Sheriff finds no ‘negligence’ after woman living next to shooting range is hit in head by stray bullet
A Washington state sheriff inspected a Clark County shooting range for the first time since 1996 this week after a woman was hit in the head by a stray bullet while gardening.
Linda Sperling said that she was working in her yard late last month when a bullet struck her in the head.
“I don’t even know if I bent over. I looked down, and there was an explosion in my head,” she recalled to KATU. “I reached up, touched my head. Had my yard gloves on, and they’re all bloody. I realized I’d been hurt.”
“Someone was looking after me,” she added. “If I would’ve been bent different, turned different, who knows.”
Sperling’s son provided photos showing how the bullet left a bloody path on her scalp.
And according to Sperling’s family, it’s not the first close call in their 35 years of living next to the Clark Rifles shooting range.
“We’ve just had safety concerns with the rifle range, you know,” her son told KATU. “There’s a bullet hole here, and a star in the glass there. And there’s this one I actually just cut out. It’s there, the bullet’s still in there.”
KATU reported that the Sperling family had filed three complaints over the years about stray bullets hitting their property.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office said this week that it had investigated and determined that no crime had occurred. Investigators said that they could not find the bullet that hit Sperling, and they could not determine the direction it came from. They admitted, however, that it could have come from the shooting range.
“Investigators are unable to make any determination that the injuries were the result of criminal intent, recklessness or negligence at this time,” a statement from the sheriff’s office said. “Since there is no evidence of criminal activity this investigation is suspended.”
But for the first time in 19 years, the sheriff’s office said that it would inspect the gun range. The last inspection took place in 1996. Sheriff Chuck Atkin said that he would try to find out why the mandatory inspections that were supposed to happen every five years had not taken place.
“We are going to adhere to the county code and conduct the required firing range inspections,” Atkins insisted. “We should have been doing them before, but we weren’t. Obviously I can’t change the past but I can ensure that we follow the county code going forward.”
Undersheriff Mike Cooke pointed out that the department was “basically starting over” on shooting range inspections throughout the county because previous administrations had made the decision not to inspect them.
“We need to determine how many firing ranges we have that would be subject to inspection,” Cooke said. “The question becomes who within the sheriff’s office is the best qualified to do the inspections?”
Watch the video below from KATU, broadcast Jan. 29, 2015.