ORRINGTON, Maine — A local resident said he is worried about the safety of people in his neighborhood and those who use his land after he was told that five stray bullets whizzed through the treetops above his property recently.
Jerry Perkins, 69, who owns 375 acres of land off Perkins Point Road and whose family has lived in Orrington for 150 years, said he believes the shots were fired from the Orrington Rod and Gun Club’s rifle range, located on East Bucksport Road. The club’s property abuts Perkins’ land.
Perkins, a retired school teacher and coach, said he learned about the stray bullets from a commercial logger who has been harvesting trees on his land. He said he believes the shots were fired from a high-powered rifle.
“I want to be a good neighbor, but also I’ve got to protect our property here. We’ve got people who live down here. We’ve got families that live down here,” Perkins said, adding that there are eight households on his stretch of road along Brewer Lake.
The Jan. 30 incident resulted in some tense moments for Dustin Young, a 22-year-old commercial logger from Waltham, who said he was changing a flat tire on a log harvester on Perkins’ property when he heard bullets going overhead.
“I was standing here next to my machine which had a flat tire, and I heard some gunshots go off. I didn’t think anything of it, I figured it was just a normal thing in the neighborhood,” he said Tuesday. “Then I heard a bullet [go through the trees] over my head [which] I thought was a little funny. I was waiting and waiting, and then I heard another one.
“So I started getting a little nervous. I started standing behind the machine and then I heard three more after that,” he said. “I was thinking a bullet might ricochet off something and hit me. I was thinking I was gonna get hit in the back of the head with a bullet or something, or in the arm, or [that it would] take out the windshield of my truck.”
Perkins said what added to his concern was news coverage last Sunday about a Raymond man being struck in the head by a stray bullet while ice fishing with friends on Cobbosseecontee Stream in West Gardiner.
The man who was shot was not seriously injured. The incident remains under investigation and will be reviewed by the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether any charges may be filed.
Perkins said he is not against guns.
“I have several guns myself. I’m a gun owner. I love to hunt. We allow access to this property for hunters. We got a snowmobile trail that goes right down through the middle of it. So in other words, we want people to use the property, OK? We ask that people get permission if they want to,” Perkins said.
Penobscot County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Young said Wednesday that the incident is under investigation, and he is awaiting a review of footage from the club’s surveillance system. The club, he said, is fully cooperating with the investigation.
According to the deputy, police field occasional complaints about after-hours shooting at the club’s facilities but noted it had been several years since problems with stray bullets had been reported prior to the call from Perkins.
“I have the concern that anyone would have if they’ve got bullets going by them or by people that are working for them or friends of theirs or relatives,” Perkins said.
“My concern is that wherever they’re coming from — and we know where they’re coming from — that a safety measure is taken to make sure that this does not happen, that no one gets hurt,” he said, adding that he had a bullet whiz past a tree stand he was sitting in while hunting on his property the year before last. His late wife also had one fly by her while walking the dog.
James Goody, club president, said Thursday that he is not convinced the bullets came from the club’s facilities.
“The Orrington Rod and Gun Club has been informed of a complaint alleging that a stray bullet may have crossed over or landed on an abutting landowner’s property,” he said Thursday. “The club disputes that happened but has inspected the range berms and decided to increase the height of the berms to make sure that an incident like this never happens.”
The earthwork got underway on Tuesday, and the rifle range since has reopened, according to the club’s website on Friday.
“Safety has been and is of the utmost importance to the club, both for members and neighbors,” Goody said. The club’s website states that the membership of anyone caught shooting up the ground in front of the berms will be revoked. All shots must go into the earthen berms to avoid ricocheting off the ground and leaving the area, the website notes.
While handguns and rifles can be used at the facility, explosive targets and substances, steel targets and tracers, flare-type ammunition and fireworks are prohibited, the website states.
An effort to pass an ordinance regulating the town’s gun club and any future shooting ranges was shot down by voters during the June 2007 annual town meeting.