By Jeff Gallatin
Two recent incidents involving guns being fired inside city limits have resulted in a pair of male teenagers facing weapons-related charges, and police Chief Mark Spaetzel reminding citizens they need to be careful when handling firearms.
“It’s just good practice and common sense,” Spaetzel said, “when you’re handling firearms. You need to be careful and use appropriate safety techniques when you’re handling firearms. The best thing to do is just not handle weapons like this in your home; do it out at a firing range or a controlled environment.”
Spaetzel said one of the incidents, which took place late April 11 on Russell Road, could have had tragic results. In that incident, a 19-year-old man was cleaning his AR 15 rifle when it went off, sending a bullet through the wall of the man’s home, then subsequently going through the wall of his neighbor’s home, coming within feet of a pregnant mother and her 3-year-old daughter, to whom the mother was reading a bedtime story.
“The pregnant woman’s husband said he heard a loud noise like a loud branch falling and cracking while his wife was reading the story to their daughter,” Spaetzel said. “He looked around that night but didn’t see anything. Then, four days later he was in his daughter’s closet getting her some warm clothes when he saw a hole in the wall and what appeared to be a bullet hole.”
Spaetzel said the man then notified police, prompting officers to investigate the incident.
“He understandably was pretty upset by all of this,” Spaetzel said. “When we investigated, we found that the 19-year-old next door had this rifle and had apparently accidentally discharged it.”
Spaetzel said his department had not had any prior incidents with the teenager and that he had obtained the gun legally from an outdoors shop. But the city prosecutor ruled that he still should be charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal damaging, endangering and discharging a firearm within city limits. Officers filed the charges against Zachary Gilchrist last week and are confiscating the weapon, Spaetzel said.
In the other incident, a 19-year-old man is facing charges of inducing panic, discharging a firearm inside city limits and obstructing official business. They stem from an April 14 incident in which police were called to the 28000 block of Osborn Road when a man said he heard gunshots coming from a neighbor’s house.
Responding officers said they found the man had apparently fired several shots out his bedroom window from a handgun which had been modified to shoot only blanks.
“Apparently, he was seeing if the gun worked,” Spaetzel said, “but that’s a poor way to do it. Even with blanks, you should not be discharging a weapon out your bedroom window in a residential area.”
Spaetzel reiterated that weapons are better handled and fired in areas designed for such activities.
“If you have weapons in your home, make sure they are secured, locked up and away from children and other people who don’t know how to use them and that the ammunition is not accessible to them either,” he said. “Accidents and bad things happen even when trained people get complacent or careless. You have to practice good safety when handling firearms.”