun club was there first, if the home owners dont like it they should move.

I will never understand how people can build or buy a house next to something (gun range, factory, bar, whatever) and then complain and try to have what ever it is shut down. It was there first, you shouldnt have built a house there.

ricb

No one would feel safe if bullets had fallen on their property. You would not be a responsible person if you were not concerned. I am a NORGC member and I shoot there. Most of us are very safety oriented and have no wish to endanger anyone. I know what its like to be shot... been there twice.

However, as a certified shooting instructor and range officer at several other ranges, I can say that this club has been very careful about building their range so as to minimize the potential for accidents of the type that has occurred.

However, no one can be absolutely sure that an accident will not happen. Somebody not on the club property can shoot a bullet in the air and where it lands is unknown. It has not be proved that the bullets in question came from the Club's gun range, although most info available now certainly make it appear so. Give the investigation a chance, learn the real cause before asking for punitive action against the NORGC.

Mr. Wilder made a nice show of asking for an action that was already in place and I am pretty sure he knew that when he made his presentation. I suppose if he lived near an airport and a plane landed in his yard he would ask for the airport to be closed until fail-safe measures are taken to ensure it could never happen again???

Let's all keep a cool head until the Sheriff's Dept. completes its investigation. After all, the Club did shut down immediately upon hearing of the incident and continues to keep the rifle and pistol range closed. Has it occurred to nearby residents that just maybe a careless GVSU shooter made a mistake and not the NORGC?

momofthreeboys

My first reaction upon hearing this story is why on earth were houses built so close to the Rod and Gun Club that a bullet could even reach them? The Club has been there for decades upon decades and a fairly responsible organization, in over forty years there has never been a peep in the Tribune about negligence...the houses look fairly newish maybe within a decade or so. Is this the first time a home was hit? Surely the homeowners knew they were purchasing next to a Rod and Gun Club sort of like buying in a flood plain, or next to a golf course, there are inherent risks involved and presumably a conscientiousness decision made. Hard to say who is negligent at this point...let the investigation play out...and quickly. If design changes need to be made at the club perhaps the subdivision should foot the bill. If certain ammunition that travels farther than a /12 mile cannot be used at the club so be it.

agree2dissagree

Great points made! Gun club was there first...for years! Now the homeowners (who built around it) are shooting their mouths off, and you don't need a permit to use it!

ghresident

First of all, the residents of Acacia dr knew there was a gun club in the area when they bought homes there, a disclosure was presented by the realtors. Just maybe they fingered right though it and signed the papers for there fancy new homes without even thinking about things. Secondly Ive been a member of the NORGC for over 15 yrs and in that time frame the gun club has made alot more saftey improvements with there pullers and Rifle range saftey officers keeping the club as safe as possible for us members and the public around the club. Maybe the residents of Acacia should go look at the backdrops at the rifle range #1 there at a minimun of 30+ foot tall. #2 all of the targets that are used are at a downword angle, so how a bullet went over the backdrop is beyond me? Were the GVSU saftey officers rookies with very little "hands on experiance" with a handgun? Some of us member shoot there everyday there open, the range officer can only watch so many people at one time during training sessions. Let the Sherrif"s do there investigation before you start blaming the gun club, you dont even know if its there fault. #3 the club did the right thing to close the range while this is sorted out, that was there first priority!. If the residents of Acacia dr are worried about there saftey, by all means come and watch some of us shoot there. I'm sure all the members of the gun club will show you how saftey oriented we are, not only for ourselves. But others around us! This was an unfortunate accident and the club is taking actions to make sure it doesnt happen again.

calvin

I would agree with you that this was just an unfortunate accident IF there weren't all the other bullets found throughout Cutter Park. This is an ongoing problem. The map shows multiple bullets and where they have been found. Also, these were not all found when GVSU had their cops there. The timeline dates back quite a while. It doesn't matter at all about disclosure. The disclosure states that it is there probably more for the noise. It doesn't mean that by purchasing a house in CP that you waive your rights to walk in your yard without being shot. Kind of funny how you call these "fancy houses." What on earth does the style of houses have to do with anything?

Downtown Resident

I am genuinely surprised by the majority of the views expressed on this topic. It may well be that nearby residents knew that a gun club was located close by, but that certainly does not imply that the residents tacitly understood that they or their property would be subject to being shot. The gun club has a responsibility to see to it that bullets do not leave their property--and this would be the case even if there were no residences located nearby. If there were only empty fields surrounding the club, people or animals walking in the field could be injured by stray bullets. If it means the gun club needs to install tall barricades around the property or take some other protective measure to block stray bullets, then that is what needs to be done. The gun club has the right to operate safely, and the nearby residents have the right to live where they live without risking being shot.

T-Bone

Great comment Resident!

