County partially closes gun range after bullets ricochet onto nearby homes

ST. GEORGE — Bullets believed to have dropped down on a subdivision in Hurricane due to ricochets from a neighboring gun range has once again led to a partial closure at one of the venues at the Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park.

Homes within the Stone Ridge Townhomes have been hit from bullets that ricochet out of the nearby county shooting sports park, prompting a partial closing of a gun range in the park, Hurricane, Utah, May 24, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“It honestly scares me. I stopped going outside,” said Andrea Mansfield, a resident of Stone Ridge Townhomes in Hurricane whose home is believed to have been hit by a stray bullet from the gun range in early April.

Though the subdivision is separated from the shooting range by a ridge and a wall of rock, ricocheting bullets from the shooting park somehow manage to land on homes from time to time.

Mansfield called the Hurricane City Police Department when her home was hit by a stray bullet last month, she told St. George News. Officers found a suspected bullet hole, but no bullet.

Hurricane City Police officer Ken Thompson said he was unaware of any other recent incidents involving bullets from the gun range, but it has been an issue in the past.

Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson mentioned another home that had a stray bullet hit a window and get stuck between panes of glass. The county dealt with the issue four years ago and had thought it largely resolved. They are now moving forward with plans that will hopefully fix the problem.

The Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park, Hurricane, Utah, May 24, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Mansfield took to Facebook after the incident and posted that she found another bullet hole on the outside wall inches away from a bedroom window. A neighbor below her has had it worse, she wrote, claiming his home has been hit multiple times in the last two years.

The incident led to an emergency meeting between the board that oversees the Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park and the County Commission.

“We ended up shutting down a part of the range where we believe it happened,” Iverson said, referring to the Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range portion of the park.

It isn’t the first time part of the county’s shooting park has been shut down over ricochet issues. Four years ago ricocheting bullet incidents were reported to local police who took their concerns to the commission.

The park was partially closed in late 2015 and reopened by early 2016 while the county investigated the situation and brought in a third party to study the ballistics. Improvements were made reduce ricochets.

One of the shooting bays at the Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range at the county shooting sports park, Hurricane, Utah, May 24, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

According the findings of the study, Iverson said the stray bullets apparently ricochet skyward and end up clearing the ridge when gravity takes over and brings the bullet down on the homes.

While the county officials thought they had largely fixed the issue, recent events have led them to consider new plans.

“We’ve done a lot of work to try and prevent the ricochets, and we have more work to do,” he said. “Nothing is prioritized above safety.”

With the exception of calendared shooting events – such as hosting the United States Practical Shooting Association HICAP National Championship in September, which was recently approved by the County Commission – the practical shooting range has been shut down for the time being.

“We’re working with the venue to face the shooting bays away from the direction of the homes that experience ricochet,” Iverson said, adding that the county is close to reopening the some of the bays within the practical shooting range that already face away from the homes on the other side of the ridge.

The County Commission will meet with members of the practical shooting range next week to discuss the matter further. This will hopefully will result in the reopening of park of the range, Iverson said.

Jalise Williams, 15, fires on a target at the Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range in Washington County, Utah, Nov. 15, 2018 | File photo by Spencer Ricks, St. George News

“We’re working with the county and everything is looking positive,” said Bob Wolf, one of the directors of the board overseeing the practical shooting range.

As for the national championship event scheduled for September, Iverson said the county met with those involved and is satisfied with safety measures that will be taken during the event. Once the event wraps up, the county intends to redesign the practical shooting range and reconstruct the berms to make it less prone to ricochets.

“We’re putting a pretty substantial investment into that range in a way that we can feel more confident that there won’t be any more ricochets that way,” he said. “We want to make it safe for the gun range and safe for the neighborhood nearby.”

The Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range is one of five venues/clubs that operate at the county shooting park. Other venues are the Purgatory Clays, Red Cliffs Rifle/Pistol Range, Cowboy Action (Dixie Desperados), Archery (RedRock Bowmen) and Black-powder (High Valley Mountain Men). These venues remain open to the public.

Each venue independently runs its part of the shooting park with the county primarily providing infrastructure maintenance and oversight.

The practical shooting range has provided a service to the community during its regular operation, Wolf said, as it has been used to train police officers and private security personnel, as well as concealed carry weapon permit holders and members of the general public.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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