- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s sheriff acknowledged Wednesday afternoon that his deputies were target practicing six days earlier on private property at the time a bullet went into a Wildewood home and landed near a child, and that a similar incident occurred more than a year ago.
The ongoing investigation has not determined if police gunfire was the source of the rounds striking either home in the California housing area, according to the sheriff’s office, and the county’s elected prosecutor also is awaiting the findings.
“Until such time as the ballistic reports come back,” State’s Attorney Richard Fritz (R) said Thursday, “there’s little I can reflect upon. It’s currently under investigation by the [sheriff’s] office of professional responsibilities.”
During their response to the bullet shattering a window at the Wildewood home on the afternoon of Feb. 27, the sheriff’s office reports, investigators found damage to an adjacent residence, and they are trying to determine if the damages are related.
St. Mary’s Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) said Tuesday that the issue of whether his officers were shooting in the area that day was part of the ongoing investigation, and his office reported late Wednesday afternoon that “it was determined sheriff’s office personnel were conducting firearms training over a mile away during the time of the incident. As a precautionary measure, training exercises were immediately halted. All weapons being used during those exercises ... will be submitted for examination to determine if the round that struck the Larkspur [Street] residence came from one of those weapons.”
Detectives searching the agency’s database found that “a similar incident had been reported in December 2012 in the Wildewood development,” the sheriff’s office reports, and “a projectile in that case was recovered and will be compared to determine if it came from a sheriff’s office weapon.”
Cameron released a statement Wednesday that he is “committed to continuing to work with the victim families to keep them informed and aid in their recovery from the shattered sense of safety and security in their home,” and that, “I am mortified that there is even potential for one of our training rounds causing damage or injury.”
The agency has suspended use of all private property for firearms training, according to the sheriff, and will evaluate all training sites for safety of users and surrounding residents.
The bullet that scattered glass through Patrick and Margo O’Rear’s Wildewood home last week landed next to their 19-month-old daughter, the couple said earlier this week. No one was injured by the bullet, or the glass that they said landed on their clothes, furniture and more than 40 square feet of flooring through the living room, dining area and to the back wall of the kitchen.
Margo O’Rear said Thursday that the couple has received a note from the sheriff’s office that it will take “one or two months” to determine if one of the agency’s bullets struck their home.
“I want the police to come forward and talk to us, if they think this is something that happened [also almost] a couple years ago,” she said, “that they’re doing everything they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and that they’re talking to the county commissioners and anyone [else] to find an official shooting range they can use.”
Cameron confirmed this week that his officers have been practicing their shooting skills “for a number of years” with a property owner’s permission at the site off Lawrence Hayden Road, during a span when “Wildewood grows closer to that property.”