The Independence Police Department (IPD) is investigating a number of recent gun crimes that have occurred at the public gun range on city property and are jeopardizing safety and the continued availability of the range.
According to Chief Jerry Harrison, on July 10, IPD received a report that a city storage building near the gun range had been shot multiple times. Responding officers found 24 holes and five dents, all believed to be from bullet strikes. The building is about 81 yards west of the nearest boundary of the firing range located near the airport, Harrison explained, and the airport runway is less than a quarter mile away, and the taxi-way and concrete apron are 200 to 250 yards to the west of the same boundary.
“Considering the humble .22 long rifle bullet can travel up to a mile and the looking at the height of some of the bullet holes, if there were any planes on the runway or anywhere else in the vicinity they were certainly in range,” he said.
He noted that city staff also access the storage building at all hours and could be in danger if shots are fired in that direction while they are on the premises.
Officers reported that the holes in the building were of various sizes and located in several places across the east wall, indicating the damage likely occurred over time, and the bullets were fired from multiple weapons. This discovery is especially worrisome, Harrison said, because it indicates there are likely a number of different people abusing the gun range, which is provided at taxpayer expense. The cost to repair the damages has been estimated at more than $19,000 by a local construction company.
“That’s a lot of tax dollars just to prove you can hit the broad side of a barn,” Harrison said.
In addition to the serious safety concerns, Harrison explained the city’s insurance provider has threatened to cancel coverage of the range unless a safe solution to the problem is developed.
“Tons of people use this range. Every time you go out there, someone is responsibly enjoying this privilege,” he said. “This is a prime example of how a very few irresponsible individuals can ruin a good thing for the entire community.”
IPD is working with the Independence Public Works, Water Treatment and Wastewater Treatment departments to develop a cost-effective response. Textron Aviation and the Independence Gun Club also are in discussions with city personnel to find an economic and safe solution to save the range, Harrison said.
If identified, the list of potential charges facing the perpetrators include felony criminal damage and felony criminal discharge of a firearm. IPD asks that anyone with information about the crimes call (620) 332-1700. Harrison wants to remind all lawful gun owners to call police any time they see inappropriate conduct on the firing range.
“If we can’t protect it, we can’t keep it,” he said.