ORRINGTON, Maine — The investigation into reports that five stray bullets whizzed through the treetops over a logger working off Perkins Point Road is nearing completion but likely won’t lead to any charges.
The incident raised safety concerns for Orrington resident Jerry Perkins, who owns 375 acres off Perkins Point Road, and for Dustin Young, a commercial logger from Waltham who was harvesting lumber on Perkins’ land when the incident reportedly occurred on Jan. 30.
As of Monday afternoon, it appeared unlikely that any charges would be filed in connection with the incident because it did not appear any laws had been broken, Sgt. Jon Carson of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office said.
Clouding the issue is that it would be difficult to prove where the bullets came from.
Perkins said last week that he believes the bullets were fired from the Orrington Rod and Gun Club’s rifle range, located on East Bucksport Road. The club’s property abuts Perkins’ land.
James Goody, the club’s president, disputed that the bullets originated at the rifle range. He did say, however, that the club inspected the range berms and decided to increase the height of the berms to make sure stray bullets never escape the property.
Carson said police can’t yet say for sure where the stray bullets came from.
“I can’t say [the stray bullets] came from the range but I can’t say [they] did not come from the range,” Carson said Monday afternoon.
Carson said he received a copy of video footage from the Orrington Rod and Gun Club’s surveillance system. While he so far has been able to see only still images from the footage, Carson said it is unlikely charges will be filed in connection with the complaint, which the sheriff’s office received on Jan. 30.
“Unless the video shows them shooting up in the air [or otherwise being reckless], this is an internal matter for the club to handle,” Carson said.
Carson noted that the club’s rifle range faces the area in which the bullets were reported. He said Google Earth indicated that the range is 950 yards — just over half a mile — from the location in which Young was logging, “so it’s a pretty good distance.”
Carson said that the stills show two people using the rifle range around the time that the five bullets reportedly passed through trees on Perkins’ land. One of the people was firing a .22-caliber rifle and the other a .303-caliber rifle, he said. Both of the shooters were using tripods for increased accuracy, he said.
Both members signed in before using the range but were gone by the time Deputy Chad Young arrived to investigate, Carson said. Carson said police know their names but are not releasing them in the absence of charges.
Carson noted that sport shooting ranges are largely unregulated by state law.
In addition, there is no local ordinance regarding shooting ranges. 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.
Carson said state law prohibits hunting within 300 feet of the nearest residence but that law does not come into play for the Jan. 30 incident.
Deputy Chad Young said last week that police field occasional complaints about after-hours shooting at the club’s facilities. He noted, however, that it had been several years since problems with stray bullets had been reported before the call from Perkins.
Perkins said Monday that although he hasn’t heard of any other stray bullets since the Jan. 30 incident, he remains concerned about the safety of the eight households in his neighborhood along Brewer Lake and for those harvesting wood on his land or using his property for hunting and snowmobiling.