Say No To Tourist's

Just Wow....Its funny how some of you are blaming the gun club for this? Really? Seriously? C'mon! How about blaming the GVSU campus cowboy cop! It happened the day they were training.....Point the finger at the one who pulled the trigger! Not the gun club! More than likely its a dept issued bullet removed from the fella that got hit, so how's that the clubs fault? The clubs been there for what? 40-50 years with a safe track record, proper barriers and saftey officers. So by chance it was an accidenal discharge, could a range safety officer stop that? No dont think so, it happens way to fast! The bullet picture that was posted was from a handgun!

Stop blaming the gun club and blame the one who recklesly discharged a firearm!

Yaright

Along with graciously accepting the revenue from the "cowboy" you accept the liabilty. The bullets found have ranged in age from that day to a year+. Theory presented and rebuked

calvin

Did you happen to see the map of where the bullets have been found? This wasn't just one stray bullet on a single day. So, the GVSU cops are to blame the day the guy was shot, but what about all the other bullets? Obviously, the gun club does not have safe barriers or those bullets wouldn't all get through. What is crazy is how far through the subdivision they were found....not just the edge. The Gun Club has the responsibility to make the acreage around them safe from bullets. They don't own the land around them. Whether or not it was a whole subdivision or just a single home built on the Cutter Park property (maybe that owner owned it for 50 years too), the neighboring land should be rest assured that the Gun Club is set up to prevent stray bullets. That is why everyone is also blaming the Gun Club.

lakeshoretomcat

Who wouldnt protect their homes and kids! Most residents in GH TWP acknowledged that the gun range was there when they bought homes; doesnt mean they acknowledged to buying homes that would receive gun fire! Many of you people commenting are ignorant; these people aren't complaining about the noise - its the bullets their finding in their house. AND THE BULLET IN A GUYS ARM for god sakes. If it was a kid shot, this wouldnt even be a discussion. The ATF would have plowed over the gun club. As a gun owner, I love the range, but I know people who live in Cutter Park and they dont deserve this. And since its an obvious danger to them, the TWP should have never zoned it as residential. Both GVSU and GH TWP have responsibility in this mess. Ignorant people need to do their homework before shooting off their mouth.

ohwell

You ask a very good question. Why did the township allow the land at Cutter Park be rezoned? One reason tax dollars. Look at how many subdivisions were approved around that time period. And it appears that a new development is in progress even closer to the gun range. Look at the failed condos (which are actually modular duplex homes) on the corner of Groesbeck and 152nd. Those were a total failure. Total greed on the part of the township, that is the short and simple answer.

As for whose fault it was, let the investigation take place and find out. I am going to guess they will find GVSU police officers at fault. The only fault the gun club has it letting them on the grounds in the first place. And anyone that knows anything about guns and how far bullets can travel, would have never bought a house less that close to a gun range in the first place. Just a matter of time before an incident like this would happen with houses that close. I can say this is not helping the home values in that neighborhood one bit.

GrandHavenJohn

So, the GVSU cops set up an extremely dangerous shooting station, where anyone with any common sense would know better, and start raining bullets down on the neighbors. And this is the Gun Club's fault someohow? The last two people who have been shot in Ottawa County, this guy and Derek Copp the GVSU drug dealer, were both shot by police officers who were utilizing poor safety precautions. It's not a Gun Club issue. The only thing the Gun Club did wrong was let the police use the range. When the Gun Club is open to it's members there is at least one safety officer present who actually knows a thing or two about safe shooting and enforces safety rules. When the police use the range, well, not so much apparently.

When a citizen sends a stray bullet that accidently hits someone he's charged with a crime, negligent shooting of a firearm. When the police do the same thing, it's the fault of whoever owns the property the cop was standing on.

oraB

WOW...Someone was shot. Little kids and dogs play in this neighborhood. The township approved the development of this area. If the Gun club wanted to shot bullets for miles they should have bought more property when they rezoned the area.

Ye,s the Gun club was there first, so was the horse and buggy. Time and demographics change. They are responsible for keeping the bullets on their property plan and simple. Shame on all the people worried that they may have to practice inside. .

Every hunter should practice saftey and I can't believe all of you are complaining that they may have to make it safe. Shut up and do what is right.

keepitreal

When someone miss uses a gun, the person who fired the shot is with total fault and responsibility.

Boater

The developer just didn't start building homes one day, they had to get approval from the TOWNSHIP. That's right... the Township had to okay the development. So IF the Township hadn't made a bonehead decision this wouldn't be an issue. The Township's rules on building anything is beyond stupid, why they allowed homes to be built within a fair distance of a stray bullet is irresponsible.

How can this happen

Sooo no one can develop around a gun range. Then maybe the gun range needs to buy more land. Even if there weren't any houses there, they should not let bullets leave their property.

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