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Gun club trial continues — Former neighbors give non-expert testimony on safety concerns and issues

Former neighbors of the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club last week gave non-expert testimony during a nuisance trial brought by Kitsap County and held in Pierce County Superior Court.

Following years of noise and safety complaints from neighbors of the shooting range, Kitsap County Prosecutor Russell Hauge filed the lawsuit against the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club in September 2010.

Brian Chenoweth, the gun club’s attorney said he doesn’t know when the trial is expected to conclude. Kitsap County deputy prosecutor Neil Wacther said earlier this week that his only guess is that it will conclude mid to late next week. Testimony continued this week. The trial was expected to last two weeks and began during the last week of September.

One former neighbor said a stray bullet entered his house. He said that bullet came from the gun club.

Another neighbor said the noise from “automatic gunfire” significantly increased over the years.

Colby Swanson and his family lived on El Dorado Place east of the shooting range from 1990 to 2009. He said when they first moved in, they heard shooting occasionally that sounded like target shooting.

Then in 1995 on Martin Luther King holiday, there was an “incident,” Swanson said. What he thought was a stray bullet from the Seabeck gun club, came through a window into his family room.

Swanson said he heard a “ping sound” followed by a “rattling sound.” It was in the morning and his 10-year-old daughter was watching TV in the family room. He saw something spinning on the floor and he found what he thought was a bullet.

“Her reaction was in shock,” Swanson said of his daughter who was covered in shards of glass from the object striking through the window. “Being a father, I was concerned for her safety. Once I knew she was OK, I was angry.”

Swanson said he called 9-1-1 and a Kitsap County sheriff’s deputy arrived to his home and wrote an incident report and collected the bullet.

The deputy told him he was going to contact the range and check on it, Swanson said.

Later in the morning, two men from the gun club came to Swanson’s home and said that they did not believe the bullet came from their range because they have safety precautions to prevent incidents such as that from occurring, Swanson said.

Although the representatives from the club didn’t believe the stray bullet came from their club, they offered to pay for getting the window repaired, which they did, Swanson said.

“There was some concern it would happen,” he said of his home being struck by a stray bullet again.

Swanson added that when he and his family first moved into the home in 1990, they planted fir trees that had grown and felt like they acted as barriers.

In another testimony, William Fernandez, who also used to reside near the gun club, said the sounds of gun fire became a problem over the years.

He lived north of the gun club on Outback Avenue from 2002 to August 2011 and said at the beginning he would hear shots occasionally.

“They weren’t evasive. They were sporadic. Sometimes I wouldn’t hear them at all,” Fernandez said of when he first moved to the area with his family.

Fernandez said around 2007 or 2008, the shooting noises became such a nuisance that he could hear them from inside his home with all the windows closed. He and his family couldn’t spend time outside or enjoy a barbecue, he added.

“We moved out there for peace and quiet. It was the opposite,” he said.

Fernandez was not aware that there was a shooting range near his lot when he moved in, he said.

One time when he was walking the trails in a wooded area near his house in 2008, he heard a shot that he thought hit a nearby tree. He was walking west of the club’s property and thought the shot was fired from the range. After that incident he drove elsewhere to walk because he felt it was unsafe, Fernandez said.

In the cross-examination, Fernadez said that he did not report the shooting to the sheriff’s office.

In addition to the testimonies of former neighbors to the range, Stephen Mount, Kitsap County’s code compliance officer in the Department of Community Development, gave a testimony.

Mount said in 2005, he began to receive complaints of noise and heavy equipment activity. The club had done some trench work that required permits that it never sought out, he said.

“They didn’t agree that development was going on,” Mount said.

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