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April 26, 2012

Stray machine-gun fire strikes two Galveston homes

Police: Bullets were fired at shooting-range event

GALVESTON — Stray bullets struck two Galveston homes April 14, one narrowly missing a mother and her 5-year-old daughter, according to a Cass County Sheriff’s Department report obtained Wednesday.

Police say the .308-caliber bullets came from a Russian machine gun being fired on a rural property more than a mile away.

No injuries were reported, and no arrests have been made in the shooting, though local investigators have contacted federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about the case.

Cass County Sheriff Randy Pryor did not return messages to his office and cell phones Wednesday seeking comment on why the report had not been released earlier.

Gunfire was the last thing Lori Stout expected while at her mother’s home at 202 S. Sycamore St. that Saturday afternoon. She was sitting at the dining room table, and her daughter was eating lunch nearby.

When Stout heard the glass break in a window above the front door, she first thought it might be kids throwing rocks.

A second popping noise came from upstairs, though, and she had no doubt what was happening. Someone was shooting at the house.

She immediately realized she needed to keep herself and her daughter safe.

“I just didn’t know where to go,” Stout said. “I had to go get my phone (to call 9-1-1) and I thought, ‘What if they start shooting again?’”

She called 9-1-1.

Police arrived about 1:15 p.m. to the home.

They later reported finding a bullet lodged in a wooden door frame inside the residence and a second one in the drywall upstairs. The first shot nearly hit the mother and daughter.

“If the round would have traveled three inches to the right, there is a high probability chance that Lori and/or her daughter could have been struck,” states the police report.

Having determined that bullets had done the damage and following a tip, police quickly determined that a gun shoot was being held at the Zachary J. Beaver residence, 12724 1100 East. No one at the Beaver residence answered the door Wednesday.

Officers went to the shoot and ordered those gathered — the report says there were 60 to 70 people — to stop firing their weapons.

The Stout home wasn’t the only one hit. Police reported a bullet hole in the garage at 301 E. Howard St. and a dent on the Chevrolet parked inside. They recovered a .308-caliber round on the garage floor.

Two more bullet holes were also later reported in the fence of the property.

The shooting event was sponsored by Down by the Tracks Gun Store in Galveston, the report states.

Owner Melvin Cardwell and his son Harley, as well as Beaver, accompanied officers to identify the bullets recovered. They pinpointed it to a Russian PKM Full Auto, reports state.

But they could only tell officers that a woman had been firing the weapon that day at the shoot, reports state. They did not know her name, whose gun it was or how to locate the woman, according to reports.

Meanwhile, while officers had left the rural property with Beaver and the Cardwells, “most everyone left the Beaver residence with their weapons,” the report states.

Harley Cardwell and the store’s attorney, Noblesville-based Larry Hansen, said Wednesday that there was also active shooting taking place at other properties in the area that day, but apart from the gun store’s event.

Hansen also disputed police’s estimate of attendance at the Beaver residence. He said there were 15 to 20 people. The event allowed one person to shoot at a time, the attorney said.

Participants were supposed to shoot at a backstop that measured about 4 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide at the base, according to the report.

No arrests have been made in the case, and it is not clear what laws or regulations — if any — were not followed at the event.

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