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stray bullet hits house near rifle range

salzosalzo Member Posts: 6,837
Stray bullet strikes home

Bucks County Courier Times

It was a normal weekend at the Harberts' Dark Hollow Road home - normal, that is, until the high-powered rifle slug shot through the roof five feet from their daughter's upstairs room.

The bullet hit the same place where Rich Harbert and his 2 1/2-year-old child had been standing just 10 minutes before, he said, shattering the family's nerves.

Now, Rich and Jennifer Harbert are calling for a rifle ban at a firing range about three-quarters of a mile from their home, saying they do not trust that it could never happen again.

"I understand there is the right to bear arms, but where's the balance?" asked Jennifer Harbert. "Where's the safety? Where's my right as a mother to feel comfortable?"

According to a police report, the 7.62-caliber round came from a Russian military rifle being fired Saturday at Wicen's Shooting Range, a site on a 200-acre Mozart Road farm that has been open since 1928.

The shooter, identified as Robert Joseph Carter III, told police he had no experience handling a rifle. Officers believed he was firing high, and had mistakenly angled his shot over a large berm meant to stop bullets.

The result: The round traveled through several wooded areas and an open field before coming through the Harberts' ceiling just to the right of their stairs.

Rich Harbert told police he found the bullet 15 to 20 feet from the hole, in a bedroom, wrote police officer Stanley MacMoran.

On Wednesday, the Harberts and Joe and Lori Wicen, the owners of the range, went before the board of supervisors to discuss the shooting, which occurred about 4 p.m.

Rich Harbert said he does not want to shut down the range, or to prevent the Wicen family from making a living.

But he and his wife said they will not feel their daughter and 7-month-old son are safe as long as powerful rifles are being used at the range.

"It was a military round, a NATO round that hit our house," Rich Harbert said. "I just don't understand that."

Joe Wicen said the range will take any step necessary to prevent another bullet from straying. After Saturday's accident, he installed baffles, which will prevent shooters from raising their guns above the level of the berm, he said.

He called the National Rifle Association and asked it to send an independent safety consultant to assess the operation and make recommendations.
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"Whatever he tells us we have to do to make this absolutely safe, we're going to do that," said Wicen.

He said his business couldn't operate if it banned rifles.

"We sort of have to be able to pay all our bills," Wicen said.

On Thursday, the Wicens' attorney said the range was already a safe place.

At least two safety officers are on duty at all times, said Michael Carr. Shooters fire from a line of benches toward an earthen berm, which that is 40 feet wide and 25 to 30 feet tall, he said.

Police said no charges are planned in the shooting, since it was accidental.

When Carter was informed the bullet had struck a home with children in it, he became visibly shaken, according to the police report. He said he was willing to pay damages and took full responsibility for the accident.

"It's an incident. There's no criminal intent there," said Sgt. J.R. Landis, a 23-year veteran of the force.

"By no means do we consider this an abusive business," Landis said. "They do a good job."

Landis, who has shot at the range, said shooters who violate the rules are kicked out. The berm is large enough that it would take "a complete act of carelessness" to miss, he said.

The range has struggled with its neighbors in the past, however.

In 2003, one neighbor sued over a military vehicle show in which automatic weapons were fired, charging that it violated a 1984 legal agreement been Wicen's and neighbors. The dispute was resolved in late 2004, with the range agreeing to modifications.

On Wednesday, the supervisors expressed sympathy for the Harberts, but said they believe the range is moving to address the problem.

"The appearance is that what happened over the weekend was an accident," said Supervisor Henry Rowan. "The Wicens have very, very quickly taken a lot of corrective action."

Rich Harbert said he wasn't convinced enough has been done.

"The fact of the matter is, this bullet hit our house and you cannot tell me it won't happen again," he said.
Riley Yates can be reached at 215-345-3133 or [email protected]

February 29, 2008 6:50 AM


  • n/an/a Member Posts: 168,427
    edited November -1
    Perhaps all this could have been avoided IF the range required ALL POTENTIAL MEMBERS to take a hunter safety coarse.

    If that dolt had NEVER handled a rifle, why didn't he seek instruction BEFORE he intended to use it. Don't student driver typically SEEK assistance learning to drive BEFORE they actually do.

    All this still says NOTHING about the OVERREACTION by these supposed "victims".

    What a screwed up affair.
  • Tech141Tech141 Member Posts: 3,787 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Don't know about anyone else but I would NEVER buy/rent a house adjacent to or within two miles downrange from a Firing Range....
  • Rack OpsRack Ops Member Posts: 18,597 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by salzo

    According to a police report, the 7.62-caliber round came from a Russian military rifle being fired Saturday at Wicen's Shooting Range

    quote:Originally posted by salzo

    "It was a military round, a NATO round that hit our house," Rich Harbert said. "I just don't understand that."

    When did the Russkies start using NATO ammo?
  • Aaron.Combs1Aaron.Combs1 Member Posts: 217 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    i wonder who it was that told the resident that it was a NATO round that came through the roof..... even though he live near a range, i am sure he had no idea what a NATO round was until someone said something..... and no 7.62x54 is not a NATO round

    approved NATO rounds are is as follows

    .45 (phased out...mostly)
    .40 in certian cases (spec ops)
  • sandwarriorsandwarrior Member Posts: 5,453 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    NATO or not the house got hit by a round. The issue that needs to be addressed here is SAFETY #1. ID'ing the round ain't gonna make a bit of difference. I suggest, safety rules get RE-EVALUATED at that range. It never hurts to run through a qualifying course again, either.

