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Authorities’ response to stray bullet? Letters

Of the Keizertimes

Neighbors along the Willamette River in Keizer turned out at the Keizer City Council meeting Monday, June 18, to ask for action in response to a bullet that traveled across the river from a shooting range into a Keizer home.

“He has the right to shoot over there and we have the right to not live in fear. We want to know what has been done and what is going to be done to stop this,” said Rhonda Rich, a resident on Raphael Street North, and a neighbor to the couple whose home was struck by the bullet. “This isn’t a second amendment issue, it’s a public safety issue.”

For now, it seems the only action the city plans on taking is sending a letter and trying to keep pressure on Polk County officials to take action.

On Saturday, June 2, four men were cited for reckless endangering after a bullet they fired from a quarry being used as a shooting range – located across the Willamette River in Polk County – penetrated the exterior wall of a home in the 1300 Block of Raphael Street North and stopped only after striking a backsplash located in the kitchen of the home. One of the homeowners was in the kitchen at the time of the incident.

Keizer residents along the river have requested action twice in the past year. The first time, in September 2017, residents were responding to bullets that strafed trees in Sunset Park and caused park users to flee into the neighborhood.

“I’m angry that we have to be back because of another shooting (incident),” said Rich. “I avoid going in my backyard because I’m afraid of a stray bullet. It’s a matter of responsible gun ownership that isn’t happening.”

A Keizer police sergeant met with the owner of the quarry, Lance Davis, after the September incident and signs were put in place to alert range users to the residences across the river. But, the latest incident resulted in City Attorney Shannon sending a letter to Davis.

“This situation is unacceptable and dangerous. I cannot advise you legally, however I would have to believe that you and your company have some liability in this regard,” Johnson wrote in a letter dated June 13. “The City (of Keizer) urges you to take all action necessary to immediately stop the use of your property as a shooting range. My concern is that any preventative measures will not eliminate the risk that rounds fall into Keizer as long as the property is used as a range.”

In addition, Clark read into the record a letter from Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton sent to Polk County Commissioner Craig Pope.

After speaking with Davis, Garton wrote, “I have asked what his plans were to improve safety and he told me about the plans. Lance has since put up signage in the area indicating that shooting needed to be in an east-west direction instead of a north-south direction. He said he would be relocating the shooting range and signage as soon as they relocate more berms and fencing to make it all safer. He said they will install gates on the property to better control who comes and who goes as they have had random people drive down there and start shooting. Shooting can happen safely over there, they just need to do it in the right place.”

Keizer Police Chief John Teague said neither Keizer police nor the Polk County Sheriff’s Office have leverage in terms of criminal activity other than what’s already occurred.

City Manager Chris Eppley told residents who gathered to request action that the situation was frustrating “but the best opportunity is for civil action to occur and shut down that usage.”

The homeowners are reportedly looking at what can be accomplished through the courts.

“(Davis) has not demonstrated an ability to manage this property responsibly,” Clark added. “We need to keep the pressure on as the property owner moves forward.”