    My next question is which came first? The Harberts House or the Range? If the house came first they might have a complaint. If the house didn't come first I think they need the *-of-the-year award for buying a house downrange of a firing range. Maybe a developer needs to get tied to the firing line and taught where to build houses and where NOT to build houses. I'm sick of those [email protected]&$ around here. They've taken hundreds of acres around the twin cities under the eminent domain clause. If it's the other way around then maybe the range owner should have thought about selling that land and starting his range in a little safer area.
  • crash2usafcrash2usaf Member Posts: 4,094
    edited November -1
    I don't know a single person who enjoys getting shot at in their own home, but it is good to see that the range folks were being somewhat responsible about it, and the dope that did the shooting has the good sense to be scared... If anything this reiterates how responsible gun owners are instead of "wasnt me, or a simple opps sorry bout that" they took action, and I am sure there was some * chewing of their range officers...
  • chaoslodgechaoslodge Member Posts: 790 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I personally think the shooter should bear the responsibility. If it was his rifle and he did not know how to use it and fired the shot, arrest him. He is not doing gun owners any favors that is for sure.

    I really do not have any sympathy for the range either. It is one thing for an idiot homeowner to complain about noise when they buy a house near a range. They do have every right to expect that the bullets stay within the range.
  • Old IronsightsOld Ironsights Member Posts: 93 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Maybe it's just the old Artilleryman in me, but I'm gonna call BS on this one.

    "The result: The round traveled through several wooded areas and an open field before coming through the Harberts' ceiling just to the right of their stairs."

    At 3/4 of a mile a 7.62x39 will NOT have sufficient mass or velocity on the downward arc to penetrate the roof of a home.

    I would also NOT be able to "penetrate a ceiling" on an upward arc after "travel(ing) through several wooded areas and an open field".

    Basic ballistics.

    Now, none of that doesn't mean that a slug didn't land on his roof, but the rest of his story is anti-gun BS.
  • bpostbpost Member Posts: 31,944 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Let's analyze this a bit. An inexperienced shooter lets one fly; one stray round that HARMED NO ONE came into a dwelling. The range has been open for 80 years and never had this happen before.......

    Seems like the odds of this happening again are about as much as a terrorist attack upon a rock quarry in China.

    I would be upset too if a bullet flew into my home; but these folks are over the top, as is the norm in today's society.

    Will somebody please teach the idiot that made the shot the proper use of a center-fire rifle. If he was a shooter in NRA sanctioned training class or High Power match he would be taught correctly.
  • salzosalzo Member Posts: 6,837
    edited November -1
    I am not sure which came first, the house or the range. I know the range has been operating for quite some time, but I also know there have been houses there for over two hundred year-I am not sure about this particular house. I really do not see this range being around too much longer. THe past few years, they have been getting quite a few complaints from the community around them-nothing serious, just people bitching about the by products of living near a range-something they should have considered before moving in.
    I think if I were them, I would probably have the range officers greet anyone using the range, ask them if they have experience, and deal with any novices on the spot, by making sure they at least stay in the ball park. It is VERY DIFFICULT to pull of what this shooter did- might benefit the range to "coach" those who arent regulars at the range.
  • sandwarriorsandwarrior Member Posts: 5,453 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Old Ironsights brought up a good point. ID'ing the bullet may have a serious consequence here. The round had to go 3/4 of a mile. I'm sure it went over the woods...not through... ( don't think it cared that it flew over an open field of {how many acres?})and hit the house. If it was a 7.62x39 I doubt it had the power to go through a roof. If it was a NATO bullet it might have the power to do that.

    According to my ballistics program, the bullet will still have 125 ft. lbs of energy left. Which is about 35 more lbs than it takes to drive a #10 air-nail through 1/2" plywood into a rafter. If it didn't hit a rafter then maybe it would have enough energy to go through the insulation and sheetrock and land on the floor. That same air-nail though without being pressed to the wood generally will not penetrate the plywood. At least that was my experience while I worked in construction.

    So, this might not be the bullet from the range? Unless they know for sure I'm not thinking I would like to take blame for it penetrating the house. A more likely scenario is the bullet may have hit the house and then someone...wanted to make an example of it??


    Also of note here is it's a good CYA for the range owners to install baffles to keep rifle aim down.
  • brgunner2002brgunner2002 Member Posts: 2 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    looks like a bunch of cry babies. i doubt that it is possible at that range for a 7.62x39 to penetrate anything. IF it came from the range there then more care should be taken to be safe at all times. In my opinion, the bullet more than likely came from a different location. Not to start a "second shooter" theory but it just doesnt make any sense. Also the news media is not a reliable source for any information because they change the facts to fit their needs.
  • MBKMBK Member Posts: 2,915 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    The local cops came to our range on Orcas Island Washington back in the early 1990's. They fired an automatic over the berm and hit a far back house. The owner sued. The gun club spent $220,000 defending including appeals. The county cops who benefitted from using the club facilities took a pass and paid nothing for the defense.

    The final result was a losst of $$$$ Money and severe restrictions on hours, days, berm heights. The Sheriff's folks are no longer shooting where the Republican Sportsmen congregate.

    The weird Democrat Sheriff is still there.
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